OK, so I’m a little behind! I therefore decided that I would try and keep things as short and as sweet as possible…..although that will be a challenge in itself as I’m ‘always talking’ apparently!
Photo thanks to Darren Ciolli-Leach www.xcpix.com
Southern XC Champs – Wasing, Berkshire
Anyhow, in case you’d forgotten May (like most of the ‘summer’) was wet; not just ‘wet’, but ‘insanely wet’. So Southern Champs at Wasing were looming, it’s dreadful in the wet and it’s not particularly my favourite venue either. I was also very bored with wet races as they suck, a lot.
A glimmer of hope presented itself in the form of sunshine that morning; a big bonus! The course was slightly altered from usual and it was a ‘dry’ (ahem) run for the National Champs that were to be held in July. The start was now going out the usual finish gate, two of the infuriating slimy off-camber sections had been pulled and (apparently) the drop had moved slightly (although I failed to notice this, although did feel I had to steer more right than normal at the bottom). After a practice lap I have to say the course was in good condition considering what the weather had been like. Unlike Pippingford, this time we were thinking they should up the laps as a practice lap in 23 minutes equals a short race.
Most of the usual suspects lined up at the start and we were joined by the UK and World number one marathon rider, Sally Bigham. Sally had popped to Wasing for an interval session; much more fun than the turbo plus she got to catch up with everyone she rarely gets to see being out the country so much these days! Unsurprisingly, Sally took charge of the race early on and took home the Southern Champ title; not bad for a training session. I had an ok race, with legs and lungs seeming to be in tune with each other but severely lacking power. My head wasn’t behaving however and on the last lap I looked at a tree stump (you know you shouldn’t!) and next thing I know I’ve jammed my pedal on the darn thing and I’m sprawled across the trail desperately trying to sort myself out before anyone sees me. I didn’t enjoy the course, even at race pace, but hung in there as it was the only way I was going to get stronger in the long run.
National XC Series #3 – Hopton Woods, Shropshire
Wow, sunshine! Not just a glimmer, wall to wall sunshine, blue skies and hot temperatures……perfect weather for grinding up a 15-20 minute climb!!!
Happiness was in full swing in the race arena; flip-flop clad feet, as opposed to wellies, were everywhere and life was good. It was a first visit to Hopton for present day XC and I was hoping for some good technical riding as Hopton was a regular downhill venue.
The course was awesome; the climb was pretty torturous but enjoyable at the same time (yes, I am slightly sick). It was a mix of fireroad, jeep track and singletrack and was broken up into sections, some in the trees some under the blaze of the scorching sun. After that, there was no where else to go but down. What followed was some seriously twisty, hard packed (and dusty!), fast singletrack. Splashed in towards the end were a few steep bits to keep you on your toes but actually nothing all that tricky (the trickiness came with riding it faster and nailing your lines). Once the descent was out the way, any pain you may have suffered on the climb was entirely obliterated.
I was feeling good and hoping to be a bit more back in the mix with things. From the off I was able to hang onto the back of people for a while but part way up the climb the others seem to have a bit more zip and I was left to pace up at my speed. Once I got to the top however I went full steam down, loving every minute. This continued until the penultimate lap where I had just started my descent and was getting up to speed in the singletrack when I got each wheel caught in two separate ruts and was spat rather forcefully onto the floor. It was a high speed and very painful off and it took me a few minutes to recover, however once I’d checked the bike over I got back on to carry on. Right near the bottom of the course however I was lapped by the leader and that was it, my final lap and 19th place. I was really quite gutted, as had I not crashed it would have been full distance for me. I also had to look back and accept that whilst I was starting to feel like I was stronger and with more energy, I hadn’t got the sort of training under my belt to match my expectations which is always a hard pill to swallow. Following the race I went and raided the medics tent for cold spray as I had some very unsightly lumps developing on my leg followed by plenty of sun bathing to get me as much Vitamin D as possible!
Luckily my trusty Cotic Soda was still going strong after these testing races - more soon on the races that followed!
Emma Bradley, Sept 2012.