I love mountain biking.
After last weekend I was almost ready to quit cycling and had no interest whatsoever in going the final race of the year at the BMBS in Plymouth. I only made the effort because everything was booked and paid for but I went into it with very low expectations, only hoping that I could at least rediscover an enjoyment of racing.
Newnham is usually a good race venue and pre-riding the day before we discovered the course was better than ever before. 3 main fairly steep climbs which were all rewarded with long sections of slippery, rooty singletrack. I managed to crash on a new descent that wasn’t fully bedded in yet, taking the top off an old scar of my knee. Pouring blood and some over enthusiastic first aiders resulted in butterfly stitches and a bandage the length of my leg! muppet. Race day. I didn’t get the best start but after the first singletrack I managed to move up to 5th and before long we had a gap on the rest of the field behind. Maddie Horton was just in front of me and I had to dig in to make sure she didn’t pull away on the longer climbs, and then fly down the descents to close the gap. Having barely trained for the last month I was surprised to be feeling pretty good and able to push hard. The trails were very much like Irish mountain biking, lots of off-camber rooty, fairly steep technical descents and greasy but fast muddy sections. The faster you rode the more fun they were! On the second lap Maddie didn’t seem to be any quicker on the climbs and coming to the top of the last steep one I put in an effort to get onto her wheel but couldn’t quite do enough to get in front before we hit a long, fast singletrack descent. Halfway down the trail split and I took a different line to sneak past and attack down the hill. Back being able to race, riding totally flat out, amazing! Maddie and I came through the start area together and realised we had begun to close the gap towards Mel Spath and Lee Craigee ahead. We agreed to work together to get up to them and I let Maddie ahead to take a turn on the front. Into the next climb and suddenly my legs switched off! My calves still don’t seem capable of going race pace for the whole race and I had to watch Maddie ride away. Frustrating as it was, I was expecting this to happen at some point so rather than letting my head go down as with last week I pushed on as hard as I could for the rest of the race, enjoying myself on the descents and hoping that I had already done enough to hold off people behind. The climbs were hurting a bit by the last lap but the thought of not having to ride hard like that until next year made it easier. I hung on to come in 5th and finish 4th in the series overall (results here). It was good to finish the season enjoying racing but I’m looking forward to party season now! Thanks to all the organisers, its been a great series and definitely the best course was saved until last. A big thanks to WXC for all the support and assistance both today and throughout the season. Thanks to Bob Bogdan Williams for the cool photos