What glorious weather we were greeted with for the first round of the Irish NPS in Slade Valley near Dublin. I was still recovering from my exertions from the Ras Mumhan a weekend earlier and had not been feeling all to well leading up to this race. With additional stress from college this meant that I got almost zero training in from then till this weekend, so at least I would be super recovered (read: stale...).
Anyway, back to early heatwaves in Dublin (around 18 degree Celsius) and a very sunny morning. Since the race wouldn't start until 1:30pm for the senior categories I had decided to arrive early and do a practice lap then. I've been looking forward to the course, since everybody has been raving about it.
From the start it was obvious that the organizing club IMBRC have put in a lot of effort into the course, with a huge amount of great flowy singletrack. The course was mainly dry, apart from one or two muddy sections and 100% rideable. What made it quite challenging though was the amount of twisty singletrack through the woods with lots of mean slippery roots (one of my nemesis). As I always ride my wheels with too much pressure I was having difficulty to get over some of the sections without washing out, a tire that had seen too many sharp Cypriot and Israeli rocks didn't help the cause either (my excuses for the lack of technical skill....).
Anyhow, it was fantastic to see so many (5) girls at the start, including Cait Elliott, who's riding into form greatly, Ciara McManus from Northern Ireland and Jenny McAuley making a comeback into the MTB racing scene.
We set off to a fast start up the fireroad. A few unfortunate moments of riding beside the fireroad and not on it meant I only got into the singletrack in 3rd position, behind Cait and Ciara. I stuck onto Ciara's wheel and prayed that she would stay on Caits wheel. Then, when the singletrack opened up to a short bit of linker fireroad I took the chance and attacked, overtaking both Ciara, Cait and soon after two Juniors. This turned out to be the right move, because the singletrack tightened up again, meaning that Cait and Ciara got stuck behind the Juniors, so that I could open up a gap - see, tactical racing :)
I pulled away quickly to get out of sight from Cait as fast as possible. For the rest of lap one I could still see glimpses of her behind me, but I kept going fast and out of sight in lap 2. Unfortunately I started getting cramps in lap 3 (must have been the "hot" weather ;)), so that I had to throttle back a bit.
I kept looking behind to see if Cait was catching up again, but couldn't see her, so I decided to go into cruise mode for the last two laps - ready to attack in case she showed up behind me. I finished first with Cait arriving 2.5min behind me and Jenny McAuley completing the podium.
I know my preps for this race weren't great and I wasn't feeling too great on race day either with my stomach going into refusal mode after the race, but it's great reassurance to know that I can still make my legs perform when they need to, even if they don't want to.
Thanks to Stewart for his mechanical help on my bike and for screwing my head back on with a few motivating words. Thanks to the EPIC pit crew for doing my bottles too! And thanks for IMBRC for putting on such a quality event and for Jenny McAuley for giving me a lift to it!
Results available here.