I was looking forward to racing at Dalby, its a world class course being the venue of a round last year's and this year's XC World Cup and of course there would be a good field of 20 riders in the Elite women's race. I was buoyed by the good result in the Irish NPS two weeks previously so I was really hoping for a good result.
We arrived on Saturday about lunchtime and I set out for pre-race practice to discover an amazing trail with loads of switchback singletrack, board walks, step descents and the obligatory short steep climbs which seemed designed to make you pay for all the fun riding elsewhere. There were two sections of course which concerned me as I seemed to have developed a mental block over the winter so I needed to be able to decide how to ride these sections in practice. I took a look at the drop off into Worry Gill - a 1.5m drop into a corner - and decided that the B-line wasnt any slower so opted for that and moved on. At Medusa's Drop - a steep descent containing a series of short drop-offs - however the B-line seemed WAY too long to take so I convinced myself I HAD to ride it no matter what. I must have spent well over an hour and tried 20 times to "go over the edge" into that section but my head would just say no - I could see the line I wanted to take, even imagine myself riding it but every time I just froze! In the end I was getting tired and frustrated so decided "maybe I'll ride it in the race".
Race day arrived bright and early - we were off at 9.30am - but I hadn't slept much worrying over not being able to ride Medusa's so after a short warm up on the turbo and with a fuzzy head I got called to the front of the grid and lined up beside Cait and her team mate Jessica Roberts. The gun went off and it was clear from the start that I wasn't able to get myself going in too much of a hurry so I decided to sit behind Cait and see how things went. The first lap was fast enough and I soon discovered that taking the B-line at Medusa's only really lost me about 10 seconds which I made back up on the climb anyway. It was on that climb I discovered Cait wasn't riding terribly strongly on the day so it was a case of heading on by myself and trying to bridge the gap to next spot. At the end of Lap 2 I heard that I was in 7th spot and I could see 6th (Melanie Alexander) going though the Start/Finish just as I entered the field, and I could see her again on the climb up out of Medusa's and so it continued for the remainder of the race. Each time I would make up time on that one climb and each time I would somehow manage to lose it on the upper section of the course. Sleep deprived fatigue really set in mid way through lap 3, so in the interest of actually finishing the race I had to back off and just put my head down and ride through the final two and a half laps.
So I finished 7th spot overall, somewhat off the pace - more of a marathon race pace than a XC race pace - but that was my own fault for letting stuff worry me too much. I really enjoyed the course, had a great time riding it too, I now just have to focus on my technical descending and not worrying too much!