The line-up was impressive, with 17 Elite women from 8 different nations signed on, including Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (NOR), Rosara Joseph (NZL) and Amanda Sin (CAN). Word was also that my old rival, marathon specialist Sally Bigham would be riding this race. The fact that I was gridded 7th just showed the high calibre of women taking part.
On a beautiful sunny day we lined up. The 6.5km course featured two cold deep water crossings, two punchy granny ring climbs and two supersteep descents, a few bomb hole sections, some fast singletrack descent, a bit of fireroad and another bit of grassy flat.
We set off and the speed wasn't too crazy up the grassy slope and I managed to stay with the front group. However, soon Gunn-Rita and Rosara opened up a small gap, followed by Sally Bigham and Emmy Thelberg. I wasn't able to stick with them and soon found myself on my own. Lap 2 ticked by uneventful, but on lap 3 I was caught by Amanda Sin which I had to let go, but I could overtake Emmy Thelberg, so I stayed in the same position. Every lap I could still see some of the girls ahead on the grassy climb, but I couldn't close the distance, so that I finished the race in 5th place.
International podium: l-r: Amanda Sin (CAN), Rosara Joseph (NZL), Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (NOR), Sally Bigham (GBR), Mel Spath (GER)
While this is a good result considering the competition, I felt I hadn't left it all out on the course and had arrived too fresh at the finish. Gunn Rita won the race with a very close 2nd from Rosara Joseph, but the biggest impression was made by Sally Bigham who placed 3rd in her first ever national level cross country race with a gap of only 1min 15sec to Gunn-Rita. Another person to look out for since she's thinking of doing some more "just for training"....
And so the season has ended for me. I had planned to race in the Irish National Marathon Champs as a non-contender, but a college deadline had me firmly placed in front of my laptop on the sunny Sunday of the race. Well done to Cait Elliott though who found her legs and raced to another national marathon champs title.
Thanks to the guys from the WXC team for feedzone support.
Elite women top 10:
1 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Nor) 1:45:14
2 Rosara Joseph (NZl) 0:00:09
3 Sally Bigham (GBr) 0:01:15
4 Amanda Sin (Can) 0:05:59
5 Melanie Spath (Ger) 0:06:37
6 Lily Matthews (GBr) 0:08:23
7 Maaris Meier (Est) 0:09:58
8 Emmy Thelberg (Swe) 0:11:34
9 Melanie Alexander (GBr) 0:12:01
10 Elliot Caitlin (Irl) 0:13:24
Full results can be found here.
Thanks also to Martyn Salt and the team from InEvent for running such a consistently well organized and high-quality racing series in the UK. Pity not more of the Irish or mainland European racers are making it over for it - it's are well worth it. I'm already looking forward to doing them next year!