It was a nice coincidence that my club's turn at organizing an NPS fell onto one of the weekends where I was actually at home. The race was to take place on my home training ground, 3Rock, which meant minimal preparation was needed (the start of the race was only a few km from my home). It gave me the opportunity to show my face again at the local race scene and catch up with everybody, since I haven't raced in any Irish NPS so far mainly due to other race committments. It was also a great opportunity to show off my new sponsored gear from Cycleways, which I picked up just the day before. I was also looking forward to ride my Epic for the first time in a local race, thanks to Cycleways replacing my rear derailleur + hanger on short notice - thanks Cycleways! Also thanks to Sean for adjusting the gear cable and gears the morning before the race.
I did my deed for my club by marshalling the sports race - which doubled as my practice lap. It was great to see so many new and unknown faces taking a shot at racing. The course was great, kinda barbell shaped, with some really tricky, rooty, flowy and in partly slippery singletrack on either end, linked by a fast fireroad section in the middle. It also took in a part of the mountain I don't usually cycle in, so it was great to add a few new trails to my repertoire.
I was halfway through a building period, with a hard week's training behind me and another hard week ahead of me, so I was going into the race with already tired legs (and going to a party the night before didn't help much for recovery either). I was happy to see that at least one more competitor was signed up in the Elite women's race, Jackie O'Hagan, but she also came into the race with tired legs from taking part in a triathlon the day before.
Finally my race started. I knew I had a technical advantage over Jackie and started pulling away through the first single track section. My plan was to take it easy enough, but stay ahead of Jackie for the race - reacting to any attacks if she tried. Everything was going well and I was opening a good gap to Jackie. I really enjoyed the singletrack and was on the way back on the fireroad on my first out of 3 laps when disaster happened: my chain snapped! Damn, I thought, they had asked me yesterday if I wanted to replace my chain as well after the rear derailleur incident, but I thought the chain looked fine, so I kept the old chain. Well, lesson learned.
Anyhow, while I started fiddling around with my tool to fix the chain again, all the Master riders started overtaking me, and finally also Jackie whizzed by. Eventually I got the chain fixed and I was back on track to chase Jackie. I was actually happy to have a rabbit in front of me now and put a bit more pressure on. I caught Jackie again halfway through the second lap on the technical singletrack and could relax again. I took it steady through the remainder of the race and Jackie didn't catch up with me again so that I came into the finish taking first.
The best bit of these races though is the buzz after the race. MAD had put on a great feast of tea/coffee, sandwiches and cupcakes for the riders and even the downpour didn't dampen the mood when everybody huddled underneath the small MAD tent. All the riders seemed to have enjoyed the race, and I'm proud of MAD for putting together such a great race.
Pictures can be found on the following links:
- Jarek’s photos on Picasa
- Rory’s photos on Flickr
- Keith’s photos on Epicmtb.com
- Ian’s photos on Picasa
- Kate’s photos on Picasa