Last time Chris and I were at Drumlanrig Castle in the Scottish borders we were towed to and from the venue after my car of the time gave up the ghost. We spent the Sunday night camping in the field below the castle accompanied only by the race organisers and some friendly sheep. Both of us had really enjoyed racing the course though and that race inspired me to move up a category to Expert after a solid win in Sport. So in some ways we hoped this second visit to the spectacularly scenic castle would mirror the first but in others definitely not!
Venturing out of the tent on the morning of the race I was greeted by damp air and grey skies. But in Scotland you can never predict the weather and as we packed up the tent and ate our breakfast the sun started to burn though. At the castle the sky was looking even more promising and we quickly headed out to check out the course. It was very similar to the course we raced a few years ago. There were 3 major climbs which although hard provided much needed respite from the rough, rocky and rooty descents which characterise the Drumlanrig course. I was pleased to see a tricky rooty drop on a corner back in again and was reminded of the lesson in problem solving I was given at that point previously by South African, Hilana Marais. The course was generally quite technical and I hoped that this might give me the edge over a couple of road riders who were on the start list.
Heading off up the fireroad on the gun I settled in at around 4th or 5th wheel. I didn't want to go too soon as it was going to be a long race. Hannah Ferguson had a great start and shot up the trail like a bottle rocket. With my more diesel nature I plugged away and gradually worked through the field. Towards the top of the first climb there were a group of three or four of us following her. We all slid around in the mud a bit, and then as we hit the next fireroad section Eileen Roe (Team Leslie) and Jane Barr (Velocity 44) got in front and managed to pull out a little gap on me, and I pushed on from those behind. For most of the rest of the first lap and the next I could see all of them up ahead and at one point even thought I was closing down. However, both girls were so strong and had obviously been working really hard on their MTB riding and I didn't get back to them. I was pleased to be so close behind such classy riders and to go away with a bronze medal.
Congratulations also go out to Hannah Ferguson who rode a really gutsy race and took the Junior prize and also to Lee Craigie, who although not racing the Scottish Champs did awesomely in the World Championships in Champery. Shame she couldn't be at Drumlanrig to show us all how to do it!
As always thanks to Chris for the mega support and AW Cycles, Giant and High5 (finally sorted my cramp problems by racing with High5 Zero).