Tag Archives: Racing

Day 7 – The final ascent

Today was a mixture of emotions standing on the start line I felt elated to have made it this far, with no serious mechanicals for both me and the bike! But unhappy that it was to be the last 54 km ride in this beautiful race.

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After a dry start leaving Trento, we started the gradual climb up from 200m to 1700m. The climb started on road turning to forest tracks and gravel paths as we steadily made it to the top. I was feeling great today, no aches and pains and was actually enjoying this demanding climb. (Clearly I’m getting used to the Alps!) Some sections were pretty steep and with all the rain over night rather slippy too and had to be walked. I joined a trail of silent cyclists pushing their bikes with a feeling of accomplishment that we all shared being there on the final day. Once the terrain was rideable I enjoyed the forest trails which were very like home in a way and the rain was certainly not dampening my state of mind as I looked for the lines ahead. The Era has been fantastic, apart from a few gearing issues caused by the 42t sprocket I put on for climbing. The low stand-over height and rear shock have given me confidence to try lines and go down singletrack which I know I would usually not do. I have relished in pushing myself out of my comfort zone and have found this whole week has been one long learning curve on bike handling, climbing, scrambling, nutrition and positive mental attitude!

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The rain soon set in hard and I was so glad to have my Gore Tex jacket. The feed station at 19km was full of chilly cyclists sipping hot soup still with smiles on their faces.

I didn’t stop for long just grabbing some pineapple and a drinks refill before continuing climbing to the summit at 24km.

When I reached the top I felt relieved that my last big hill climb was behind me, but sad that I was nearly half way through the final stage. During this race there has been many highs and lows and I have learnt so much about myself, met some wonderful people and have fully immersed myself in the adventure, one that I am already looking to replicate by taking on another stage race, these thoughts filled my head as I soaked up the downhill. The first part was grassy paths through steep sided gulley’s, which in the dry would have been great fun, but the rain had made them like ice rinks and together with a group I cautiously made my way down these steep parts. Once we hit fire road, I enjoyed the sweeping corners singing songs with the word rain in them, as I made my way down to try and keep my spirits high as the rain tumbled from the sky.

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The feed station at 32km came with a very welcome hot tea and waffles. I had two cups and carried on. Just up the road was my Dad, like a hot water bottle angel, he stood with dry gloves and arm warmers. I have never been so happy to pull on a cosy warm layer and this really helped get me up what was now my final climb in the Alps!

At the top of the climb Michelle was waiting huddled with Tom (her boyfriend). We finished the final downhill section together down some rocky singletrack which I really enjoyed. Now we were not as high, it was warm and damp, a little bit like a summer in Wales, so I felt really at home whizzing down the trails looking for the lines which avoided any slippy roots.

Racing into the back roads of the town, full of puddles and pot holes and through the final finishing archway was incredible, I felt like I was dreaming. After thinking of this moment for the last 10 months, visualising what it would feel like to have accomplished my dream it was difficult to describe how I felt, relieved to have finished climbing mountains for a while, exhilarated to have pushed my body out of the comfort zone both in descending and climbing and overwhelmed to now be able to say I completed the toughest Stage race in Europe! WE DID IT!

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Thank you to all my family and friends who supported me. Thank you to Specialized for letting me use the Era, Thanks to Bike Fixers, Grip Grab, Food for Thought and Dogtag for supporting us on this journey of a life-time.

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Day 6 – Team work, tunnels and thunderstorms

Day six started with some nerves, I was worried about how my back would be after yesterday and felt rather emotional about being so close to the finish line.

Luckily sleep, Pilates and painkillers seemed to work okay and after the congestion created by the downhill start the long climb was okay and I felt alright if I stayed at a steady pace. Michelle is a better climber than me and at this point had disappeared into the distance; it was nice to see her walking back down to help me with my bike on a steeper section when I was struggling to push up. In a team event it is these little moments of support that keep you going.

After the feed station the fun stuff began, with an enduro challenge section through the forest on steep woodland single-track it was challenging yet fun, you had to keep an eye on your line to avoid boulders hidden in the leaves.

