As the team prepares for this weekend’s 24hr & 12hr of Exposure which are both the National and European solo championships, Emma reports back from the first National XC of the season. It looks like Emma had the best of the weather as we ready ourselves for rain, snow and freezing temperatures in Scotland this weekend. Hopefully see you there!
Emma’s blog from the National XC
I’d arrived at Sherwood Pines on the Friday evening so that I could have a nice relaxing practice day on the Saturday. It all nearly went to plan apart from the weather which engulfed the Pines in a blanket of fog for the first half of the day. Thankfully come lap two of practice, layers were being stripped off as the temperature finally rose. The course was really different from the previous few years with a couple of leg sapping sections and I have to say that personally I wasn’t liking it so much, whilst others were raving about it; hey ho that’s racing and the organisers will never, ever be able to please everyone!
Sunday (having also remembered to change my watch!) dawned a much nicer clear blue sky day. The temperature was much more to my liking and I got myself warmed up and ready to race; timing it perfectly so that I arrived at the start just as they were starting the gridding. With the new arrivals in the category I found myself mid-pack on row two.
A good start put me in a nice position and I made it through the initial choke points in one piece. I was overtaken by a few on the fireroad before turning into the first section of singletrack, and this is where I noticed the temperature suddenly drop. Through the next few sections I struggled as my muscles complained at me and I struggled to hang onto anyone who passed me. I ended up in 22nd with 23rd (Morven Brown) immediately behind me and for the next two laps I had to fight to keep my position. During lap two I noticed a WXC rider (Claire Oakley) in the distance and made an effort to try and haul her back in. I managed this and whilst it took a while I managed to gap Claire eventually also. As I came through the feed zone for the final time Rob (feeder/mechanic/shoulder to cry on/steadfast supporter/#1 boyfriend) told me that Ruby (Miller) had just gone through. Sure enough, as I crested the fireroad climb I saw her entering the first section of singletrack. I caught Ruby and then passed her at the next available point but as I entered the following singletrack my legs were screaming and all I really wanted to do was back off. I made it to the sandy climb and both of us pushed up, both equally exhausted. Rolling down the other side I got myself clipped in and tried to get my head down to start making a gap. Ruby was still with me when we got to the small drops section and the muddiest singletrack section of the course. It was after this that I decided I had to maintain my position through the next singletrack section before starting an attack where I felt I was riding really well. I did this and made a concerted effort to keep the hammer down as long as possible and it seemed to work. As I came to the last log, and chain ring catcher, I had a gap. I cleared the log, with a bit of chain ring snagging, and again put my head down as the arena was in sight. I did everything I could to make sure I held my position and was thankful to pass the line in 20th.
Whilst 20th may seem like quite a way down the field, it is a great number for one very, very good reason; I have never raced where this finishing position has been available, let alone there being three other positions available after that. Double figures for entrants used to be a miracle, fifteen a good turnout, but twenty three was brilliant. A number of the other female categories also had good turnouts, so here's hoping for decent fields all year as it really does make racing more fun as there is usually someone to battle with giving a greater incentive to push yourself that bit more.
Performance wise I was really happy with myself again; maximum effort and there not really being anything more that I could have done to improve the result other than getting myself healthier, fitter and faster; but that will all come with time and patience.
Finally, a very big thank you to some very vocal supporters; Jim Sutherland who I met on the AQR Portugal Coaching week and fellow team riders Anthony Jordan and Rachel Sokal (good luck for Exposure!). It was a pleasure to have some really vocal support at the various points around the course and helped keep my spirits up even when the legs were screaming otherwise.
Roll on Southern XC#2 at Pippingford before heading off the following week to fun Dalby for the second National round.