After a few more weeks out of action from a chest infection I didn't really get back into the saddle until near the end of October, well into the cyclo-cross season. Conor on the other hand jumped into the cross racing with both feet competing in pretty much most of the Ulster series and having a ball while doing it. Seemed a bit strange standing at the sidelines cheering him on!
The plan had been to try and give this winter series a whiz this year since I now had a bike and a title to defend. Common sense prevailed though and I ended up just getting myself back on the bike and working back up to some sort of fitness. I did compete at the Ulster Championship round with Conor at Ormeau Park in Belfast, nice and close to home so handy to get to, only to be reminded how hard cross racing is - 50mins of pure torture but I won against Gill Smyth and Claire Oakley. My second outing at Rostrevor near Newry didnt go too well, legs werent riding well at all. Cross racing doesnt really forgive you for having any sort of "off day" so I pulled out to become a very vocal supporter! Conor had a great race on his favourite course though. December saw a slight adjustment to training schedule with a little bit of higher intensity work to try and prep ourselves for the inevitable 1hr torture in January. All going well with a little blip called Christmas and New Year mixed in to make sure we're not all in tip top form :-)
So exactly a week after we've all celebrated in the new year the 2011 Irish National Cyclo-cross Championship was planned for St Anne's park in Dublin. Never been there so wasn't sure what to expect. Conor did a great job making sure his and my bikes were in tip top condition for the race and we arrived down nice and early for the start of the B race which Conor was riding. Pre-riding the course it looked like a cracker, a mix of tarmac, grass (not too much now), singletrack (quite alot actually), twisty turns around trees, drops over banks, ramps and obligatory steps to run up PLUS is was dry and fast. A bit of an odd feeling having to ride drop offs and single track on what is effectively a road bike, but what the hey, seems the thing to do in the winter! Conor blasted off at 11am for his race with 40 other riders for 7 laps of the course, each time coming round with a big smile on his face. After about an hour of racing he rolled over the line a little worse for wear but happy and just missing out in the top 20, great result for Conor the mechanic!
The main race was set to start at 1pm, originally five women had pre-entered but on the day only three of us signed in. Not too sure what happened to one of the other competitors but Mel Spath was unable to enter as her UCI national status still hadn't been updated to Irish, so that left Claire Oakley and Gill Smith as the competition on the day. Gill had been riding cross all winter and had been getting stronger as the racing progressed and Claire is known for her strength on these flatter courses - flat stuff isn't really my thing - so it could well end up a competitive race. Us women got gridded at the back of the race - not too sure if I like that policy - and off we went. I found it hard to get going, even harder to get passing as soon as we hit the singletrack. I'd had a good race with Vet rider William Mulligan the previous champs so I tried get up to speed with him, but between the crowded field and my poor technical skills and VERY un-smooth cornering he opened a gap that I wasn't able to bridge, although for over half the race we always seemed to be the same distance apart! I dropped Claire on the 2nd lap and it was a matter of trying to not lose more than 1 lap down to Elite men winner Robin Seymour and trying to beat the 2 or 3 men I kept yo-yo ing places with. With two laps to go however I started to tire and an increasingly sore back and stomach cramps started to distract me from the racing meaning I lost 2 places - booooo. Upside of the coin however is I won the women's title for the second year - yeah!
Congratulations to Robin Seymour for winning his 18th National title and to Greg May and the rest of WORC for designing a really fun CX course.
So excellent start to 2012! See you all on the trails and race course.