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I enjoyed this section a lot and felt good by the end of it. Our path then stayed mainly off road and wiggled through valleys with short sharp climbs and descents, one of the highlights was riding through a very long dark tunnel where the temperature was so cold it took my breath away. It was really eerie riding from bright sunlight into such a dark place. It seemed to go on forever! A small group of us stayed close together and you could tell no one wanted to be alone in this tunnel!

The path then continued to wind through apple groves and vineyards until the last final descent which was more like a scramble than a bike track! We had to carefully make our way down the rock face with our bikes it was super steep!

My body is handling the long days well so far as long as I stick to a steady pace and refuelling regularly before I came away i asked Sally Bigham for advice which has been absolutely brillaint as I have been eating little and often fuelling with between 70 and 90g carbohydrate an hour to keep my energy levels high.

So far my bike had been amazing I changed my brake pads yesterday but apart from that no mechanical issues bar a few jumpy gears. Thanks Specialized.

The climbing has been a lot tougher than I expected but having never bike more than 4 days in a row before and the fact I live in such a flat country its been hard to train for such monster climbs, I am really pleased to make it to day 6! Bring on the final stage I can almost taste Lake Garda and Prossecco!

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Distance: 88.24 km
Metres of climbing: 2,364 m
Saddles: Passo le Fraine (1,705 m)

Day 5 – 3,000m of climbing

Today was tough! I didn’t get the best start as my chain jammed 800m from the start once I had fixed it took ages for me to get going again because of the sheer number of bikers squeezing down this small Italian road.

This bad luck continued throughout the day, my back which has been fine for the last four days, really hurt sending pains down my leg and into my foot, not ideal on a day when you have 3,000m to climb!

I kept it steady and tried to break the day down into sections. I would not think further than the next water point or saddle summit this helped a little but it was one of those days when both mentally and physically I felt pushed to the extreme and had to dig deep to just keep going in the right direction.

By the top of Passo Gavia at 2,600m I was really struggling and there still seemed so much left in front of me. I got off and stretched out my back while Michelle kindly waited this seemed to ease the pain in my leg and foot.

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Michelle and I then descended down the road to the Enduro challenge which was a mixture of dusty steep trail and rock gardens. I have been really enjoying the singletrack its been such good fun and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Today I got over confident at one point and ended scrapping my ankle down the rock which was not pleasant and reminded me that I needed to go careful with two days left to complete the race.

After the enduro challenge the route climbed steeply once more. By the feed station at 45km I was again in a lot of pain and felt overwhelmed by the fact there was still over 40km to go until the finish, I just didn’t see how I could keep going. It is in these moments we all find out the strength of our character, it was a lonely climb to the top of the pass and I battled a lot of negative feelings in those 5km!

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I was relieved to see Michelle at the top who then helped me with my bike up a few steep climbs as she could tell I was in trouble.

The path was undulating and continued to climb further we passed a emergency helicopter and then were rather shocked when we turned the next corner to see a cyclist ready to be air lifted out, it put into perspective how even though my body was hurting I was still able to ride.

We pushed on once more every kilometre seemed to go by so slowly I was relieved to see the finish!

Distance: 86.32 km
Metres of climbing: 3,073 m
Saddles: Passo Gavia (2,621 m), Alta Via Camuna (2,393 m)

Gorrick Summer Monkey

Yesterday was the Gorrick Summer Monkey, the race that introduced me to endurance racing last year. I was excited about going back to Ceasars camp and trying out my new endurance legs on the course!

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On Saturday I had a long ride with Michelle and then went home to prepare for race day. I packed my snacks making sure I had 60g of carbohydrate per hour. I was trying a new snack my dietitian had mentioned taking which were pretzels instead of peanuts as peanuts high fat content can affect my performance. I also packed bananas, dates, malt loaf and some Torq energy gels.

Race day started at 6am getting up to have porridge before packing the car and setting off. I didn’t ride the course but instead spent my time making sure my feed so was stocked with water and snacks in an easy to reach place. I also had my second breakfast of mixed berries and Greek yogurt.

