Kirsty reports from her last XC race down south at the beginning of Sept...
“When Jay describes a course as "epic", you know you're gonna need to man up.”
“One of those special courses that has you vowing never to do it again and threatening to give up on the way up, but itching to do another lap by the time you've got to the bottom of the descent!”
“The body count from the XC race was probably the highest in a mountain bike race ever...”
Just a few quotes from this weekend’s final installment in the fantastic South West series. Jay and Maddie (Horton) have been instrumental in revitalising cross-country racing in this part of the world, and if degrees were available in “Course Design” I am certain they would graduate with First Class Honours.
A week’s holiday / training in the Pyrenees was perfect preparation for this race. However, our preparation on the day was less than perfect – two caravans over-turning on the M5 and the ensuing delay meaning that Matt and I arrived somewhat later than planned. I had a suspicion that the course would be pretty technical, so was keen to ride as much of it as possible in the short amount of time we had available before the start; we managed to get round ~ 50% of the course but were unable to check out the main descent which was down the local downhill course.
This race was the series finale, as well as the South West Champs, and attracted a decent field. It was nice to have some competition in my category, especially after taking 1st place in the previous round by default when I was the only rider.
At the gun, I went off hard with Carla and Jane (racing elite), and stayed with them up the first climb. They dropped me pretty soon after, so I was back to my usual race against myself (as there was already a gap back to the other female racers).
The course itself was awesome. A fireroad climb was followed by some off-camber rooty singletrack, then a short steep descent with a sharp right-hander at the bottom that caught a good few people out. I cleaned it every time – whoop whoop! Then it was onto the main climb – nothing technical, but long enough and steep enough to sap your energy. The climb was broken up by a couple of short, undulating singletrack sections, and a particularly annoying ‘up and over’ where I did a comedy backwards dismount in lap 1. (Note to self... practice ‘up and overs’...) I kept myself focused on the climb by picking off riders from the other categories. Then just when you thought you would never reach the top, it was straight into the downhill course. Rocky at the start, then a mixture of steep drops (thankfully with chicken lines where you really needed them) and swoopy berms bundled you back down to the arena with a massive grin and the incentive to do ‘that climb’ all over again.
After lap 1’s comedy mishap, I managed to stay at one with my Cotic Soda, and finished well clear in 1st place – my 3rd of the series. Matt didn’t fare quite so well. He got off to a great start and was up there with the fast boys. However, our failure to pre-ride the course was his downfall – literally – as he followed a Southfork rider down the ‘A-line’ on a particularly steep drop and failed to land it. Result – ‘DNF’, a cracked Catlike helmet and a ‘grade 2 Acronis-clavicular joint subjection (mild)’.
Combe Sydenham proved to be a fitting series finale, and I’m looking forward to more of the same next year. Thanks to:
* Jay and Maddie, and everyone at Shred Events, for putting on the series;
* The Drop Off Cafe for excellent post-race carrot cake
* Catlike for ensuring Matt’s head is intact
* Kate and Ian for all the encouragement (!) and the loan of my lovely Cotic Soda
* Chris for bottling for us ;-)