British National Series round 1 - Sherwood Pines
I did not expect to racing through deep slushy snow in the middle of March! But the show must go on and so I got the spiky tyres out in the hope of finding some grip out on the course.
The course at Sherwood Pines is well known for being flat and not very technical, but due to the conditions it was all about controlling the bike as it tried to slip about, even on the fireroads. This also meant that overtaking was going very very difficult so a good start would be key - and that is not my strong point!
Anyway race day came about and I was keen to get going. As usual I didn't have a great start, going into the first sort of singletrack just outside the top 10. Not ideal for this sort of course but my legs were feeling quite good and I was determined to move up as far as possible.
After some dodgy overtaking moves I had moved up to around 5th at the end of the first lap, but the effort of moving up the field and having to ride through the deeper snow in order to do so had taken its toll and I was starting to suffer. I briefly moved up to 4th place and was in touching distance of 3rd but I started to slip back as my gears clogged up, leaving me in a very small gear, and getting stuck behind some of the Elite riders that had set off in front of us. I came into the finish in 5th place, which was further down the field than I would have liked, but it was a solid start to the season and something to work on!
Scottish Series round 2 - Abriachan
A race in the Highlands of Scotland! So for once a local-ish race, only an hour or so drive from home. I was coming into this race just of the back of a week long training camp in the Peak District with the Olympic Development Programme, so it was safe to say I was feeling pretty tired. So much so that I decided not to practice on the Saturday but instead stay at home and rest as much as possible.
Sunday morning was therfore a bit more hectic than usual as I had to fit in a couple of practice laps in before the race. It also didn't help that the commissaire wouldn't let me out on the course without a number, but I was also not allowed to pick up my number until just before the race.. Anway I had got one lap done and it all seemed pretty straightforward. A really good challenging course, lots of natural technical sections just like the SXC courses when I first started racing! Some rain overnight had made the course really soft and slippy so it would be an interesting race.
With quite a small field my bad start wasn't too much of a problem and I headed up the first climb in 2nd spot. I felt quite good though and wanted to get in front before the technical singletrack. So I put in a big effort and moved into 1st but soon got stuck behind the back of the elite field meaning we were back together. At the end of the first lap I managed to move clear and got a small 10 second gap on 2nd place. My legs were really not feeling too good though - really heavy and fatigued from the tough training camp.
On the 2nd lap I was suffering quite a lot and in the singletrack the lack of practice meant I wasn't riding very well and kept making lots of mistake, meaning I was losing time. This meant I had to attack the open sections as much as possible to keep my lead, which wasn't too easy with such tired legs. The final lap I was still hanging on and I finally rode the singletrack section pretty well, coming in to take the win with a slim 20 second lead! I was happy to take the win after such a tough week, but was now very keen for a few more rest days!
British National Series round 2 - Cornwall
At roughly 750 miles from home, it made sense for us to fly to this race! So it was packing up the bike bag, wheeling it around airports then hiring a car and driving to the hotel. Still a lot more enjoyable than driving from one end of Britain to the other.
After 5th place at the last round I was keen for a better result here, and having had a few weeks at home away from uni I was feeling a lot stronger. The course here was a big change to Sherwood Pines with some good climbs and fast tricky descents. A short narrow start straight before a long singletrack descent meant my bad start could once again be a problem...
And that was indeed the case. Going into the descent just out of the top 10 meant that by the time I attacked and made my way up the field the leaders were already away. I felt a lot better here though than at Sherwood, and after the first lap I was already into the top 5. I pushed on a lot on this lap and moved clear into 2nd place, but Mike Thompson (Nutcrucker Racing) who was leading was already a good bit in front.
I rode strong for the rest of the race with not really too much to report on. It was just a case of riding my own pace and seeing how close it would be at the finish. 2mins 36second was the gap at the end, a good bit more than I would have liked but it showed how strong Mike was going.
I was really happy to be back on the podium, and could feel that my form was coming along well after some time at home with no uni work to worry about! I'm now really excited for the next few races to hopefully keep getting faster.