Thank god the weather was clearing up the more we drove westwards from Dublin towards Killaloe, so that we arrived in beautiful hot sunshine at the 5th round of the Irish NPS.
I knew in my warm-up pre-lap that this would be a hard race, with about 210m of climb per lap on a long and exposed fire-road climb, with a few steep kicker sections. The long descent through dark, rooty and slippery woods wasn't exactly playing to my strengths either. But every lap I looked forward to the great downhill track at the very end towards the finish.
On the start line I was joined by Cait Elliott, Ciara McManus and Shona D'Arcy and there was a bit of chaos when the commissaire set off the Elite men road race style: 3,2,1 go! and we were meant to start then and there with the men! After frantically trying to clip in we chased the Elite men up the hill and I managed to get a tiny gap on Cait. We were still hanging on to the men when we hit the singletrack - no wonder I was feeling a little tired after that and made a right shambles of the rooty and slippery singletrack descent. I sliddered and slippered all over the place so that Cait eventually caught up with me on the last little bit of singletrack. I managed to get going again ahead of her and lit a fire to get away from her again.
My plan was to get a gap on the climb so that I could take it easier and concentrate on the descents. My second lap went a little better, but every time I looked behind, Cait was still in sight. So I kept up the speed and tried to concentrate on riding the slippery descent better.
In the descent of the third lap I then felt something wet spray into my face with every rotation - there was no puddles - oh no! I've got a puncture! I rode on carefully trying to avoid any sharp looking rocks and when I arrived at the techzone I checked my tire and it had sealed up again perfectly! Wohoo, long live tubeless tires :) And so I rode on without changing wheel (the slightly lower pressure was probably an advantage on the slippery descent). On the long fireroad climb I looked behind and again saw Cait behind me.
Elite Women's podium: l-r: Ciara McManus (3rd), Mel Spath (1st), Cait Elliott (2nd) (photo from Aine)
I kept the fire lit and raced on the fourth and final lap, really concentrating on not making too many mistakes on the descent and finally finished with about 1.5min to spare to Cait Elliott in 2nd place. I've included riding wet roots as a special task in my training plan.
Thanks as usual to Aine for supreme bottle support.
Results are available here.