The race started at 9 and the new course was full of surprises, starting with a long drag uphill on fire road it soon turned back into the forest, where a bumpy downhill section dislodged my water bottle from the reverse rack, with riders behind me stopping was not an option, so I continued making a plan of how I would survive on small water bottles.randr-photo-1550288-1500px

The course climbed further this time up to a high point near the reservoir, this was for me the hardest part of the course the sharp left bend at the bottom of a bumpy descent before a sharp climb up seemed to give me gearing issues every lap!

After this was my favourite part of the course as the singletrack twisted through the tress with loads of great corners, jumps and long descents, my top speed was 26.5mph.

Although the lap had been shortened it was really good fun because you would notice something new or find a new favourite section each time which you could look forward to next lap. Thanks guys for a brilliant course!

Eating every 45 minutes was hard as you could never guarantee whether you would be on a trail section where eating was possible, I think this led me to have a little energy dip at around 4 hours, as well as physiologically being around lunch time it is always slightly harder to focus.

I had an energy gel which seemed to cause me more issues than giving me needed energy. Instead I just got stomach cramps, I made a decision to slow down slightly which seemed to relieve my issues and then picked it back up again on the next lap.

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All laps had to be completed within the 6 hours, I came through after my 9th lap on 5 hours 22 and felt like another lap was impossible, let along a fast one (I had been thinking my lap times were around 45 mins, turned out they were faster) But  I had set out to ride for 6 hours so that is what I was going to do I started my tenth lap steady but soon was being overtaken by people clearly trying to fit their last lap in, this spurred me on to do the same, I was delighted to finish at 5 hours 55 just getting my tenth lap in. I had to really dig deep for this last lap and was proud to have achieved it.

I lost time having to faff around with re-filling water bottles after I ran out of small ones; this is something I need to work out before the Trans Alp! I also found out that pretzels are no good as they suck all the moisture out of your mouth, new savoury snack hut begins!

Altogether I did 59.69 miles over 5 hours 55. My average heart rate was 149 and max was 180. I think what yesterday showed me is,  when I feel like there is nothing left in the tank its always worth having a deeper look, because I found the strength and speed to turn out another fast lap, as fast as my third lap of the day when I was at the beginning of my race.

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Thank you so much to Bike FixersBike Fixers for getting my bike ready for the race, thanks to Specialized for my amazing Era and to Grip Grab for the most comfortable gloves I’ve ever worn over 6 hours.

Lap Times:

  • Lap 1 00:33:31
  • Lap 2 00:33:56
  • Lap 3 00:34:31
  • Lap 4 00:35:25
  • Lap 5 00:35:43
  • Lap 6 00:36:04
  • Lap 7 00:36:41
  • Lap 8 00:37:48
  • Lap 9 00:37:02
  • Lap 10 00:34:19

 

Scott MTB Marathon – Rhayader, Wales

On Sunday I took on my first Scott marathon of the season. Michelle and I travelled together to Rhayader in mid-Wales on Saturday in the pouring rain hoping that the sun would shine on the race day!

The morning brought dry cloudy weather, as we lined up in the mass start the sun was trying to come out but dark clouds loomed above us so I decided to take my waterproof, just in case.

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I always find mass starts challenging and yet again as we pulled off Michelle easily seemed to slip through gaps between riders whilst I struggled to find my own gaps! I had to push harder than I would usually push at the start of a long race to get back to Michelle and then set into a steady rhythm up the last road climb before the fun stuff!

After the descent the course turned onto fire road, as I turned to my side, I expected to see Michelle but she wasn’t there, looking back I couldn’t see her and thought she must have got caught up so I gradually made my way up the hill expecting her to catch up.

The course was very wet and muddy with huge puddles and a lot of slip sliding around on the grassy descents. I enjoyed the challenge this presented as the steeper decents were made more technical and pushed my skill level where if they had been dry they would have not been an issue. The course was packed with good climbs but the most challenging and best climb was a steep rocky climb that seemed to have a lot of people walking on it, I started the climb behind a guy but once he wheel spun and moved out of the way I was free to pick my own line through the walkers, this was a rather nice feeling to be slowly edging past lots of people, by the time I got to the top my heart rate was sky high but I felt a massive sense of achievement for beating the hill climb.

