Monday, 27 August 2012

6th at British XC Series Round 5

The cross country schedule I’ve followed this year has produced mixed results with some excellent results regionally, however my rides at the national series have been blighted by bad luck and fatigue. Bad luck can’t be helped, the fatigue however could have been avoided but sometimes you have to pick and choose which races you want to focus on, this is often to the detriment of others.

After the bad luck struck at National XC Champs in July I began to focus on my next big target the Kielder 100, this meant longer rides and less intervals so I wasn’t sure how the final National XC Series round would go. The course was a fast 6km circuit with short sharp uphill climbs and tight twisty singletrack.

Having only completed one National XC round this year I was gridded back on the 4th row. Off the start riders ahead made a slow start meaning I soon found myself at the back of the field. The open wide climb allowed for overtaking and suited my strengths so I quickly began to make up places. Lap by lap I passed a few more riders until I was inside the top 10, by now I was racing riders selected for the World XC Champs and most are full time cyclists. My third lap was the quickest of all the elite riders and my fourth lap was the second quickest.

Once in a group with brothers Seb and Hamish Batchelor I wasn’t sure how I’d outwit the pair and escape without pacing them but the course naturally split up groups as the climbs were so tough ridden at speed. After a lap I made my move escaping with Paul Oldham who was riding well, Paul gapped me toward the end of lap 5 as my chain slipped on a worn chainring. The worn chainring slowed me down slightly on that lap but kept my pace steady as I was forced to ride smoothly to avoid damaging the bike.

Laps six and seven were ridden alone but with my lap times again getting faster I moved up into sixth place. Paul Oldham went on to close in on the top 4 leaders finishing just behind them in fifth taking the final podium spot; I wondered afterwards if we’d been able to work together whether we could have caught the leaders.

After loosing all my world ranking points this year it felt so good to be back in the points and the money! A strong finish to the series is just what I needed and hopefully next year I can get back on the podium at a National race. To have finished on the podium would have been a fantastic way to say thanks to my sponsors but there’s still time this year with the Kielder 100 and a couple of races in France in October!

Special thanks to my sponsors John from Vermont Images and Chris from Mountain Trax for their fantastic support providing technical and feed support at events.

Thanks for reading.

Ben Thomas

None of this would be possible without the help of my sponsors

Mountain Trax
Santa Cruz Bikes
Fox Suspension
Rapid Racer Products
Vermont Images
Kenda Tires
Phenix Metabolic
Crank Brothers
Clif Bar
Scott UK

Monday, 6 August 2012

Brighton Big Dog Win!

The last couple of months have been all about the build up to National XC Champs, it was a big focus of mine and I wanted to put behind me the uncharacteristic performances of previous National Series rounds and show everyone what I can really do. Weeks of training passed perfectly and on the 22nd of July I was in ideal form to fulfil my target result. Off the start I found myself in the lead group of 5 but on lap 2 bad luck struck as my bike suffered a mechanical. It was pretty emotional at the time: having put in so much hard work it was tough to cope with it all being snatched away.

I’d planned to take a week off from training after National XC Champs; a week’s holiday was perfect as it gave me time to forget the disappointment and refocus. Last week was spent logging in the miles topping up the base fitness ready for a new focus which will conclude my season…

On Saturday it was back to the race day routine as I took to the start line of the 6 hour Brighton Big Dog marathon. It was my first time at the event but the competition was familiar, at the start I lined up next to my Gorrick 100 rivals Tim Dunford and George Budd. After a quick start loop we were off out onto the race track which was made up of super fun rooty and rocky tight singletrack. There was plenty of climbing and descending so this would be a different test to the flat trails of the Gorrick 100 in May. The trails were slippery so I decided my best option was to be near the front of the race staying out of trouble, despite there being teams of 3 and pairs racing I was the third person through after lap 1 with George right behind me. Tim had been dropped pretty early so George and I had a comfortable gap and settled into what felt like a steady pace. George was pinning the slippery singletrack taking a few more risks than I wanted to and was wasting energy on the climbs standing up out of the saddle while I remained seated spinning smoothly away.

On lap 4 I dropped George much to my surprise, I hadn’t expected to be out alone so early and with a possible 5 more laps to go it was going to be a long race. Later on that lap George then suffered a mechanic leaving me with a gap of a couple of minutes. The trails by now were pretty dry and I loved the rooty descents, especially the last couple of downhill sections to the arena where spectators had gathered to cheer on the riders.

Once out alone it’s always hard to maintain focus and not think about other things or start to worry about what could go wrong. I was being given no time gaps back to 2nd and 3rd so on lap 6 I started to panic that George was catching me. I was asking other riders what the gap was but the responses were all very varied. All I could do was keep smooth, refocus and maintain my speed, my lap times were pretty consistent throughout the whole race and overall I felt comfortable and in control.

The race atmosphere was fantastic and the course one of the best I’ve ridden in the UK. Crossing the line in first was a real pleasure and receiving the winner’s trophy was a pretty good birthday present!