In 2010 the TORQ team guided me to some excellent early season success, following this I was targeting nothing less than a gold medal at the National XC Champs. This year having moved up to seniors from the under 23 category and also having struggled with poor form all year the champs weekend was a very different challenge. The goal I set over winter was for a top 5 finish but after the recent struggles my target changed to just finishing higher than my 8th place gridding.
The weather forecast for the weekend looked awful and Saturday morning the rain pouring from the sky proved that the weather forecasters can sometimes get things correct! With Tour de France coverage starting at 12 we decided even if it was raining we’d put on the Gore-Tex and ride over to the arena to learn the track mid morning. Arriving at the arena the site was still pretty empty with all the early arrivals sheltering from the heavy rain.
The first half of the course included several bumpy grass climbs and several wet rocky steep loose descents. The second part of the track had several long flat fireroads split by some very muddy singletrack which has plenty of roots, rocky, drops, and short sharp climbs. To get back to the arena there was a fireroad dash along a long straight bridleway heading into a horrible headwind! The course was really tough and all the races taking part Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning would cut up the course making things worse.
It was obvious that Sunday’s races would have a high attrition rate with riders either blowing having started too fast or others breaking their bikes on the slippery track. For this reason my aim was to let riders ride away from me at the start and ride my own race trying to maintain my laps times pulling back positions in the second half of the race. The race unfolded exactly as planned with my early pace leaving me with fresh legs, from lap 3 I was overtaking a couple of riders each lap.
On the last lap I moved up into the top 10 with further riders within reach just ahead. On the final half of the course I could see John Whittington in 8th place, entering the final piece of singletrack I made up some time but the rabbit had seen the fox and 8th place took off. We both sprinted down the long stretch of bridleway into the headwind but the gap was too big and I crossed the line to finish 9th.
Rolling under the finish banner I still felt fresh with the feeling I could have continued that pace for another couple of laps, it left me wondering what could have been. However top 10 isn’t so bad in my first year as a senior elite rider. I'm now enjoying a weeks rest before the team relay event Twentyfour12 in Plymouth, and then the Olympic Test Event at Hadleigh Farm a week later. Following this I start a big block of training leading into the years main target in September.