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I was going well fuelling wise I started with dates at 45 mins then another 45 mins later had salted peanuts then when I reached the first feed station I had a banana, handful of nuts and got my water topped up. It was at this time that a crack of thunder rumbled through the skies and the heavens opened, not just drizzle a torrential downpour started for what seemed like ages, I was glad to have packed my waterproof! It was tough going in the wet and cold every time I went up hill I got too hot followed by freezing on the downs. I tried to keep drinking small sips but my water bottles were so caked with mud I ended up with more than just a drink.

After the course split and the half marathon went one way there was another long road climb, it was on this climb where I heard the sound of my name being called! Looking round Michelle had caught up. It was great to ride with other people again after being on my own for around 43km.

This next part of the course was the worst after a fire road climb the single-track became almost un-rideable due to massive puddles and so much thick mud that my tyres wouldn’t go round. We ended up walking lots of this section slowing down meant getting cold so I ate some more dates to try and get some extra energy. It was a short while after we left the single-track back on a wider path that Michelle fell off and sliced her knee on something, we still don’t know exactly what!

This meant a walk back to the marshal point and a long 45 min wait for the paramedic, after they washed out her wound they decided she shouldn’t ride on it so I finished the course on my own.

Michelle was okay luckily but had to have three stitches.

Although I didn’t complete the full 75km I am super happy with this result I kept a consistent pace fuelled well and felt in a good place, I didn’t feel tired at the end which I feel is a good indication I had more in the tank. I will be back to finish this race next year! For now onwards and upwards towards the Alps…

 

The transition from racing XC to endurance races

I started racing cross-country mountain biking four years ago, after being inspired by the Olympics to get out and give it a go.

last year I decided to try a new challenge and turned my attention to endurance racing. This is a very different type of riding which is as much about mental strength and physical.

Here is a little video about the transition. Please subscribe to my channel and follow my blog for more updates on training towards my next challenge.

The Trans Alp.

Mud, Sweat, Gears and over training

At the weekend I travelled to Henham in Suffolk for my first cross country race of the season. I have not been feeling great for the last few weeks, my body and mind have felt tired and I have found things have been getting on top of me in all aspects of my life.

Training between 6 and 12 hours a week, working full time and running your own business does not leave a lot of recovery time, and I think I have now officially burnt out!

I have been ignoring the ‘warning’ signs that this was coming. I have been really tired even though getting plenty of sleep. I had a few little colds, not felt like training and training was certainly not going how I wanted it too and to top it all I felt mega emotional!

This all caught up with me at Henham. I did a practice lap and after the great inspiring session with Steve Manser the day before I felt confident on the course.

My start was not great I missed my pedal and everyone else shot off. Where I can usually recover from moments like this, this time my head was telling my body it was game over and my legs were in complete agreement.

I finished my first lap knowing that the first lap I usually find hard, but this was different. When I pushed down on the pedals I had no power, I felt like I was going backwards, after another lap I decided that I should listen to my body and stop.

I have never pulled out of a race and this was such a hard thing to do I kept wondering whether I made the right choice, was I just being a wimp?

Looking back on my decision it was the right one. My body needs some recovery time and trying to push it too hard on Sunday was just going to mean I would need more time off.

My plan now is a training free four days when I can concentrate on letting my body recover fully.

It has been a steep learning curve for me, I have been training so hard spending every spare moment I have on the bike, working on my endurance doing 5 hour rides and dedicating my time to becoming the best mountain biker I can be. So it is really frustrating when you get to the start of a race not feeling your best and not able to perform in the way you feel you should.

What I have learnt from this is to look out for the signs of overtraining and workout a way with my coach that I can focus on training for the Trans Alp in the most efficient way possible.

Part of my challenge is I am always pushing myself, which isn’t a bad thing, but part of that is I am not very good at saying no and take on too much.

Anyway in every situation there is a chance to learn and improve. I am now on my last recovery day feeling a lot happier and rested.

I look forward to what tomorrow brings….

