Returning to the Southern XC Series I hoped for a decent result following first and second places in previous rounds. My form all year has been difficult to identify and heading into next weeks National Champs it’s still proving unpredictable. The Southern would give a good understanding of how everyone’s training had been going.
The race took place at Perham Down which is a new venue near Andover in Wiltshire. Many parts of the circuit were newly built and were pretty rough but improved each lap; other parts of the course were more worn in and were great fun to ride. It would be an interesting circuit to race in the wet; the clay soil was pretty slippy in places today so on a rainy day would probably provide as much grip as an ice rink!
Off the start the usual fighting for positions happened with Paul Hopkins getting a particularly good start. Soon enough the race started to split with a group including Billy Joe Whenman, Steve James, Ade Lansley, and myself getting a small gap over a group of chasers. The pace two thirds of the way through the lap was pretty slow with people probably saving themselves for next week. This slower pace meant the chase group caught us at the start of the second lap, I’d seen this happening so hit the front of the race to increase the speed on the first climb.
A couple of miles into the second lap my bike suffered a mechanical issue making it unrideable, stopping to fix the problem riders tore past. After riding comfortably with the leaders now the whole elite category and many of the expert riders passed me as I struggled to fix the issue. 5 minutes later the bike was sorted and the chase began.
I pushed the pace a little too hard on the remainder of that lap and ended up making a few mistakes and was expending too much energy which I regretted later on in the race. It took most of lap 3 before I even caught the last placed elite rider! Despite riding alone and having to overtake many people on the tight singletrack during the final 3 laps I matched the pace of the leaders but couldn’t close any of the time gap I lost during that mechanical.
It was another frustrating day but I’m glad to have battled on to finish the race. Teammate James Gleaves took 2nd in the masters race, and Lydia took the expert win after a sprint finish. Next weekends National Champs should be interesting!