Sunday, 30 June 2013

Italy and Switzerland

I was lucky enough to be selected for the two big races in June -  world cup round 3 in Italy and the European Championships in Switzerland the next weekend. After my win at Hopton woods I knew i was on better form so this would be a good opportunity to improve on my result in Germany.

UCI World Cup round 3 - Val di Sole, Italy

After a very twisty drive over some mountains from the airport in Milan (a journey that didn't sit well with my stomach), we finally arrived in the "Valley of the Sun" - and it lived up to it's name with roasting hot temperatures each day.

The course in Val di Sole was very steep and hilly, with three main climbs and some tricky rocky sections on the descents. The descents weren't overly difficult  but with lots of dusty turns and different lines appearing it was going to be interesting to race on when tired. Overall the course was really tough when you linked it altogether but I felt it suited me pretty well.

On the Thursday we raced the XC eliminator which is a fairly new discipline consisting of a short lap, roughly 3-5mins where 4 riders race head-to-head with the top 2 advancing. This would be a new experience for any of the juniors, and with only the top 32 (including senior men) qualifying there really was no pressure on us. A good practice on the track which went up the first main xc climb and then down the 4x track meant it was really good fun but times would be very close. After a good warm up we headed over to the start area, but after some confusion from the officials we came very close to missing the start, and being under-prepared for when it did start. None of the juniors qualified for the final but we all learnt something from the experience.

The next couple of days were spent watching the other races, easy rides on the road and just resting up for Sunday morning.

So onto our race and with a gridding of 56th it was going to be another game of trying to move up the field. The start went ok for me, as usual I slipped back a little bit, but as soon as we hit the first climb I starting moving past big groups of people. The first two laps I really committed to the climbs giving my all then trying to hold that pace for as long as possible. This tactic worked well as I moved into the top 30, but it was taking it's toll. I still managed to keep the pace going and slowly pick off more riders but towards the end of the race I started to get cramp in my legs which I put down to the heat. On the last lap I managed to sneak into the top 20, finishing in 20th place and completely wrecked!

I was really happy with how the race went as I really attacked the first couple of laps which is usually where I struggle to get going. I could tell I was on good form now and would hopefully carry that onto the European champs the next weekend!

European Champsionships - Bern, Switzerland

After a long long drive we finally arrived in a small Swiss town near Bern where we would be staying for the next week. The course for the event was a really "modern" style course, lots of short steep climbs with some artificial jumps, a pumptrack section and lots of other fun bits! A really great course to ride and race on!

After a few days practice and easy rides on the surrounding roads it was the day of the race. Thanks to my result at the previous world cup I was relatively far up the gridding in around 30th. The start went pretty well for me compared to usual, slotting into the singletrack around 25th. The field stretched out here and on the next open section I tried to move up as much as possible. The legs were feeling prety good and I was riding well, moving into the top 15 towards the middle of the race. I was still moving up well with a possible top 10 on the cards. But then disaster struck when coming into one of the short steep climbs my chain snapped, leaving me running to the tech zone. This lost me a lot of time and places, dropping back into the mid-30s. With one lap of the race left I tried to get going again but running for so long and really taken it out of me and I rolled across the finish in 31st, disappointing after being in such a good position.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Ding Ding.. Round 3

British National Series round 3 - Hopton Woods

So it's already round 3 of the National series, and at Hopton Woods in Shropshire it was a course I really liked, having come 2nd here the previous year. The nice wide, long start straight into a long climb played to my strengths and would hopefully mean my bad start wouldn't rule me out of the race straight away.

The week leading up to this race had been spent on another Olympic Development Programme training camp in the Peak District. It was a tough week and all of us were feeling pretty tired heading into the race. On Saturday I practiced with ODP team mate Mike Thompson (Nutcracker Racing) who I was staying with for the weekend, and after some wheel trouble for the both of us, and eventually running my training wheels we got the track in our heads and I was feeling surprisingly good. The course had some big steep climbs in it, mostly in the first part of the track, so it was going to be all out at the start! The rest of the course was more draggy fireroads and some twisty man made singletrack. the course wasn't very technical, all pretty simple, but it was very high speed on the descents so was going to be tough while in race mode.


Sunday morning me and Mike rolled up and got everything ready for the race. A good warm up and I was ready to go.

 photo: Isla Short

A fast start into the climb and I was hanging on just inside the top 10, but as it got steeper I was able to put in a big effort and move into the singletrack climb in first. This is exactly where I wanted to be as so far this year I haven't seen the front of the race. further up Mike got past me but I was happy to sit in behind and try to hang on to his wheel. Just as we reached the top of the climb, and at the steepest part Sam Stean moved to the front and I stuck to his wheel, but just before it leveled off I made my move to get into the descent first, creating a small gap briefly but Mike was right with me once again. We worked well on the first lap, coming through together with Sam about 30 seconds up on 4th place.



Up the climb I took the lead and myself and Mike created a small lead. On the steepest part I put in a dig and created a gap, however on the later flat sections Mike was strong enough to close back to me. Now moving up through the elite field it became tricky to get a clear run, but we came through with one lap to go with a lead of over a minute on 3rd place. I knew this lap that I would have to give it everything on the climb and hold on for the rest of the lap if i was going to stay ahead of Mike, so from the start of the lap I attacked and kept pushing. I opened up a good gap but I knew it would be close. On the longer fireroads I could see Mike behind so it was a tense final lap. I rode within my limits on the descent as I didn't want to throw away my lead, but attacked the fireroads as much as possible. Rolling across the finish line I was really happy to take the win - my first National win for quite a while - by 40 seconds.

It was a really tough race, but with all the ODP riders making up the top 5 it shows that you can really push yourself even when your knackered! My form is coming along well now and hopefully will be able to keep the podium results coming.

And with this result I'm happy to announce that I have been selected for round 3 of the UCI world cup in Italy, followed by the European championships in Switzerland the week later.

A big thanks to Dryburgh Cycles, Forme Bike and also my parents.