 

Race report : Battle on the Beach

 

On Sunday 20th March around 700 mountain bikers descended on this quite coastal country park for the UK’s one and only beach race. Now in its third year this race has grown in popularity year on year with 2016 being its biggest and best so far!

Battle on the Beach is run by A Cycling who also organise the UK’s only stage race Epic Cymru. The idea of a beach race came from the Dutch & Belgian races, although these are nearly all beach the Battle on the Beach packs in 6km of beach racing on a 15km course.

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The start line. Photo thanks to Anthony Pease @Pease971

The 3 lap, 45km course has remained fairly similar since it started with a few tweaks here and there. The battle starts on soft sand at the top of the beach, while the DJ pumps out motivational music and gets the riders ready for what’s to come with riders jostling for positions close to the front. The soft sand start is hard work with so many people in a compact space picking your bike up is pretty impossible so when the gun goes off its about pushing as hard as you can whilst watching out for other people’s pedals and flying wheels of those who have picked their bikes up!

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Photo thanks to Anthony Pease

Once on the hard packed sand cyclocross skills come in handy as you launch yourself onto your bike and charge out to catch a group moving fast, the key to the beach is to get in a bunch and work together to make the 6km beach stretch less taxing on your legs.

Lungs bursting, once you reach the MOD turn off the beach it’s another run in the sand up the hill to the dunes. From this point on its single and double track until you reach the beach once more.

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Photo thanks to Anthony Pease

The double track through the dunes is soft sand in places and the best advice is to keep looking forward and let the bike slide beneath you. It is hard going through these dunes with lots of lumps and bumps overtaking can come with the penalty of a puncture as the scrub land to the side is littered with thorns and twigs.

The singletrack sections are brilliant! Through tress with some hard sandy climbs and great loose descents which make you push harder just to come round and have another go!

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Photo thanks to Anthony Pease

The air is full of excitement at Battle on the Beach with lots of spectators cheering you on and other riders always giving their support. It is a fantastic race for riders who are looking to test their speed and endurance and also those who just want to do something different with friends. It is organised very well with sign on the day before and a well-marked course.

This year Karen Brouwer was back to defend her 2014 open title. The Dutch rider left the rest of the field in her wake finishing in an eye watering 1 hour 49 minutes showing that the women are as fast as the men!

The men’s open was a hard fought battle between Richard Jansen the Dutch beach racing champion and fellow Dutch rider Bram Imming the race was fought right up to the line with Richard Jansan taking the win by a second, finishing in 1 hour 35 minutes and 8 seconds.

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Photo thanks to Anthony Pease

For the first time the day race was accompanied by a night race. Battle in the Dark took place on the Saturday evening and was a shorter loop of the main course taken on in time trial style.

Overall I am really happy with my result (16th) it was my first race of the season and with a new bike I just went out to see what was possible. There are things I need to improve on my overall my stamina has improved so much which makes all those winter miles worth the effort!

My top tips for beach racing are:

  • On a mountain bike turn your forks off
  • Practice running and jumping on your bike before you arrive at the race
  • Practice carrying your bike, great upper body work out and a lot quicker than pushing it through sand
  • Get into a bunch on the beach to make life easier but don’t sit in a slow group push on to the next faster riders

Thank you Anthony Pease for the brilliant images! Check out his stuff here.

 

End of season review

It seems a very long time ago that I was lining up at Battle on the Beach for my first race of the season.

Battle on the Beach soft sand push

I went up to elite this year which was a bit of a baptism of fire! My first nationals were a real eye opener to the speed needed to be competitive in cross-country. Although the race was really hard I learnt a lot from the experience. I went away and worked on my technical skills.

Over the winter I had been doing some longer rides and found these suited me. I have always found the power and pace of cross-country a challenge but this year decided to try endurance racing.

My first six hour solo was tough but showed me that I could turn to endurance racing. I worked hard to improve my endurance building up from 3 hour nonstop rides to 5 hour nonstop rides. These were hard but I enjoyed pushing myself in a new direction and worked hard on my fitness.

