The course was a real toughie with a munro's worth of climbing every 2 laps (or so I was told), along with lots of mud and roots and some steep, loose descents. In fact there was a real mixture of trail conditions as the previous day's sun had dried out the top of the course but the trails under cover were still very soggy. The only thing I really did not like was the slightly downhill start, since I am not very good at close fast racing - the next thing to work on!
|Nice view (shame I was racing too hard to notice it!)|
When we lined up at 11 for our start I noticed that Lee was not racing (turns out she was in Holland preparing for the European MTB champs by racing a few road races) however the Ulster cycling team was over en masse and Ciara MacManus and Irish elite racer was in attendance so the pace was still going to be high at the front. When we did set off, my nerves about the speed and number of riders meant that I was overtaken by quite a few of the youth, junior and masters riders and had to run the start of the first techincal climb. I made up a few places once the climb opened up and going into the series of steep descents was back on the wheel of second placed rider in the elite/expert race Morven Brown (Dales Cycles). I overtook her at the start of the next, and biggest climb but made a mistake, overshifting into my spokes and lost the place again. After sorting that out and getting going again I slowly pulled back onto Morven's wheel again and decided to sit in an recover rather than going for another overtake. It was a good wheel to follow and I'm not sure I was any faster through the muddy rooty section of the bottom of the course.
Coming into the start finish I got out of the saddle and had a bit of a dig. I was pleased to gain a few metres pretty easily and when I hit the climb again I was able to increase this advantage. I knew I could not make any more mistakes though so tried to be smooth for the rest of the second lap and then the rest of the race. I finished the race the same position as I did lap 2 - second, a few minutes down on first and similarly ahead of Morven in third place. The last two laps are somewhat of a blur, a battle between my body and the hills. At the time I felt like the hills had won, but it seems to have pushed me on again in fitness and mental strength. So... with another lovely slate trophy on the (imaginary) mantlepiece it's back to training with one eye on the Scottish Champs at Drumlanrig in September and the other on the 3 peaks cyclo-cross. Time for some running/walking up steep hills with a bike on my back!