This race went by many names but will leave it as European Champs as it sounds the most impressive 😉 . I had it earmarked since I started riding and training again in February as my first aim of the year. It was a biggy with lots of tough competition but this didn’t bother me as I knew I wasn’t racing them, I was just racing myself.
I had a few months of solid training behind me, which included sorting out problem areas such as core strength, patella problems, seized vertebrae, a bad cycling position, lost 5kg of weight and had rested well. I was feeling pretty confident of a good ride going into the weekend. For sometime now I’ve told myself that a consistent, solid ride and a top15 finish was on the cards.
My ever supportive dad and I rolled up on Friday to the simply excellent set-up at Rock UK, set-up camp track side along with the vast majority of other competitors and set off for a practice lap to shake out the legs. I promptly got caught and dropped by Ant White, Rich Rothwell and a SS fella, which was fun ;). The lap was pretty much the same as last year and so excellent. Long, hilly, interesting and weather hardy with a little bit of mud slippage to keep you on your toes. That evening the usual fumbling around with bikes, food and clothing ensued with showers and lightning illuminating the surrounding hills for added entertainment, then finally, bed.
After getting up after a crap nights sleep, cramming porridge down my neck and attending the race briefing it was time to get suited, booted and head down to Newcastleton for the start. As last year its was lead out by some cheery locals on cruisers at a nice sedate pace but coming out of the village it was time to try and move up a smidge. We reach the course and was probably about half up the field, which I was happy with. We were moving pretty slow but at least it stopped me from pushing too hard.
Lap one ticked by nicely but I was out the saddle a bit more than I would have liked to alleviate a tight back but no worries I thought. The next few laps went by always feeling solid, if not spectacular, back was still stiff although the out of saddle was helping. The side affects of this where my triceps where starting to fatigue and between my shoulder blades weren’t feeling overly grand either. Was a bit worried about my pace too, it was higher than I was aiming for but it felt solid so pushed on.
Then it happened, about 4hrs in it began to rain. It was a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ but it didn’t seem to be a problem for me, in fact I was loving it! From then on it was like a switch had been flicked. I went from feeling solid to feeling great. Lap times stayed about the same but I was really enjoying it. The rain didn’t last, which was probably a good thing as changing pads wasn’t really on my most wanted list. The first few climbs turned into peanut butter which wasn’t ideal with the minimum mud clearance on my frame but a well placed river sorted that.
I pounded on feeling good and before I knew it it was getting dark so my cheapo lights went on. They only kick out about 900lumens, which isn’t really enough but was just about managable. My dad, who had been awesome as usual told me that I only had two laps left and with triceps and shoulder pretty intolerable now I was pleased to hear it! My aim was to get around and not have to change batteries, which I managed pretty well with only a few ‘heart-in-mouth’ moments.
The last lap hurt. The legs where still suprisingly good but triceps, shoulder and hands were incredibly uncomfortable at this point as well as feeling bloated but managed to smash it around and before I knew it I was blasting around the campsite and across the line. Job done!
Not going to lie, I was pretty broken but knew I put in a good ride and was amazed at just how hard I was able to push throughout. I shuffled back to the tent and then back to the prison-esk showers (not that I cared, I was just glad they were there!) and then to bed.
I didn’t sleep much but felt pretty good the next morning, if a little slow and when my dad told me I had finished 22nd I was gutted but knew in my slightly blurred mind that it couldn’t be right having been sitting at 17th 7hrs in and feeling strong. Turns out one of my laps was missed but the timing team soon put it right and it didn’t affect my race so I don’t mind. Will be interesting to know exactly where I finished though but I’m certain I’m in the top15 and so achieved my aim. Very pleased 🙂
I’d like to say thanks to the organiesers who put on a great show, the riders I chatted too throughout the weekend, some I knew well and some I didn’t at all and of course the star of the show, my dad who, as usual put in a great effort in supporting me. Cheers!
Can wait for the next one 🙂