Written Monday 8th October
Its not every day you get to represent your country, pulling on your countries colours is what enthusiastic sports men and women dream of all around the world. Only one level below the Olympic games there is the World Cross Country Championships and also World Marathon Champs, each of these events decide who will wear the coveted World Champions stripes for that particular discipline.
This past weekend in very wet but beautiful Ornans, France the Marathon Worlds took place across a tough technical hilly 85km circuit. Rain had turned an already super technical track into a greasy messy bike trashing war zone! Even the most experienced riders were saying this would be the hardest Marathon Worlds ever!
Practise on Thursday was pretty fun sliding around the first and last parts of the circuit with my old teammate from Australia Andy Blair. It was great to have some time to catch up with Andy having not seen him for a couple of years. He's not lost any of his technical skills and it was pretty amusing following him down the muddy descents. On Friday Tim Dunford and I went to practise the middle part of the circuit, this 40km section was the toughest part of the track. There was everything from slippery fast rutted fireroads, out of control steep descents, boggy fields, tough rocky ascents and off camber cliff top trails which almost had me needing a parachute!
The mud on some trails was drying causing awful mud clogging, when it rained Saturday night before the race it was almost a relief to the riders as the rain would stop the mud being so sticky. With the rain tip tapping on the apartments balcony Sunday morning we nervously ate breakfast and prepared ourselves for the challenge which lay ahead.
To make things easier John and Chris from Mountain Trax had flown out to France to run technical and feed support. At the start they were there to take extra clothing which we peeled off at the last possible moments, this was much better than standing around for half an hour in short sleeve jerseys and shorts whilst it rained like some riders were doing! There were 7 tech zones all in different locations so they were kept busy and they worked the hire 'rally' car hard.
After a soaking down the 5 minute puddle filled start fireroad we turned sharp right onto the first climb. I didn't have the best of starts but once we started ascending I quickly began to make up places, the hill power training I've been doing at home had obviously worked. Reaching the top of the climb I found myself riding with the Trek World Racing Swiss riders the Flukinger brothers. I followed one of them down the first big descent making up loads of places matching the top 15 World Cup racers lines.
As the race continued I settled into a decent pace riding with another Swiss rider leading him up the climbs and then following him down the descents. Reaching the half way point I was feeling strong riding myself towards a possible top 40 finish.
Coming into feed zone 4 having successfully negotiated the most technical descent of the race I entered a series of fast fireroad descents which had become greasy with mud and rutted from the rain. On one of the steeper fireroad descents I struggle to control my speed and hit a rut which threw me from my bike and sliding down the hill on my side. No problem until my hip met with some big rocks, ouch! After a few choice words I climbed up, found the bike, straightened the bars and seatpost which had both twisted when I crashed and then got going again.
I'd lost about 10 places and something didn't feel quite right but I continued through the feed zone onto the next climb. Once ascending I couldn't put out any power through my left leg, I'd landed pretty hard on my left quad muscles and they now refused to work. I struggled to the top of the climb but was only just moving in my easiest gear almost resigned to walking, riders streamed past including first Tim, then some of the GB girls.
By the top I was in pain and was loosing body heat, it’s horrible to abandon any race let alone a race as special as this especially when you're going so well but I couldn't have made it up the next big climb.
It was a privilege to represent team GB, I learnt so much from the race and hope the 2012 World Champs are the first of many I get to attend. Thanks to British Cycling for the selection and all my fantastic sponsors especially Mountain Trax for coming all the way to France to support the British riders. Well done to the GB riders who all rode fantastically.
I write this in Frejus on the southern French coast where I’ll race my final 2 events of the year, the Roc d'Azur Marathon on Friday and Cross Country on Sunday.
Thanks for reading.
None of this would be possible without the help of my sponsors
Mountain Trax www.mountain-trax.com
Santa Cruz Bikes www.santacruzbikes.co.uk
Fox Suspension www.mojo.co.uk
Rapid Racer Products www.rapidracerproducts.com
Vermont Images www.vermont-images.co.uk
Kenda Tires www.kendausa.com
Phenix Metabolic www.phxmet.com
Crank Brothers www.crankbrothers.com
Clif Bar www.clifbar.com
Scott UK www.scott-sports.com