Thursday, 22 March 2012

Southern XC round 1

Now the XC season has begun in earnest. Last weekend was the first of the regional series races which for me this year are the southerns.
Still on the old faithful whitey (my tired but comfortable kinesis) my first spin around the course was cold and misty - not what I had anticipated from reading the weather forecast. The course was, on first impressions, very boring. 'What is all this going up and down fields?' I said to myself as I suddenly plummeted down a steep descent, skidded my back wheel around a loose corner and then struggled up a slippy, flinty climb (see team-mate Simon's blog on to see how I described it to him after the finish). By the end of the lap I was grinning like an idiot.

I had no idea how the race would go. I was quite tired being in the middle of a big training block and had compounded the matter by being doored by a taxi whilst cycling hard to try and not miss my train for Henley (I missed it but thats another drama). So as we went off into the first section of singletrack I was simply pleased to be in the front group.

I passed Jo Munden (Pedal Heaven) when her bike (and the mud) disagreed with her on where they should go and clung to the back wheels of Mel Alexander (Cardif Jif) and Alice Barnes (Twenty3C-Orbea). I couldn't hang on up the steep climbs so had to let them go, but towards the end of lap1 passed Mel who had punctured. Chasing a single rider who I could see in the distance I made the most of my familiarity of with mud (thanks Scottish XC) and closed the gap a bit but then began to feel my legs fading. As I was tiring the mud was getting more sticky and draggy (see Steve James' blog for a good description) and the combination was lethal! By lap 4 - BOOM that was me in survival mode.

Mel had passed me back by this point - an impressive show of strength especially given she then had chain issues and had to pass again to take the win. Alice had broken her chain but still took the Junior win. So I crossed the line in 2nd place, very happy and with nothing left in the legs.

Its nice to be able to feel competitive. After a few years in the wilderness it feels even better. What pushes you forward as a rider varies so much from person to person. But for me it has been about learning to love riding my bike again after working in the industry left me disillusioned, about hard work, a happy headspace and the people who support me (thanks Chris and coach Simon).

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Start as you mean to go on....

Sunday 26th February was my first race of the MTB season - the Gorrick Spring Series 2nd round. The new bikes have not yet arrived so was on my old faithful Kinesis newly refurbished with a little help from SIP events and Chris. Still being car-free (fingers crossed for a few more weeks only) I had to get the train out to the venue. This was surprisingly easy - cycle to Waterloo, get on train, travel for an hour, get off train, cycle 3.5 miles. I only came unstuck when on the side of a fast dual carriageway I was unable to find the venue. This is annoying in a car, and more annoying on a bike (and time consuming). In the end I went for the get into the woods and head in the general direction of the event and ask people tactic. This worked! Eventually!

Signing on I didn't recognise many of the names on the list but having been north of the border for a a season this was hardly surprising. I did however see Jo Munden riding around and knew it was going to be a tough one as she is a very strong rider.

A blow of the whistle and we were off... very slowly.... all of us had fallen foul of the downhill to the start and were in too big a gear. But the start was also downhill so after a pedal turn or two we were up to speed and hurtling towards the first loose corner. Gingerly making my way around and sprinting out I glanced back to see I had a good few metres already. Blimey! Head down and go time then.

Head down and go!

The course was really good, lots of short sharp climbs, loose descents, one unbelieveable bugger of a hill that I even saw top men walking up and an absolutely smashing bermed descent down the other side. It was a good thing, I realised on my last lap, that I was always behind someone going slightly slower than I would have on that descent and not able to pass because I might have done myself some damage it was so much fun! Most of the race I was riding with the middle of the sport male pack until Jo Munden managed to catch me on the 3rd lap. She made a really good pass so I just sat on her wheel and had a bit of a breather whilst working out when I could attack again. She then told me she was racing sport due to a recent injury. So we had a nice chat and rode through to her finish and for me to head out for the last time. Grabbing my final bottle from Simon (Ernest who had been kind enough to come and help me out with baby in tow) I was feeling rather good again and having had one person catch me wasn't keen for another to do the same. Head back down again then.
Thanks to the pit crew

It was not a worry in the end however and when I crossed the line I had a good gap over second and third. To say I was chuffed is an understatement. This was my first MTB win since I promoted myself to elite and although only early season and a local race it is confidence inspiring to get a win under your belt.

Thanks to Simon, Mel and baby D for the support, Joolze Dymond for cheering like a mad thing and all the guys for chatting to me and making it a sociable race! Until the next one...