It was with a bit of anticipation I entered this round, after all its hard to have high expectations of yourself when training plans have fallen by the wayside and the mileage just hasn't added up. I was, to say the least,not even riding fit let alone race fit. Still, on arrival after recognising some familiar faces and chatting to friends, race nerves were put aside and I was able to enjoy the friendly atmosphere which made me enjoy this series so much last year.
The course was newly dug and was said to be about a mile in length with which we would commit to an hour of hard racing. The ground was dry for the first time in nearly a year and promised to be a fast paced race. I took the choice not to pre ride the course as time was getting tight and to avoid panicking myself. (I have been known to pre ride a course and not make back in time for the start!). With the sun beating down on us and mild breeze across the field a large bunch of us lined up. Mixed abilities were all combined including a few juniors and a large number of veterans. There were only three of us riding single speed. I'd set myself back as I didn't think my chances in the first part were very good and planned to find a wheel early and pace it.
The course firstly went across a couple of dry packed field with a slight downward direction giving plenty of time to string the field out before hitting the woods and the single track. The single track was on dry peaty ground which went twisted up and down the side of the hill. One of the climbs had tight switch backs in them, while the other was a straight steep slog up. The track had a nice flow to it, with out it being overly technical or slippery. After coming out of the wood its was back onto the fields heading slightly up and into the headwind before a fast decent leading to a steep climb with a near impossible top part due to some wet mud. More single track on the field followed before a small piece of wooded single track looping back onto the finishing straight.
From the off I held back for a few seconds and realised I was not the only one being hesitant on the line whilst the more experienced riders shot off fast. I found myself putting in some speed spinning my gear fast and passing a fair few riders down the field into the single track. Its always at this point you have little idea where you are, but at this point I was confident I was in the top half of the riders. Not much changed during the lap I lost a place in the single track but the large group of riders behind me stayed there. I was racing at full tilt, breathing hard. Probably too hard as the first few climbs I had no more to give and was dismounting early to make it to the top.
Coming onto the second lap I had six riders close behind me who I'd held off until now. But with the slight downhill from the start, big rings were being engaged and I was passed by all of them. I lost a few more places on that lap as I tried to regain a more reasonable pace. It proved to be my slowest lap and likely the result of such a fast start.
By the end of the lap I was sitting in a no-mans land with no one really close behind me or in front of me, and was now finding a comfortable pace. My nearest rivals were as follows:
SCHEREZER, F 28:38
DODDS, J + :22
ME + 1:45
CARR, J + 2:03
Dodds dangled in front of me for that lap, I could neither gain on him or could he get away. My pace was remaining fairly even. Laps 3,4,5 were all set within the a few seconds of each other. Near the end of Lap 4 Carr had caught me and passed making a few meters on me. It had seemed It was another place lost but he didn't seem to be making any ground on me.
SCHEREZER, F 39:04
DODDS, J + :21
CARR, J + :57
During the penultimate lap I hung onto Carrs wheel, neither making any attempt to over take or loose him. He became my focal point to keep going. To be honest I had nothing to give that time to get ahead of him and was worried going in front I'd over cook it and fade. The guy was similar to me technically and in the climbs so he was easy to stay with. By the end of lap five we had pulled in a tiring Dodds.
SCHEREZER, F 49:07
DODDS, J + 1:06
CARR, J + 1:07
With the bell ringing for a last lap I felt I could stick with this pace and perhaps take it to the line, but on the field decent before the single track, Carr slowed a bit and I made not just a pass but an attack. I've never done this before. I went hard with the aim of dropping him but also catching and passing Dodds. I succeeded in dropping Carr but Dodds fought back and pulled back in front just before the single track. Damn it. I was now breathing out of my arse and a silly mistake on one of the climbs meant Dodds was pulling away. I was burying myself to stay with him but the gap wouldn't shift. The last climb I'd gained a little and as we dismounted to climb the top Dodds got off and walked while I ran. I got passed him and pedalled for all I had to hold him off.
Finally I finished my lap time proving only a bit slower than my first lap and it took a while for me to catch my breath back. I'd finished mid pack. 22 out of 44 proving my best result to date. On the final lap the times were
SCHEREZER , F 59:28
ME + :19
DODDS, J + :28
CARR, J + 1:06
So that's my first race in the bag, and a very enjoyable one. My new bike was brilliant and well suited to the course, now I'm looking forward to racing on home turf and seeing if I can better myself on trails I know well. I might even put some training in........