Adventures of the Cotic - A Quick Release holidays mountain bike race team

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A weekend of XC racing

In contrast to Ruth and Emma's experience at the National XC just a couple of weeks ago, this weekend's races saw blue skies and blustery spring time weather as Rachel and Katie were in action on the XC courses north and south of the border.

First up, Katie reports from Scotland

Round 2 of the Scottish XC series at Abriachan was definitely one of extremes. The course was wonderfully Scottish - copious amounts of peaty, boggy mud, off-camber roots and loose stones, washed up with a good dose of fresh debris from recent clear felling of the forest. And on race morning I'd realised my forks were somewhat rigid (which they'd clearly not been the day before). This was going to be an interesting day out…

But with no mechanic to hand, I focused instead on my next priority - how was I going to drink? My bottle cage was 'stuck' on my spare bike due to a lost thread. Getting a bottle out of a rear pocket at race pace is one thing; getting it back in is quite another, especially on this course. So I figured the best option was to drink as much as I could on the fireroad, and grip bottle between teeth to switch at the feedzone – a rather long few minutes away. Right past the photographer. I did my best to smile every lap :)
My Soda was a joy to ride on such a physical and technically demanding course. A great all-rounder she is! Long ribbons of loose, flowing single track, interspersed with similarly long sections of off-camber roots, heather bashing, rocky ruts, muddy ruts, and quick sinking chocolate mud. Throw in severe chain suck for more challenging thrills. Plenty of opportunities for sliding into obstacles then.
The weather was as schizophrenic as the course. Sun and rain at the same time on the start line. Intense (yet strangely flat) rainbows. Freakish gusts which tore the registration tents apart in seconds, leaving the race scene strangely rather tentless.
After 7 months away from XC racing due to travel and illness, I didn't know how my legs would respond. But to be honest, I didn't have time to think about it. It's then that you realise what you love about bike racing. The pure focus/madness/exhilaration of living in the moment. Thinking on your feet, always learning. And the camaraderie that comes from being stirred together in mud soup with like-minded souls. Definitely one of the hardest & most rewarding XC races I've done. Looking forward to the next SXC at Cathkin Braes. With a bottle cage and new drive train ;)
Meanwhile, a few hundred miles further south Rachel was taking part in round 2 of the Midlands XC near Chesterfield.
This was my first 'proper'* XC race.  I spent all of the time before the race questioning why I was there.  I can't go fast or hard, that's why I do endurance racing.  But then I remembered, that's exactly why I was doing it - to see what would happen if I tried.

I found the practice laps pretty stressful.  The wind was incredibly strong and made the grassy, boggy climbs across a golf course even tougher.  The singletrack looked great but I just couldn't get my eye in and was bouncing all over the roots.

Fortunately the race went much better than the practice lap.  I had a reasonable start but missed the chance to get a good position by opting to stay in the pack and keep out the wind as much as possible, in hindsight, this was probably a bit conservative.  I managed to gain a few positions on the next grassy climb but then somehow my pedal managed to remove itself from my crank.  Inbetween my cursing I managed to get it back on pretty quickly but by this time I'd lost the places that I'd just gained.  
After that things settled down pretty well; I got into a rhythm and continued to gain places within the female field.  Early on on my final lap I managed to take first place in my category which I held until close to the end when I tried to push a bigger gear than my legs wanted on an up and over and stalled at the top, allowing my competitor to retake first position.
Overall I was pretty pleased with how things went and chuffed to achieve second place in the masters category.  I made plenty of mistakes and there's loads to improve on but I found that if I tried I could race hard.  Perhaps I wasn't as fast as lots of others but that leaves plenty of room for improvement.  

If you're of a strong constitution, nip over to my personal blog for my special race face pics :oO
* I did think it was my first full-stop but I have been reminded I took part in a Midlands race once before when I didn't even own a pair of cycle shorts or top

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant!!! Just shows you what a laugh racing can be. You never have a perfect race...but if you can smile at the end of it and laugh at all the little adventures along the way, even the mishaps, then you will learn and improve for the next race. Well done girls...good to see those cheesy smiles even with a bottle in your mouth...would love to see that piccy! :)