For some reason this year it felt like I was waiting forever for the first race of the season to start. The first race of the season is always long awaited and is usually a bit of a nerve-wrecking affair. In the past 3 years I tested myself against the best in the world in the Cyprus Sunshine Cup for the season opener and when I returned to Ireland it was all about who has had the better winter of training, Cait or I, leading to another high-pressured first home race.
Since I was not going to Cyprus this year (look at cyclingnews for report of the first race there and the high caliber of racers it has attracted because it's an Olympic year), I needed to find another race to let the pressure off. So it was great that Niall Davis from Biking.ie organized Round 1 of the Biking Blitz Series in Ballinastoe Forest, a forest within riding distance from my home - perfect!
Not only would the course be suitable to me at this stage as it's all man-made trail center singletrack and fireroad and thus doesn't contain any nasty surprises but it would also be a nice, gentle start into the racing season. I had ridden my (training) mountain bike once this year in January which ended in a broken rear hanger and as such has been gathering dust as I'm waiting for the new rear hanger to arrive and I've been doing all of my training on the road bike or on the turbo trainer in the last while. So I took out my racing bike on Saturday, the day before the race to do a practice ride around Ballinastoe, just to see if the bike still works and if I still knew how to ride a mountain bike. It would also be a gentle season opener, as Cait, my biggest competitor here in Ireland, has deserted the Irish MTB scene, having followed the call of the Swiss Alps and moved to Zurich. At least this meant I didn't have to go into the red zone like last year in our first race after winter training.
I really enjoyed this well-run race, loving to push hard but not having to kill myself. Unfortunately the months of hibernation had messed with my brakes and I eventually lost all of my front braking power and some of my rear brake in the first lap, having to take it slow enough on the otherwise super fast descents, which wasn't that much fun. Both came back to some extent later on, so that on the 2nd lap I could really enjoy these descents at speed. I knew I should have bled them after the pre-ride!
It was good to get the first race out of the system in this fun way. Now I'm looking forward to the rest of it!