My first Elite mountain bike season is almost over! After a year and half of no racing, things have been pretty racey (no pun intended) since the COVID restrictions were lifted and this season has flown by. Last weekend hosted Round 4 of the UK National XC Series and leaves only one round to go!
The venue for Round 4 was in the 7 Stanes, Newcastleton, just over the Scottish border; a 200 mile and 3.5 hour drive away, but it promised epic scenery, mountainscapes, and a course that utilised the terrain to the full.
The course itself started and finished at the base of the local mountain in the Rock UK Whithaugh Park, climbing up to the top and then descending back down. This meant the course was split into two, one of pain and one of pleasure. The climb provided numerous terrains and gradients, from open field to meandering purpose-built trails, eventually reaching the top at 715ft. From this point the fun started. Loamy single track weaved through the woodland, full of berms and roots, before breaking out into the open and onto a fast and straight fire road to the finish at the base. The laps were short, with quick guys racing round in 13 minutes.
Personally, I really enjoyed the course, and although I am not a “climber”, I felt it had a good mixture of elements and a rewarding descent, albeit something a bit more technical would have been ace as I like tech! The Intense Sniper FRO loves descending, and the long and slack geometry is sure to put a smile on my face every time the terrain points down.
Due to consistent performances this season, I had managed to maintain a decent series ranking and was rocking the number 8 plate, hopeful this would secure a front row start. However, with restrictions lifted and the nature of the venue, the start was very narrow which placed me on the second row - not ideal. This cost me due to some slow starts from the front row, meaning I got boxed deep into the pack as we hit the first single track. I told myself not to panic though, this can usually be good as it enables some drafting and energy conservation. Unfortunately this was not the case as the course just went straight up until the halfway point of the lap. I was struggling to keep up with the leading pace, so with the fear of redlining and not being able to recover I dropped off and settled into my own rhythm. Not everyone had the same thought process as me though, and soon a number of riders started to retire and fade.
I’d managed my performance well though and soon started to make up places from lap three onwards. Over the next few laps I made up four positions and cracked into the top ten with two laps to go. I’d paid close attention to my nutrition, taking TORQ powder and gels at regular intervals, but as I headed on to the final lap I felt early signs of cramp. With no more water on board to mitigate, I decided to back off the pace slightly and secure my position, crossing the line in 9th position.
My objective for this season was to achieve some top ten placings, so I was pretty pleased with this result despite believing it was not my best physical performance. I was even more pleased with how I rode and my mental state. This result should further solidify my high series ranking and obtain me a front-row start for the next round, taking place this coming weekend at Cannock Chase.
Now, to recover, refuel and reset for one final blast!