2008 has been my best cycling year ever….. by a long way. This wasn’t because of the results that I achieved; it was the way I have changed as a rider. At the start of the year I didn’t really know what I wanted. The 2 previous seasons were affected by overtraining and I had lost all fitness, both mentally and physically. I had forgotten how to ride and race and also forgotten that a bit of pain is good for you as it shows you have worked hard and will grow stronger with recovery. Unfortunately my body was in pain walking up the stairs for 6 months solid during 2006 and my fitness was at zero, or so my brain thought! I gradually sorted myself out throughout 2007 and finally managed to get a good solid base during the winter.
Entering 2008 the desire was back, but I didn’t really have any direction. I knew I wanted to race but my mind was split. Cross country was always my favourite discipline and I always enjoyed a bit of road racing, but as a junior I only ever won races over 2h. Logic would dictate trying my hand at Enduro racing, especially being a member of a top Enduro team! The truth is that I was already thinking about venturing into the world of Enduro. I had been inspired my supporting my team mates at various races and raced at SITS as a team in 2007 and found it one of the most enjoyable races I’d eve done. There was just a huge mental barrier in the way, how on earth can you physically ride your bike for that long?!?!
In the first part of the year I raced in a few XC races and a few road races. I managed 12th in the BUSA championships at Cwm carn, although I wasn’t happy with the result. I raced with a bad chest and had a mechanical although the truth of the matter is that I just couldn’t keep up with the top end efforts required for XC. This was confirmed when I got a hammering at the first NPS in Thetford. The endurance was there but not the speed. I was 24th in expert and a bit disappointed.
The real changes began around May. It was Enduro time!!! I was scheduled to ride the Dyfi Enduro and then enduro6 as a pair with Rob. The Dyfi was fun. Either up or down with some great trails. I tried to keep up on the first climb but the front runners soon disappeared so again I just chugged along at my own pace finishing 7th. Quite pleasing but still not first! Enduro6 started badly, or so it seemed at the time! Rob was unable to make it and I was unable to find a replacement partner in time. This meant had to ride a whole 6H BY MY SELF!!! This was a bit of a shock and to be honest I was not looking forward to it one bit. But during the race I drifted off into my own little world oblivious to anyone around me. In the end I finished 6th , in elite! I finally realised that I was meant to be an Enduro racer and managed to crack the mental barrier. Enduro is just riding your bike really fast for fun….and you get to do it for ages! What could possibly be better?
With my new found confidence I entered my first 12h. Apparently if you can ride for 6h then you can ride for 12h… easy! I had good preparation racing a hilly 5 day stage race (the secret roadie in me making an appearance again) and plenty of croissants from my new summer job cooking breakfast in a youth hostel. So when 24/12 came along I was ready for another fun ride in the dark! And that’s exactly how I treated it. I enjoyed every minute of my debut 12h race. And the fact that I won helped even more. My new approach to riding and racing was paying off.
Through out summer I was possibly the happiest I’ve ever been. A fun job, fun bike rides and no stress from uni or other sources (work that one out for your self!). The one thing which would have improved it though was the weather. It didn’t half rain a lot. I think most of it fell on the week of Trans Wales. This was a great event. It had its moments admittedly, but over all it was great fun with loads of great people to ride with and hang out with. I finished 10th overall but by this point all my focus was on Dusk till Dawn at the end of the year. I know knew I could ride 12h pretty fast, but I could I race it against the best guys in the UK? To my surprise the answer was yes. I found my self in the lead group for the whole race and eventually finished 2nd. It was the icing on the cake for a great season. It was more a mental victory for me because I finally proved to my self that I can be one of the best racers in the UK. It took a while coming and there seemed to be plenty of ups and downs but I’m now there near the top.
I’m now mentally stronger as a bike rider and have finally learnt some lessons about my self and that’s made the difference. I now know I can win which makes me want to win more and makes me train harder, but I’ve also learnt to rest harder as well. I’m now going into the New Year stronger than ever and I’m going to work harder than ever to win some more races in 2009 and also to have some more fun!
Its looking good already with the line up for IronHorse-Extreme, I can’t wait for some fun times ahead and hopefully the achievements which come with it.
Happy New Year