My final race of the season took place at Dudmaston Wood, a National Trust park just outside of Quatt in Shropshire, and was the final round of the Midlands XC series and Midlands Championships. I’ve raced multiple times at this venue with mixed success, dislocating my elbow in 2016 and placing 13th in 2017, but this year I was going with much bigger expectations following a successful season and sitting 2nd place in overall series standings.
The course at Dudmaston is great and open to the public to ride all year round if you fancy it. It’s not a climber’s course, featuring just 4 short sharp and steep power climbs which feed into some very nice flowy descents so it suited me.
I arrived at about 11:30am on Sunday morning, an added bonus to racing the Midlands series, to a sheet of fine mist and a wet field. All signs pointing to a slipper track and a possible mud fest. Time to get on track!
Due to long spell of sun we’ve had recently the track was super hard pack, so the rain shower had actually done it a world of good, causing it to become very tacky. This meant you could really attack the descents and have some major fun. Needless to say I loved it and couldn’t wait to get racing.
2 hours and counting to race time, I chilled out and had something to eat. During this period we were subjected to another spout of light rain but not enough to change the course conditions from practice. With about 30 mins to go I sorted out some fresh kit and got on the rollers for a warm up prior to gridding. Sitting second in the series it was guaranteed I had a front row start which is highly valuable in XC racing.
This race started a little differently to normal due to it also playing host to the Midlands Championships. Instead of starting in separate categories, the Elite, Expert, Junior and Sport categories would all start together. I welcomed this as it was an opportunity to race on level terms with the guys I will be up against next season and also be a good learning experience carving through a big field.
From the whistle I made up some places straight away, passing all the Juniors and sitting around the top 10 in Experts; one other Sport rider (Matthew Marshall) followed me through and we developed a decent gap. Over the next few laps I passed a few more Experts, but with each overtake the Matt would reciprocate and be right on my tail. I had a feeling this would go down to the wire, possibly a sprint finish, but ideally I wanted to drop him before then. On the final lap the Expert riders I was following put in a kick up one of the climbs and I went with them, sticking on their wheel. Coming into the final climb I took a look behind to see where Matt was and I couldn’t see him, I had built the gap I wanted with just the final decent to go. Being faster on the descents all day I was confident I could extend the gap over the final section and pushed for the line. I managed to take the win with a minute or so gap over second place (Alan Duncan).
Obviously, I was chuffed with the performance, not just the category result but demonstrating to myself that I am on track for next year too. This result ensured I secured second place over all in the series as well, BONUS!
So that was it, the 2018 mountain bike season done and dusted. I might post another blog covering the whole season, but in short it has been a successful one: 14 races, 8 podiums and 2 wins. More important than that though I feel I’ve made significant progress along the way, both physically and mentally which will help me towards my ultimate goal. I would like to thank everyone who has supported and helped me along the way, my friends and family but most importantly my sponsors.
Cheers guys, here’s to the next one!