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The next challenge was a 24 hour race with Martyn where we got an unexpected 3rd place.

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After Mountain Meyhem I had my own time of mayhem with buying our first house my training was disrupted. I decided to use this time when I was feeling rather stressed to concentrate on training and getting used to being on my bike for long periods of time and perfecting my nutrition during those rides.

I entered the last round of the Southern XC series and was happy that my training had paid off when I managed 3rd place.

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My next priority race was Torq in your Sleep, my first 12 hour solo. I didn’t really know what to expect but I had a plan which I stuck too and that paid off. I learnt so much from this race like make sure you eat little and often so that you don’t get stomach cramp, don’t take the dodgy head torch light out as coming back to change it costs a lot of time (20 mins to be precise).

TORQ 12-12 2015

The next few months I will be working on my endurance and stamina clocking up the miles and building a good base over the winter.

My aim for 2016 is to race the Trans Alp and continue to improve on my endurance results from this year.

Thank you to my coach Mark at Velo coaching for your help with my training.

Thanks to my sponsors Grip Grab and Bike Fixers. Thanks to Silverback for my brilliant Syncra which has kept me competitive all year.

If you would be interested in supporting me in 2016 please contact hannah@peal2pedal.co.uk

Southern Cross Country series round 2, Crow Hill

Today was the Southern Cross Country series at Crow Hill, in the New Forest. This was my third race in 3 weeks. So feeling a little tired and having  done nothing all week due to a swollen ankle, preparations were not their best.

I had been unsure all week if I should race and finally decided on Thursday that as the race was only an hour away it was worth a shot and hopefully I would gain some more points towards my ranking.

Arriving at Crow Hill I felt relaxed (unusual for me on race day) as I had taken the pressure off by saying just go along and ride.

Practise went well and my ankle felt alright and as long as I clipped out gently,  it didn’t cause too much agro. The course at Crow Hill is great, relatively flat with twisty sections in the forest, tied together with fire road. It was rather slippy in places and a few tree roots were already starting to lose their bark and reveal white flesh which was being polished under so many people taking the same line!

I finished my practise lap in time to see Fred, who I coach and who now races for Pedal 2 Pedal, ride home to take third place in the under nines race. After watching his podium, feeling very proud of his achievements  I went off to warm up.

Arriving on the start line I still felt calm, which was a nice change from my normal nervous feeling!

Start of the cross country race at crow hill, new forest

The race started on an incline and I got a great start, unlike last week in the Nationals and left the arena in fourth position. This huge burst of energy cost me though and as I recovered in the single track and the path opened up I was over taken by a couple of riders but kept pressing on.  A silly mistake on a corner in my first lap ended my grip on the group and cost me greatly in time.

I pushed on and felt okay during my second lap, even enjoying it to a certain extent. I hadn’t managed to take on as much water or food as I would usually, but as I was taking it slightly more gently than usual I thought I’d be okay. This was not to be the case and as I pulled up the hill ready for my third lap I knew my pace had dropped to a crawl! I pushed on the pedals but my legs had nothing left in them. My heart rate had dropped to around 166bpm so I knew I had loads more to give,  but my strength had been sucked away and my tired legs felt heavy.

Someone once told me that when things are tough, all you can keep doing is the right thing, so today that’s what I did. I kept turning the pedals and pushed as much as I could making the most of the downhills to recover and altering my cadence to ease the pressure on my legs and ankle which was now starting to feel a bit sore.

Racing southern cross country series

Coming into my fourth lap knowing I had two more to go was hard work. When you have lost touch with other riders it makes it ten times more difficult to push on because you have nothing  in your sights to push on to!

As I was coming back round to cross the arena Cat Ross (Specialized Ruslip) over took me, I felt a wave of disappointment at being lapped as well as a tiny bit of relief at not having to do a fifth lap.

Every race I learn something different. Today I learnt that a big sprint start will cost me dearly in energy so to make sure I am fuelling well.

Thank you to Bike Fixers for making sure my bike was in tip top condition, Grip Grab for keeping me warm (I needed my leg warmers today) and Dog Tag for your support with Pedal 2 pedal.