The weekend started in not the most ideal situation, 5 hours on the m25 because of a serious accident, meant we arrived at Hadleigh, for what was meant to be my day of getting used to the course, with 15 minutes until it closed! Luckily I was allowed to ride the course. James and Dave from WyndyMilla were both still there so i got to go round with them which was helpful, as they new all the lines already! Feeling some what frazzled from the journey I wasn’t in the best place to start practicing the Olympic course! This became evident very quickly when I fell off at Deans Drop. After that I new my head was not in ‘the game’ so to speak and decided to just ride as much as i could, but wait until tomorrow before the race to try a few more ‘a’ lines. It all seemed very tough and although i usually feel okay with technical this was by far the most technical course i had come across so far and I felt very nervous and not sure what to expect come race day.
The alarm sounded and after a not so peaceful nights sleep i dragged myself out of bed and prepared for what was to come. Arriving at the course i felt more prepared but still nervous. Another practice lap left me feeling confident i could ride the ‘b’ lines and the ‘a’ lines i had chosen. I had very little time between the end of my practice lap and the race as, i had to hike back up a hill to reclaim my water bottle so it was a quick stretch before gridding commenced.
My race didn’ t get off to the best of starts being gridded far left as we all turned up the hill i got squeezed into a bad position, but fought my way back, only to then loose my waterbottle on the first downhill through the trees. Making the decision i would need it, i jumped off and claimed it. However this put me in a bad position going into the technical Deans Drop which i had to run to get round people, not ideal!
The next obstacles seemed to pass in a blur until i reached leap of faith the first and only ‘a’ line i had decided to take. I committed at the top and made it cleanly to the bottom. Sadly my water bottle did not follow suit and yet again had jumped off the bike! This time i left it. In my head i now felt i had to slow to preserve myself for the four laps in this dusty heat. After two laps i really felt thirsty and had a headache so made the decision i would pick my water bottle up on my third lap.
So with rather shaky legs i made it back round to leap of faith and reclaimed my water bottle from the marshal at the top. By this time any hope of a podium finish had left me, a little bit like my water bottle had!
I was happy to have achieved a time under 1 hour 40 and was even happier that my knee had been mostly great all the way round.
I came in 5th place which is not where i wanted to be, but I felt a great sense of achievement finishing this course which had been mentally and physically demanding all weekend.
Things to take away from Hadleigh:
- Falling on rocks hurts
- Confidence grows with practice
- Water is essential, fit a new bottle cage
- Imagining singletrack is lined with pillows actually works (thanks James)
- Racing is as much a mental game as a physical one
Overall the Mud Sweat and Gears series has been my favourite the courses have all been different and my riding over the year has improved so much! I finished the series in second position overall in my category which i feel is a great achievement for myfirst year racing!