Thursday, 26 April 2012

Southern XC Rd2

Pippingford. A course I just love. It has been the best of times and the worst of times. I had a great time at a southern round here in 2010, picking up two places on the climb to the finish line, i had a tough race at the nationals later in the year, but ultimately got my highest national champs finish to date (26th) and i made the huge mistake of trying to race the marathon champs there at the end of the year the weekend after Kielder. At the last of the three, I was going okay, but felt pretty terrible after 75km of the race, and pulled in for a breather. Kelvin Hoy told me all i had to do was crawl around the lap on my hands and knees to get some marathon UCI points, and i was so so tempted, but in the end, common sense got the better of me, and i packed. I hate packing.

Fast forward to the weekend after my fantastic riding- and eating-based holiday in the south of France with Rachel and Tim Dunford. I had no idea how the legs were working, i'd done a quick ride into work and that was about it! I had absolutely no idea how i was going to fare, but i didn't really worry all that much about it, i knew i loved the course and that i couldn't ride there any other time, so it was a no-brainer to enter. We arrived nice and early, with Pippingford now being a little over an hour's drive away through the suburban metropolis of Croydon ("the Cronx") ready for the women's race (please organisers, i understand why you put the women all together in the morning, but it would be so much easier for us racing couples to get everything over and done with in less than 7hrs!). Rachel slipped a pedal at the start, taking me back to two years ago where she seemed to start at the back of every elite race and go slower from there. Thankfully it wasn't to be, and she came through the arena a minute clear of second place after the first lap, building to lead by 8mins from Natasha Barry (WXC World Racing) by the finish, even managing to lift one arm (but not both) from the bars through the "field of tea cups" that surrounded the finish arch. No pressure for me then....

There was a pretty decent field for both the elite and expert fields, the experts in particular swelled by a contingent from Guernsey, over for the Easter jaunt on the mainland. Tim was racing the elite race, mainly he admits to hold onto his license, as this year is similarly all about the marathons for him too. The gun went, i got my usual poor start, but then unusually found myself moving forward as the laps progressed. The usual Pippingford sections of quarry and the fast, bermy descent were in, albeit in a different and confusing order, but it was rendered a totally different, and actually rather fun experience by the fact that traction was less than assured! The only part of the course i could happily have left out was the "fast return to the finish" which was anything but, the track wide and gloopy by the time we were racing. I felt okay as the race wore on, i was a aware that i still hadn't fully recovered from my 24hr week, but it didn't seem to be affecting me too badly. By the penultimate lap, i had worked my way up to, and past, one of the Guernsey riders when he made a mistake on a piece of muddy rutted doubletrack. He put in an effort to get back to me, and then stuck to my wheel like glue, more than once even buzzing my back tyre. I rode my own pace, trying to ignore the irritation of having someone 2mm off my rear end, and with the intention of upping the pace through the final section into the arena. Sadly, my plan went awry when shifting down to pick up speed on the climb, i got chainsuck, at which point my roadie friend nipped ahead and gave me a masterclass in how not to ride the final sections of singletrack! It was just like chaingate i tell you! I rolled across the line muddied and tired in 10th place, i think my best placing in a southern xc expert race. Once again, Jason Boutell showed a (muddy) pair of heels to the rest of the race, putting nearly 8mins into second place, and finishing up in 4th place in the elite field - he's fast!

I now find myself in 6th place in the league, with the next round my least favourite at Wasing. Can i face racing there again, dear readers? Only time will tell...

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