First off, what a great course: A lap was 5km with 150m climb and lots of technical singletrack. It started off with a super steep uphill fireroad section by the tech zone and then into some nice technical singletrack loops off the fireroad and into the woods - sometimes fast and swooping, sometimes tough and uphill. Joining the fireroad again there was a bit of a climb and some straight fast fireroad sections into a headwind at the top of Moneyscalp hill. At the end of the fireroad, there was a steep droplike descent into a few sharp corners, requiring concentration and skill. This was followed by a muddy singletrack section with some exciting chickenwired narrow bridges that challenged your concentration even more followed by a tree-tunnel and around a corner just to meet a steep uphill singletrack climb - tough if you reached it in the wrong gear!
Onto the fireroad for a short bit on the top of the hill again and back into a long singletrack descent that swooped nicely around the trees, over a little rock garden and through the woods to a short kicker just to meet you with the following decision almost at the bottom: to dare going down a supersteep drop or to take the long chicken run. Another bit of singletrack, fireroad and a superfast entry into the last singletrack section finally led you a little back uphill to the finish area just out of the last bit of singletrack. All in all a very enjoyable and well put together technical course which did not leave you much time for a breather!
Thank god the weather held up, or the course could have turned into a very schlompy and slippery affair - but apart from the freezing cold, it was perfectly dry!
So, now to my race. We girls (just 4 of us: Beth, Ciara, Jess and me) started just after the Elite men and together with the Juniors. The whistle went off and the girls sprinted up the hill - I took my time and went pretty easy (between you and me: I'm just pretty crap at sprint starts), so I had the disadvantage of getting into the first singletrack section behind all the girls, Beth in front, followed by Ciara and Jess. Beth got away quite well with the other two girls making some small mistakes, allowing me to overtake them, just to make some mistakes myself! Damn, the whole race I rode as if I had never been offroad before!
Anyway, I got away and caught back up with Beth on the fireroad climb to the top of the hill. I stayed behind her all the way (couldn't overtake her - she's pretty good at not letting you - another thing for me to train!) and so she went ahead of me into the downhill singletrack section where I eventually lost her due to me making some stupid mistakes. I think I saw her a few times ahead of me on some of the singletrack sections, but wasn't 100% sure. And then, just before the end of my first lap my chain went off..... Anyway, what a surprise it was then later to see Beth standing in the finish area - she had to retire due to injury.
From then on the race was pretty uneventful, I could not see either Ciara or Jess turn up behind me, I was overtaken by many people who started behind me and lapped by the Elites (twice even by Robin Seymour, but only just about!) but most of the race I was riding by myself, no interesting battles and such. Another lap down and I saw Jess standing in the finish area as well, she had a technical issue with her gears and had to pull out as well, so it was just Ciara and me in the race at the end. I felt pretty crap and lead legged throughout the race, no power, no snap and my technical riding was totally under what I expect to be my capability, even my practice laps the day before went better. I made endless mistakes, walked(!) some very slight uphill sections, used my granny gear(!) and somehow could not concentrate better.
So I actually didn't do the drop in the race either - figured it would probably be safer to just go and do the chicken run each time as I wasn't in a mad rush either with Beth and Jess out of the race and Ciara far enough away. And paradoxically, even though I thought I wasn't going very fast, I just didn't feel I could go much harder - my legs didn't feel tired or burny, they just felt heavy and slow. Even my heart rate wasn't that high. Ah well, this was my first race this season and I came first in the end. Which made me race series leader :) (although Beth and me are now equal in points because I had missed the first race, I am leader as I won the latest race). Results from this race can be found here and overall series rankings can be found here. You should see the leader jersey, it says "Elite Series Leader 2008" on the front :) Feeling like a REAL Elite now :)
The race series leaders in all their glory (photo from here)
Big credit to Sean for so duly doing my bottles each lap (and for shouting encouragement when I slowly crawled up the last bit of singletrack). Thanks to the organizers for providing a tent with biscuits, cakes, sandwiches, tea and coffee and even Cappucino - great against the freezing cold at the foot of the Mourne Mountains - what a panorama! I hallionized whatever I could grab and when I came home I had a huge delivery pizza, tasted like the best pizza ever - you should have seen the speed at which I ate it - I even put Ryan to shame :) All in all a great (but freezing) day out, even though I wasn't particularly happy with how I rode.
Roll on Djouce!