After last weekend’s poor result at the national I decided to have a recovery week from training; mostly I think I needed it mentally. Having been so focused on that 1 event and for it to go so wrong was pretty demoralising. The decision to race the Southern XC this weekend was not made until Thursday evening, for a few days my mind was shot and it was until Thursday evening when chatting with good mate Stefano that my motivation returned, thanks mate!
Waking up Sunday morning to clear skies and the sun peaked through the curtains, what a perfect day for bike racing. A pre ride of the course revealed a testing track with routes, stumps, loose tight corners, windy open farm tracks, sketchy descents, and steep climbs. What an awesome track; returning to the arena I was excited about racing having loved my pre ride. The track could easily replace any of the National XC venues, well done to the Southern XC organisers.
Having done very few Southern events over the last few years I was gridded on row 2 of 2 and off the start had to burn a few matches to close the gap that quickly opened as Ade Lansley and Steve James rode away to take the lead. Having caught the front 2 I tried to stay second wheel and take advantage of some drafting through the windy open sections. Mid way through lap 3 Ade was starting to drop off the back of the group, Steve James was still leading setting a solid tempo, and I remained on his wheel.
As we reached one of the singletrack climbs the electric Shimano Di2 gears on my borrowed bike started to jump, for some reason still unknown they’d shifted out of index. The bike was almost unrideable in gears 1 to 4 which were really needed on the 3 steep climbs. I stopped to see if there was anything obvious wrong, and this stop dropped me down to 6th place.
I chased back up to second place trying to pass the other riders as fast as possible so they couldn’t get a tow around the track as my chase to Steve began. Chris Minter jumped onto my wheel and it was soon obvious the gap to Steve was too big to close. With my gears slipping and a cleat coming loose it was better to make sure the bike made it to the finish line so I tucked in behind Chris until the start of lap 6 when he fell on a corner.
Simon Ernest wasn’t too far behind so I tried to ride smoothly and keep the gap at the same distance. Every corner or bump I thought the bike would fail or the cleat would fall off, it was a relief to the reach the finish line to take second place on the podium.
After such a fun race I’m looking forward to a big week of training. Next weekend TORQ have a team meeting and photo shoot in Shropshire on Friday and Saturday, and then I’m really excited to be racing the Chain Reaction Cycles Marathon on the Sunday - hopefully aboard my new 2011 Kona race bike!
Thanks once again to Chris White from Mountain Trax for the loan bike.