Thursday, July 22, 2010

2010 German National Championships - Bad Salzdetfurth, Germany

11th place in the Germany Championships, 2 places down from last year and about the same percentage off the winning time as last year. Am I happy with that? Hmm, not really. I had hoped to improve, get an 8th place, or at the very least I had hoped to be in the top 10 again. But it wasn't to be. I went into the race mentally unprepared. Traveling around Europe each of the 3 weekends beforehand for racing and college didn't help either. It also didn't help that the race was on Saturday and not on Sunday as in previous years. I only found that out shortly a few days before the race, long after I had booked the flights, so that I arrived on Friday evening with the race on Saturday afternoon. There was practically no time to get adjusted to the German heat (35 degrees on Friday), but at least on race day it was a little more bearable. The afternoon start time (4pm) made it hard to time the eating correctly too. I also let myself intimidate by all the big racers who arrive in their big personalized vans with a big tent put up in a special "star" area, with their entourage of supporters - masseur, mechanic and coach, parents, friends and family, their warm-up bike on a turbo and giving out autograph cards to anyone who asks. I arrived by myself, in my rental car, after a flight and a long drive, building up my bike myself and trying to sort out my rubbing brake pads using my tiny multi-tool, running around until a few hours before the race in the hope to find somebody I know that could do my bottles, warming up on a deserted road at one end of the village, being held up by some other star's photoshoot on my way to the start line. At the start line I am trying to find Andy, Elisabeth Brandau's coach, who had agreed to do my bottles, to give him my car keys.

When the race was off our "neutral" start turns out to be a scramble for positions. My head is not in the race and I find it hard to push myself. I am already falling back in my first lap. It takes me about 3 out of the 6 laps and Mona Eiberweiser falling back into my sight for me to finally switch on racing mode. Every lap I can see a few people ahead of me on the long climb. Finally I overtake Mona in the 4th lap. My racing head is finally screwed on and I focus on the next person ahead of me - Nadine Rieder. I come close to her on the climb in the 5th lap and know I can get her in the last lap. But when I come through the feedzone at the start of the last lap, my feedzone person had left with all my bottles. I was completely dehydrated in the hot weather and needed that last bottle more than ever. On the last climb I came really close to Nadine, but couldn't close the distance before she went into the long descent and out of my sight.

So, I got 20 UCI points out of this race. Was it worth the expense (~500Euro), time (4days) and effort involved? Not in this instance. Maybe I'll skip the national champs next year and do something fun, like riding around the Alps, Sauser-like. Now at least there is a bit of a breather till the next race, so there will be less drills and more fun in my spins.

Full results are available on datasport.

P.S. The course by the way was great. It was mostly dry, having dried up again after some earlier rain. I really liked it and would ride it again out of competition - some of the climbs were fairly steep, but most of them were manageable. The downhills were not overly technical, but good fun - bermy with a few little drops. We even came down the hill into a resident's backyard, with the course going through his house and out the front door! There was also lots of obstacles - several bridges and humps and steps that added to the fun. In Germany the courses tend to go straight through a village, so loads of the locals were out in the sun enjoying a beer and cheering you on. It also helped that they print your first name on the race numbers - feels like you've got your own fan-club and I have to say that the German spectators were absolutely fantastic, cheering on everybody on the course.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

2010 British Mountain Bike Racing Series Round 4 - Dalby Forest, Pickering

Photo by Michael Grainger

This is now my third visit to Dalby and much in contrast to Ryan I've always had pretty good races here, placing 2nd in last year's BMBRS race and a good performance in the World Cup opener in April. I like the course, technical and challenging with lots of flowy single-track, and the forest park and surrounding villages are just picture-perfect postcard places.

The course was basically the same as in the World Cup, only that Dixon's Hollow, the BMX track was taken out. While this made the course a little shorter I think it added more consistency to it. The conditions were mostly dry, grippy and fast, and it was a pleasure to revisit the likes of "Worry Gill", a slippery "Puncture Alley", the tricky "Bus stop" and "Medusa's Drop". My confidence in technical riding has recently received a boost after taking a skills course and I rode all the technical bits without blinking an eye-lid. And the great thing is, the more confident and controlled you go down these things, the easier it gets!

Medusa's Drop (Photo by Michael Grainger)

The Elite Women's group benefited from notable absences of some key racers, such as Annie Last and Lily Matthews who were off to Israel to prepare for the European Champs. The favourite for the race was New Zealand's Rosara Joseph who has recently had some very strong results. My plan was to hang on to her for as long as possible and aim for 2nd place but there were a few other strong girls who all could have had a good chance for 2nd place. So we set off at a blistering pace. Unfortunately I couldn't get up to speed fast enough so that I got into the single track after a bunch of people. This was basically the chance gone to hang on to Rosara, who opened up a gap almost immediately. As soon as we got out of the forest again I passed all the people ahead of me to get into the singletrack first behind Rosara, who had already gone out of sight. Both Cait and Lee were chasing and breathing down my neck, so I focused on riding the technical bits as fast as possible and opened up a small gap.

Negotiating roots at Medusa's Drop (Photo by Michael Grainger)

After the first lap I was half a minute up on Cait (and down on Rosara by 1.5min), so I kept the pace up and worked on increasing the the gap. It all went well for the next two laps which I rode mainly by myself, taking the climbs easy and concentrating on having a technically clean and controlled ride on all the descents. In the 4th out of the 5 laps my calves started cramping up, so it was all about keeping up the speed and pedaling smoothly, avoiding to have to put the feet down. It was still all going well, but when I climbed up towards Medusa's Drop on my last lap, I could see the green jersey of Cait coming to the bottom of the climb - she was catching up! I started making mistakes, cursing myself and having to walk up sections with Cait approaching below me. With screaming legs I went up hard the long climb for the last time. I kept looking behind, but I managed to keep her at bay. I finally finished in 2nd position, 50sec ahead of Cait and 6.5min down on a flying Rosara my best ever result on paper :)

Results from the XC race can be found here and a report on British Cycling here. Thanks to Rob for doing the bottles.

Podium (l-r): Lee Craigie, Mel Spath, Rosara Joseph, Cait Elliott, Maddie Horton

On Sunday Ryan and I took part in the Yorkshire Enduro Event - a great way of getting your training in after a hard race. The course was 4x15km laps of yesterdays XC course with a long extension in the middle that featured some nice bermy descents, a beautiful singletrack switchback climb, a good bit of fireroad, a nice long boardwalk section with little drops, a fast rocky and slippery gully descent followed by a rocky slippery gully climb. I rode most of it at endurance speed, feeling yesterday's race still in my legs and finished off with a hard last lap, finishing first women of the 4-lap event after 2h 50min.

Results from the Enduro can be downloaded here.