So it's already round 3 of the National series, and at Hopton Woods in Shropshire it was a course I really liked, having come 2nd here the previous year. The nice wide, long start straight into a long climb played to my strengths and would hopefully mean my bad start wouldn't rule me out of the race straight away.
The week leading up to this race had been spent on another Olympic Development Programme training camp in the Peak District. It was a tough week and all of us were feeling pretty tired heading into the race. On Saturday I practiced with ODP team mate Mike Thompson (Nutcracker Racing) who I was staying with for the weekend, and after some wheel trouble for the both of us, and eventually running my training wheels we got the track in our heads and I was feeling surprisingly good. The course had some big steep climbs in it, mostly in the first part of the track, so it was going to be all out at the start! The rest of the course was more draggy fireroads and some twisty man made singletrack. the course wasn't very technical, all pretty simple, but it was very high speed on the descents so was going to be tough while in race mode.
Sunday morning me and Mike rolled up and got everything ready for the race. A good warm up and I was ready to go.
photo: Isla Short
A fast start into the climb and I was hanging on just inside the top 10, but as it got steeper I was able to put in a big effort and move into the singletrack climb in first. This is exactly where I wanted to be as so far this year I haven't seen the front of the race. further up Mike got past me but I was happy to sit in behind and try to hang on to his wheel. Just as we reached the top of the climb, and at the steepest part Sam Stean moved to the front and I stuck to his wheel, but just before it leveled off I made my move to get into the descent first, creating a small gap briefly but Mike was right with me once again. We worked well on the first lap, coming through together with Sam about 30 seconds up on 4th place.
Up the climb I took the lead and myself and Mike created a small lead. On the steepest part I put in a dig and created a gap, however on the later flat sections Mike was strong enough to close back to me. Now moving up through the elite field it became tricky to get a clear run, but we came through with one lap to go with a lead of over a minute on 3rd place. I knew this lap that I would have to give it everything on the climb and hold on for the rest of the lap if i was going to stay ahead of Mike, so from the start of the lap I attacked and kept pushing. I opened up a good gap but I knew it would be close. On the longer fireroads I could see Mike behind so it was a tense final lap. I rode within my limits on the descent as I didn't want to throw away my lead, but attacked the fireroads as much as possible. Rolling across the finish line I was really happy to take the win - my first National win for quite a while - by 40 seconds.
It was a really tough race, but with all the ODP riders making up the top 5 it shows that you can really push yourself even when your knackered! My form is coming along well now and hopefully will be able to keep the podium results coming.
And with this result I'm happy to announce that I have been selected for round 3 of the UCI world cup in Italy, followed by the European championships in Switzerland the week later.
A big thanks to Dryburgh Cycles, Forme Bike and also my parents.