For the first part of 2012 my race schedule included some XC races with my focus being on the Pro Sprint races at the World Cup rounds. Most of the UK national XC races clashed with the UK Gravity Enduro races, but this weekend I was free and decided to travel up to Dalby for round 2 of the National Series. Having only ever raced at Sport level at an XC national I did not know what to expect in the Elite field. Having had such a painful and demoralising experience at the WC at Houffalize last weekend I was feeling mentally down on the XC world ! This weekend would be a little different starting on the 2nd row in a field of 30, rather than being on the back row in a field of 90 women. It meant that I had chance to get a good start and be in the race from the start and not having to walk and queue round the first part of the lap ! Weather conditions were not great and after a massive downpour and hailstorm on the Saturday it left the start filed pretty muddy by race day and the start loop was pretty wild. I got some great speedway style drifts going on as I managed to get up to 2nd and followed Annie Last around the start loop.
It was great to get to ride for a short time with Annie. She really is a great talent for the UK and she really can ride a bike up and downhill which is great to see ! I just couldn’t maintain her pace after the first start loop and thought I would just blow up if I tried to stay at this pace for much longer ! I gradually got overtaken by 2 visiting foreign WC riders and Scottish talent Lee Cragie during the first main lap and came through after lap one in 5th pace. I was happy with that, but sadly I still had 3 laps to go ! I kept reeling in Lee and the Japenese girl over the next couple of laps after the technical section and down Worry Gill and then the gap would open up again as we had to climb back up the long climb from Medusa’s drop ! I did manage to maintain a decent pace and held my position to take my first ever Elite XC podium at a National !
The muddy conditions definitely played into my strengths as the course was tough and got pretty cut up in places. I think I also learnt a lot about racing XC as my last lap was one of my fastest, showing that I really could have gone harder at the start as I still had something left at the end ! This XC racing really is tough, I have so much to learn about just how much you can push your body over a long period of time !
Next weekend it’s back to some Enduro Racing. I think the 5 minute stages will seem easy now after this !!