Here we go! My final race within the sport category and the final round of the Cannock Chase Classic XC Series 2018. Also, my final race on my current ride… but shhhh more on that to come!
It had been a while since I last raced XC at the final round of the Midlands XC series so I was really excited to get back on it and where better than my local trail centre. This was my first time racing representing my new sponsors TORQ Fitness and Schwalbe Tyres, alongside my long-term sponsor Halo Wheels so I was really keen to bag a good result.
I was definitely a little rusty so getting everything prepared and planned took a little longer than it did mid-season, not helped by the clock changes, but hey, who doesn’t welcome and extra hour in bed!
I rocked up to the venue about 11am, giving me an hour to sign on and give the bike a once over before hitting the track for practice. The weather was cold with clear skies and sunny spells; in the shade it was 5 degrees but in the sun it was 12 so choosing what to wear was tricky. I decided I would practice in my Halo Winter Kit and see how warm things got on the way round.
Due to dry and cold weather overnight the course was very hardpack, which made things very loose! The course itself was made up of a good mixture of steep technical climbs and long fire road climbs linked together by some of the best flowy technical single-track sections Cannock has to offer. Nothing too challenging but all-round good fun with a lap time of around 15 minutes.
With practice done, it was only a short break before my race started. Just enough time to for a quick bite to eat courtesy of TORQ prior to warming up. Having only done one prior round of this series, I was outside of the top 10 gridded places so I was keen on hanging around the start to ensure I got the best grid place possible as this could make or break my race. To ensure this happened I unfortunately compromised my warm up/stood still for too long and boy did this become apparent when the racing began.
I managed to line up 3rd row back behind the gridded racers which is what I had aimed for. When the whistle blew I struggled to get clipped in, losing a few bike lengths, but I soon got the power down and past a few riders into the first corner. From here I really pushed hard to make my way up the field and I was soon on the tail of the top 3 heading up the steep climbing section of the course. I was in the red and really feeling the effects of not warming up properly so I soon started to drop back from the top 2 on the long fire road climbs. However, I didn't panic as I knew that after a lap or so I would warm up and hit my stride. Sure enough around the end of lap to 2 things started coming together, over the course of lap 3 I caught and passed the 2nd place rider but it was too little too late for 1st as he’d checked out! I kept pushing over the final lap but never saw him again so crossed the line in 2nd.
I was disappointed at the time, but upon reflection I am pleased to end my sport category career with a final podium and secure a podium place for my new sponsors on our first outing together! Here’s hoping we can get a few more next year in the expert field.
Following a short interval, it was podium time, smiles all round and some great prizes courtesy of Run and Ride Hednesford who organised and sponsored the event. They did a really good job organising the event; great course, racing and commentary, along with all the amenities needed by those who aren’t racing including hot food/coffee. I would highly recommend any riders around the Cannock area who race or want to give it a bash to sign up next year!
So, all in all it was a good day, nice weather, great organisation, good racing and a podium to top it off. Special thanks goes out to my sponsors and of course the missus for giving up her Sunday to shiver in a deck chair and hand me bottles! Without their support none of this would be possible!