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.