Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Race Report British NPS Round 5 - Newnham Park

Chilling at the start line before the race :)

I can't believe the season's over!

The last round of the British Mountain Biking Race Series was my last big race this season. And what a race it was! First of all it was a C1 event and attracted a few more than the usual amount of international girls - 12 girls lined up in the Elite Women's Category on Saturday morning just when the sun had dried the morning dew. Of these, 6 were from abroad: we had Aussie rider Kate Potter fresh from a series of international World Cup and World Champs racing, Irish contenders Ciara McManus and Irish National Champ Cait Elliott, Britain based NZ rider Jenn O'Connor, German me, and then of course the biggest star of them all: Norwegian former Olympic, multiple World and European XC and Marathon Champ, Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesja, probably the most successful female mountain biker of all times. The other half of the field was made up of the best of what Britain had on offer: National Champ Sue Clarke, former multiple National Champ Jenny Copnall and riders from the British National team, just to name a few. In summary, one of the best fields in the UK since I started racing. No pressure there now....

Famous by proximity ;)

The race was also important to me because it would decide the final overall series podium. First place was most likely going to Kate Potter who only really needed to complete the race to win the overall. However, Jenny Copnall, Jenn O'Connor and I all had equal points on our 3 best races, so this last round was the deciding round and I was definitely up for a fight.

Unfortunately Ryan and I stayed in an awful B&B with a bed so uncomfortable that I couldn't sleep all night (I did try to sleep on the ground) and woke up groggy and and in a foul mood. On the way to the venue I was just hoping that my legs were more awake than I.

The race was 5 laps of a very dry and very fast course. The main features were a little drop, two river crossings, one of which became deeper as the race went on, a very steep descent (the pipeline) followed by a very steep climb (remember this one!), a few bomb hole sections and a few logs and roots, but nothing scary.

The draggy climb at the start of the lap

I was too tired to be nervous and there was good banter going on at the start row before we concentrated on the last 15 seconds before the gun went off. My plan was to stay with the front few people for as long as possible. Surprisingly the pace wasn't too crazy at the start and I found myself with the front few people on the grassy climb out of the arena. While Kate and Annie set the speed during the first lap, Sue, Gunn-Rita and I were close on their heels. Lap by lap, Kate and Annie however increased the gap on us and Sue, Gunn-Rita and I tried our best to chase them down. Sue managed to pull away from Gunn-Rita and me pretty early and I rode a lap with Gunn-Rita. Then, in lap 3, on the super steep climb I dared to attack and managed to open a small gap on Gunn-Rita. Now my plan was to stay away from Gunn-Rita and try to catch up with Sue. At the end of lap 3 I was almost back on Sue's wheel, but she attacked on the grassy climb at the start of lap 4 and I couldn't follow. Finally I finished the race in 4th position, half a minute behind Sue and over 2min ahead of Gunn-Rita.

Overall Series Podium

I was really happy with my result because it meant I came 2nd in the overall series standing. And of course also because this was probably the only chance in my life to ever beat Gunn-Rita and I did :) (in all fairness, she did become a mother only in April, so is not fully back up to speed). It made my day nonetheless. I'm also really happy because I know now that I can race well even with lack of sleep.

Roll on the off-season!

Short Results for Elite Female
1 Annie Last Halfords - 5 laps in 01:53:58
2 Kate Potter Cotic Bontrager Race Team - 5 laps in 01:54:00
3 Sue Clarke Scienceinsport.com - 5 laps in 01:56:10
4 Melanie Späth Cycleways/TorQ/KCNC - 5 laps in 01:56:43
5 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesja Multivan Merida - 5 laps in 01:59:30

Full results available on the timelaps website.

British Cycling Report up here.