Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Race Report British Enduro Round 4, Eastridge, Shropshire

On Sunday we girls lined up for the Enduro - 'we' turned out to be only Jenn O'Connor and I. Confused we looked around, there should have been at least another 3 girls starting. I knew one of the girls had pulled out, but it was really only Jenn O'Connor and I at the start. The gun went off and both Jenn and I went off at a steady pace. None of us had seen the Enduro course and for most of the first lap we stayed together.

The course contained almost all of the elements of the previous days cross country course and then some, including a traverse over a grassy mountain ridge with beautiful views over the rolling hills of Shropshire and sheep fields, leading to an amazing piece of flowy, steep and bermy singletrack descent that was soooo much fun!! There were a few extra climbs and the final descent included another piece of really cool singletrack - in my opinion the Enduro course was even better than the cross country course. However, the rain the day before had unfortunately transformed some of the sections into totally sticky and crazily slippery mud pits! It was like being on a slide on some descents and on some climbs you could pedal all you liked, but were going nowhere. It was frustrating at times and very sketchy on some of the descents. Also, it saps all your power, churning away and just not moving forwards. I had to walk many of the really muddy sections. The organizers had even taken out some of the really muddy climbs because of these severe conditions.

Anyway, before we even started into the long and superfun singletrack descent, William Bjergfelt doing the men's 100km flew by. When we entered the second lap, Jenn started upping the pace and I was feeling a little more tired than yesterday and found it more difficult to keep with her. Then again, I had little incentive to really push myself - Sally Bigham not turning up meant I had won the series after I had completed the first lap since Jenn O'Connor was not contending for the series title. So I went on and tried to enjoy myself all by myself. Then, just on the first technical descent in the second lap, at the log crossings, I saw Jenn sprawled out on the ground, in pain and being helped up by a marshal. It seemed she had injured her arm and she wasn't sure if she would be able to go on. So I went on by myself, finding out later on that Jenn had pulled out of the race. Hmm, so I was the only girl in the 100km race, a default 1st place. Hmm, I could pull out now.... No, I should go on. Hmm, how many laps should I do? I had to catch a flight back to Dublin from Birmingham, which meant I had to leave the race arena at 5pm at absolutely latest, with my bike packed and all. The cut off time for starting your last lap was 4pm, so I thought I might be able to get in about 7 laps and still make my flight. However, I was losing my motivation with every lap, the course was getting more and more cut up, the mud deeper and stickier, clogging up my bike constantly, so I had to stop several times to take off some of the mud. I lost most of my gears and got chain suck and was getting unconcentrated and fell off my bike several times, hurting my wrist and my knee. My 4th lap was my worst and I was close to giving up. Then I thought I am going to do another one and see how I get on. Thank god the course started drying up a little bit and the sections became a little faster again. However, my lap times have been really slow, so it was clear to me that if I did 7 laps, I would arrive too near to 5pm, so I was aiming for 6 laps in total and just taking it really easy on the last 2 laps. I wanted to arrive just after 4 so that I didn't have a choice to go out again. Just before the last descent William Bjergfelt overtook me again, finishing his 8th and final lap. So in total I did about 6hours of racing, and only completed 6 laps. However, I didn't feel so bad when I found out that William Bjergfelt was the only one in the 100km race to have completed the full 8 laps.

Immediately after this race, my race for the airport was on. I raced to the water tap to wash of the worst of the mud, then raced to the car to pack my bike ready for the flight. I heard my name called in the medal presentation, but didn't want to risk missing my flight (it was the last one to Dublin that day), so went on packing. I was ready to go at 4:50pm, so I quickly drove back to the arena, said good bye and picked up my trophy and raced towards the airport. I made it to the check in with 13min to spare - and got a few funny looks when I went through security still in my muddy cycling gear! The first thing I did at the gate was change into normal clothes and then buy food and eat. I still can't quite believe that it all worked out in the end :)

Ryan also had a very successful weekend, coming 2nd in the hill climb champs and winning the marathon champs, even though he had a bad puncture in the marathon - wohoo, my boyfriend is a national champ :) So medal and place wise we were equal this weekend. It would be a bit harder for me to win the German marathon champs if I go to them though, with having Sabine Spitz to compete with!

Results can be found here and pictures from Joolze are up here.

Thanks again to my sponsors at Torq and again to Mr. Whenman for doing my bottles at the feed zone.

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