With 5000 people watching each section of the course there was an electric atmosphere at the venue with Dan Jarvis on the commentary and some techno beats over the speakers helping build up the tension. Following a parade around the start lap so each rider could be introduce to the crowd 50 of the world’s best Olympic hopefuls (plus us) lined up at the start of a technically and physically demanding track. We were moments away from taking parts in the Olympic MTB Test Event!!
The circuit is almost completely man made with all the key features being huge rock garden drops or tight switchback climbs, and most of the course can seen from 1 or 2 locations. We waited on the grid listening to the thumping beats over the radio; ahead of us lay guaranteed carnage either during the short 0.5km start loop or on one of the 3.5km race laps. Unfortunately the reality was that the invited Brits starting at the back of the field would probably be racing the 80% lap time rule but we were there for the experience.
“Your race will start in the next 15 seconds”. BANG, the gun went and we were off, down a very short start straight, right into a loose gravel covered 180 degree corner, before sprinting down the long start loop back straight up the hill into the dust, skid, dab of foot, clash handlebars, avoid a few crashes, back under the start banner, heart rate already at maximum, and then start the first switchback climb. Stop, wait, queue, run until the course clears just before the first rock drop where there are 3 line choices, I opt for the middle line.
Despite mastering the track in practice during the race the pressure is getting to me and I struggled to ride the course’s technical features at any pace loosing time I then had to work hard to make up on the climbs. It was a frustrating feeling because my power on the climbs felt pretty good early on. My heart rate was at maximum for most of the race with very few places to recover but I wasn’t making up any positions. After a few laps I wanted the race to end, the thousands of people were shouting and supporting the Brits in our England jerseys but I couldn’t handle the humiliation any longer. One more lap was all I had to endure, I could see it was my last loop of the start circuit back into the arena so thanked the supporters and threw a couple of TORQ energy gels into the crowd! I rolled home in 36th place, 1 position ahead of where I started.
The race was an amazing experience and I’m hugely thankful to Martyn Salt who gave us the opportunity to participate, however it saddens and frustrates me that I didn’t perform anywhere near my maximum ability. Under my own choice I’ve raced 17 of the last 20 race weekend, 2 of these races have also been stage races. I’ve done barely any training since mid March because each week has been about recovery and tapering, before mid March I was stuck on the turbo trainer for 6 weeks with a broken hand. Perhaps it was the wrong choice to add more races to my schedule but I wanted to re add the Southern XC series to my schedule this year because I wanted the thrill of wining once again, and I wanted to race the marathons and stage races because there awesome ways of seeing different parts of the world.
The first thing I did when I got home yesterday was to empty all my kit out of my race travel bag and pack that bag away. I’m so happy to not be racing until the end of August and cannot wait to finally start a huge block of training this Wednesday. I’m hugely motivated to be successful at the Kielder 100 and the final British XC round so by September I hope to return fitter and stronger. Hopefully before the season ends I can show the kind of strength I’d aimed to show this year.