Two weeks ago I finally reached the end of my winter of base training. At long last the races had arrived and it was time to turn some pedals in anger rather than the long steady rides my body had become accustomed to over the winter.
The next phase of training involves plenty of harder efforts, the hardest of which involve lining up at the start line of some XC races. Last weekend my first test was at the Whinlatter challenge, a 30mile xc race with 1500meters of climbing over 2 laps. It was certainly a shock to the system! Firstly due to the intensity and secondly due to the fact that I have trained in Cambridgeshire all winter and struggled to get more than 600m of climbing in a 5 hour road ride!
The start was up a 10min fire road climb. My plan was to try and keep near the front but not go into the red as my body is not used to such hard efforts. At the crest of the climb I was just off the back of a lead bunch of about 15riders. Fortunately the climb was rewarded with an equally long descent. Thankfully my descending skills were not too rusyt after a winter on the road bike and I soon began closing in on the riders in front.
After the first 30minutes a pattern began to emerge. The riders around me would be faster on the climbs, however I would gain more time back on the descents and flat. Gradually I eased myself up the field . At this point I should probably mention the new
Entering the second half of the race a group of three had established. One rider was stronger on the climbs one less strong on the climbs but fast down hill and me who was slower on the climbs but faster down and across. We began swapping positions on the climbs and descents for the rest of the lap. Entering the final 500m fire road climb we were split by 10 seconds. Unfortunately I just didn’t have the legs for a maximal effort up the final climb and slipped 30 seconds back. The descent to the finish was a fire road drag strip so disappointingly I was unable to close the gap. Still a 5th place finish was promising especially as I was 30seconds off a podium.
This past weekend I lined up for my second xc race in as many weeks. This time the national xc at Sherwood pines. This was a little more serious than the previous week. All the pure Xc racers live for the National series so the field would be competitive.
And so I lined up at the back of the grid eager to see whether 29er wheels were good at running over bikes and bodies in the carnage that is the start of a fast xc race! The start was relatively clean and I managed to move into the top 20 entering the first single track section. It was then that every one in front decided to sprint for the same gap at the same time only to realise that the said gap was too small. The resulting pile up was impressive if a little frustrating as I watched the leaders ride away. After a bit of cyclo cross practice using bikes and bodies as hurdles I was back aboard the tallboy.
For 3 laps I rode my own tempo catching the riders ahead and slowly moving up the field. Entering the final 2 laps I was joined by two more riders and we worked together to try and bring back the leaders who were always frustratingly in view on the fire road drags. By the final lap the digs had begun and my legs began to revolt. They just don’t like going into the red! Entering the final 2 miles my legs were shot and I began to slip off the riders in the group. At 1 mile to go I was caught by another rider and I entered the arena with him. Sprinting was not on the cards so I was beaten to the line with a late surge. 9th place is still quite pleasing though. Last time I raced a national xc all I could manage was 24th! Things are progressing nicely; I will only get faster…