It doesn’t get easier you just get faster!
This quote rings true each time I turn up to a race, it never gets easier I just hurt more efficiently!
Practise at Plymouth on Saturday with Nessie (Arrow Cycles) was far from ideal, after hearing about how ‘knarly’ the course was going to be I wasn’t quite expecting what I was faced with! The course was full of rocks (a rare sight on the trails in the south east of England where I live) loose sandy turf and roots (roots I can deal with). I had watched people come down the first ‘A’ line and thought yeah I can do that! Well from the top I changed my mind and decided to come back to it…
Round the corner and over some gravel humps came the third ‘A’ line where the options where three tree stumps then to jump off the end of a large slab of rock, to ride along a plank and off the side of a rock or a rock followed by three tree logs, I went for this option and got over it, more by luck than technique so went back for a second go, this did not go as well! A lack of momentum sent me flying ending in a rather painful left leg as I couldn’t unclip. I got straight up and did it again to not let any negative demons put a proverbial road block in the way! This time I made it over although wasn’t feeling 100% confident but I managed it.
The rest of the course practise went okay although with a confidence dent each ‘A’ seemed more impossible than the last!
After a good night’s sleep I felt more positive about racing. I knew what I wanted to achieve and felt happy with my objectives for my first elite national race.
Arriving at the venue my nerves were bubbling under the surface and I tried to distract myself whilst warming up. Time seemed to speed by and soon we were gridding, the man over the loudspeaker announced that on the grid of 30 elite riders 25 had UCI International ranking! I felt very proud to be on the grid with so much talent, and slightly nervous about how I could compete…
The gun went off and the field sprinted away, a crash at the first technical area meant a bit of a pile up which I ran round and down the B line to stay out of the way. I continued on reaching the first climb still in touch with the rest of the girls, I passed a few riders and kept pushing on the climb which was dusty and energy sapping, I couldn’t imagine being able to climb in five times, by the time I got to the top my mouth was dry and I felt like all the water had been drained from my body.
The first lap was hard work, the B lines seemed easier than on practise and I enjoyed the descents especially cottage carnage.
My second lap felt easier and I was thinking about trying an A line to make up some time, that was, until I saw a girl walking along the track with her rear mech swinging in the breeze! My new plan of attack was finish and have a clean race with no more injures for me or the bike. By the end of my second lap I was really feeling a sharp pain in my left ankle when I had to apply a lot of pressure through the pedal.
On my third lap Annie Last passed me just before the first big climb, it was inspiring to watch her make her way up it so quickly! Note to self, practise climbing!
Every lap my confidence grew and I became quicker down the B lines as can be seen from my lap times.
Lap 1 22.37
Lap 2 25.13
Lap 3 25.41
Lap 4 25.26
Overall Newnham Park was a fantastic course one which I would love to ride again as it was so far out of my comfort zone, it pushed me technically and mentally as the descents were as taxing as the climbs.
I have come away feeling determined to improve my technical ability and improve my 22nd position from my first elite national race.
Thank you to Bike Fixers for making sure my Silverback was fully prepared for Plymouth it worked well and I was lucky with no mechanicals! Thanks to Grip Grab for making sure when I did come off that my hands stayed unscathed great gloves cheers guys! A massive thank you also to Arrow Cycles who adopted me yet again helping with bottles and making sure I made it to the start line and supplied ice creams at the finish! J