The purpose built Dalby Forest race course this past weekend hosted the 4th round of our National XC Series. My Australian team mate Andy Blair and I arrived on Thursday early afternoon planning on gaining a small advantage from being better practised and rested than our opposition. The last time we’d been at the arena was World Cup race day earlier on in the year, with the events organiser only just arriving before us the events field looked dramatically different to the circus we’d be part of last time.
Were we really still waiting for the circus or had it just arrived!
On Thursday the course was in great condition with dust covering parts of the track, rain that night would dampen the dust and create a few puddles but did no real damage. The tracks main features Worry Gill, the new bus stop drop, Medusas drop, the horrible rocky climb and the Rabbit Run were all included. The technical and demanding nature of Dalby meant lots of accidents during Friday practise with ambulances and even air ambulances making a regular appearance scooping up the injured and transporting them away to hospital. It’s a shame so many people got injured and hopefully it doesn’t mean the course gets diluted next year for the national, chicken runs exist for a reason.
Andy on the steep climb up to Medusa's drop
The racing was greeted by sunny skies Saturday morning and when we arrived on site the camping ground and car park were nearly full. After a decent warm up on the rollers it was time for gridding and a TORQ gel. From the start I was quickly up into the top 10 around the arena field, however as the race literally jumped onto the first singletrack section I was swarmed by flying elbows and lost a few too many places leaving me with work to do. Having been practising my lines I felt confident on the descents but was unable to push on properly because of the traffic until the second lap. Groups had begun to form but the top 10 was a little distance ahead, my training has clearly worked though and it allowed me to make up lots of places on the climbs. My heart rate was comfortable and my legs were great.
By the penultimate lap I was in a group of 3 with Rourke Croeser from South Africa, I allowed the 2 other riders to set the pace and perhaps relaxed too much. I attacked from this group on the descent of Medusas Drop and the final long steep climb shortly after. By the top I see Lee Williams ahead, along the Rabbit Run I sprinted as fast as my legs would allow, coming into the arena there was only a few seconds in it, however Lee had enough energy left to hold that small gap and deny me the top 10 I was after.
Post race I was happy with my performance and last year I would have been really pleased. There was a quality field with all the UK’s top elites and some quality overseas riders in attendance. However having now analysed the results I can’t help but think what might have been had I not messed up the start, 11th place will have to do though. Hopefully I can improve on that at the final round in September and maybe achieve my series goal.
Post race to finish of a quality day we watched some of the other races, then retired to the nearby b&b to watch the Tour de France opening prologue, and finally went to Pickering for a curry with Paul Hopkins, Andy Parsons, Dean Frost, and Simon Allard. Then on Sunday we joined the same four friends for a couple of loops of the marathon course, then the superb red route, and some monkeying around on the black route northshore. A reminder on how much fun a race weekend can be.
Up next for me is some fruit picking tomorrow (strawberries, raspberries, gooseberry’s etc = yum yum!!) which I’m pretty excited about and lots of TV time watching the Tour De France. Oh and some training. Also Bike Radar Live Dirt Crit is next weekend followed by the all importance National Championships in 2 weeks.