Monday, 18 May 2015

British XC Race Series Round 3

Trying to squeeze XCO races in our hectic schedule isn't always easy; the last one - a Midlands XC - was just over a year ago. This year I disappointingly missed the entry deadline for Sherwood Pines and was ill at the time of Newnham, but round 3 of the British XC Race series at Fforest Fields in Builth Wells, Wales, was perfect timing for a good, hard interval session; just what was needed at this point in my training.

An exciting mix of fast women on the start list meant I'd definitely get the interval session I was looking for! Sadly, Annie Last was ill and unable to start - a real shame because I've never had the opportunity to race with her. Nevertheless, top British riders Kerry MacPhee and Alice Barnes as well as South African star Mariske Strauss amongst others were there to provide a good battle. 

As well as hard training I wanted to have some fun so I decided to use my Canyon Lux full suspension with Reverb dropper seatpost. Although it isn't as ultra light as my Grand Canyon hard tail, it would definitely be more fun on the descents. Also, being a little bit cautious about any abdomen and groin impacts after my surgery the Reverb is a good choice for me.  

Gridded on the second row meant I needed to get into the first climb in a good position; 8th wasn't bad and allowed me to move up to 4th before the first descent. Entering the second lap I was able to move to the front, closely followed by Alice and Kerry. The Lux actually turned out to be a good choice - and, in hindsight, probably better than the hard tail - being super fast as well as fun! Initially, to be totally honest, the race wasn't really about winning, the aim: good, fast training and fun on the descents; but when the gap between me and Kerry was growing I naturally embraced the opportunity for a win! 

Racing in the UK is great; seeing all the people who I know from the beginning of my MTB career, plus all of the new faces and rising stars such as Isla Short and Lucy Grant is very motivational. The support I receive is awesome and I can't thank each and everyone of you enough. Big thanks to the women who cleared the way for me out on the course, shouting their support when I came through - especially the lovely lady who told me she'd placed her bets on me for the win…that made me smile and gave me a few extra watts!

Thanks also to Ben Thomas for shivering in the tech zone while handing me bottles and donning shorts in the blustery, cold Welsh weather ;) Massive thanks to John @Vermont Images for the photos!

Friday, 15 May 2015

Don't look back, look forward: breaking the cycle of bad luck

Over the last 12 months I've had my fair share of unfortunate circumstances: last year a lingering viral infection meant I missed the Worlds and had to settle for Silver at the Euros; vascular disease; a last minute search for a partner and then a DNF at the Cape Epic because my partner got sick; and since then a couple of illnesses including norovirus which prevented me from defending my title at the National Marathon Championships. It's now one year since my run of bad luck started and it's time to put it to bed. In the big scheme of things the year hasn't been as bad as it could've been and there are many positives, but the next 12 months are going to be better :)

Last weekend we raced at the European Marathon Championships in Singen, Germany. As a climber this wasn't really the best course for me, but being punctuated with lots of power climbs it played a little more to my strengths. Together with Spitz, Dahle Flesja, Neff and Suss, I was regarded as one of the race favourites. The weather forecast predicted blustery winds on race day, so it was clear it'd be a tactical race with riders staying together to shelter from the wind.

Wanting to split the group, I frequently set the pace on the climbs, but there was a reluctance to work together meaning that any breaks were soon caught. A couple of times the leading groups was reduced to Spitz, Suss, Neff and me, but all the soft pedalling allowed the group to grow again. In the last, flat 5km to the finish we were a group of 6 or 7. A lapped amateur rider crashed in front of me and I lost the group, although I was able to regain contact I was on the back foot from there onwards. I finished in 6th position, 9 seconds behind the winner, Spitz. A frustrating results, but Im pleased with my form - especially after recent illnesses.

After a few days at home we're packing up again and going to mid-Wales for the third round of the British XC series. Time for some XC interval training - my first for over a year. Full gas, full pain :)