On Saturday I travelled to Margam Park in Wales to race the next round of the National series. It was a long drive, but when I finally reached Wales the weather was great and although the nerves were bubbling away I felt positive about the weekend ahead.
I met up with Vanessa and Arrow Cycles who kindly ‘adopted’ me for the weekend to ride the course. As with everything in Wales you have to go up before you come down, this course was no exception! The course started with a long climb on fire road which then turned into a single track climb through the woods. Then the ‘fun’ started ! A steep, loose rocky shoot ended on yet another climb, shorter but sharper up a sandy track, before turning into another loose, steep shoot. This carried on for long enough to get your heart racing for the right reasons before turning back on itself with a sharp right hand bend to work its way back up the hill.
The technical part of the course started with a muddy drop into the woods which as long as you kept off the back brake to stop your back wheel sliding out was fine.
After this there was a choice of the ‘A’ or ‘B’ line. Vanessa, Danni and I hopped off our bikes and explored the ‘A’ line on foot. It looked pretty rideable, apart from the end which looked a bit hairy, so we trekked back up to give it a go.
Having a new bike is great, having confidence on a new bike is something that I believe comes with experience and confidence in your own ability. Today, my confidence was being undermined by not feeling totally at home on my new bike.
I watched as Vanessa and Danni made easy work of the ‘A’ line but couldn’t psyche myself up to get around the corner into the drop! Every time I got to the top of the drop I just felt like the angle was all wrong, even though Josh from Arrow cycles who I was with, said the line was fine.
I tried again from a different angle and caught my back wheel on a root, sending me and the bike flying! The bike landed upside down, back wheel held in place by the tree and I landed on my left shoulder. Shaken up by this I tried the ‘A’ line again straight by hanging in the tree to clip in I rode it straight twice and felt happy enough with the drop but couldn’t link the angle and drop together! Seeing my frustration Josh said maybe we should crack on, I agreed! I chose the ‘B’ line on the next bit whilst Josh aced the ‘A’ line. The next part of the course was great and reminded me of why I love riding in Wales. Some quarry switchbacks, a little drop off, more uphill and some flowing wooded single track finished off the course. All together this course had a little bit of everything and should of suited me to the ground, had my head been in the right place!
Sunday came around quickly after a bad night’s sleep going over and over the line in my head. With an aching left shoulder I wasn’t feeling on top form for the impending race! Warming up with Vanessa and Danni helped and I started to feel a bit more relaxed. This turned out to be short lived as soon as I arrived on the start line my legs felt like led and my nerves were taking over.
I knew it was all in my head and that I was capable of everything on this course, but mountain biking is a physical and mental game. To be good on your bike you have to be physically but also mentally up to it as its when you doubt yourself that it tends to go wrong.
In competition you are always going to have a bad day. It is taking those bad days, seeing the positive and learning from the experience. That is my plan.
After five races in the Expert category I am sitting in fifth position nationally and looking to close the gap down on the leading four.