After a hectic week race day arrived way too quickly and we rocked up at the venue to be greeted with a super well organised event with loads of parking and a race “village” which included food stalls, retail stalls, TV display from around the course, music, a massive start/finish arena and even a massage table! Well done Epic MTB! The sign up for the Elite women’s event was a bit disappointing, just the four of us including one junior riding on the day. Cait Elliott was there to defend her national title and the only other woman was Shona D’Arcy who was just coming back from illness. We were set off with the Junior men just after the Elite men and it was a mad dash through the tight corners set out across the start/finish area. In true form I was off like a shot across the field and headed towards the first section of singletrack in first place, that is until Cait came nudging by hitting the singletrack first. I was kind of happy enough to let Cait set her pace as we got caught up a little with some of the slower junior men riders who weren’t riding the technical climbs too well. Unfortunately I got stuck behind one of these guys a little too long and ended up with too much distance between myself and Cait before the first steep kicker climb, and it was on that climb that I discovered that my legs were simply not playing ball – mega crampy dead legs, OUCH! I was able to keep Cait in view for the next half of the lap almost keeping pace but at the same distance and everytime I tried to go harder – cramp OUCH. I came round towards the start/finish field only to see Cait leaving the arena again on her second lap which spurred me on a little but still the legs weren’t behaving! So that kind of set the scene for the next hour, push – cramp – ouch, that and coupled with increasing greasy trail conditions and the lack of grip from my front tyre and several over the handlebar episodes, I was one happy bunny to get finished in second place overall.
I really enjoyed the course, I especially love those technical climbs where its all about riding smoothly and not necessarily having to be super powerful, and while my technical descending skills are a bit on the slow side, I can still say I enjoyed them on the day, my favorite section being Gran Canaria, a rocky chute of a descent with a big drop into a gorge on the outer side of the trail. I was a bit disappointed by the lack of leg form, especially considering I was feeling great on the course the weekend before but I suppose that’s the way it goes sometime – oops peaked too early ;-).
So cross country racing mostly done and dusted now to knuckle down to the final preparations for Breck – back to the long rides and the hard climbs, lets just hope this Irish “summer” weather plays ball over the next few weeks!