Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Irish National Champs Race - Killruddery

For the first time since I race in the Elite category, I was going to be in the country when the Irish National Champs were on - all previous years I would have been in Germany on that day, racing in the German Champs (as you race in the national champs of your nationality), but the German champs were ran in June, which I missed due to a shoulder injury acquired at the pre-ride for the Offenburg World Cup the week before the German Nationals.

Photo by Vc Glendale

To be eligible for a National Champs title, you have to have had that nationality from the start of the year. I have received Irish citizenship only a few weeks ago, so although I am now Irish, I would not yet be eligible for the title this year. Nonetheless I was allowed to take part in the race as a non-contender. It would also make for an interesting show-down between Cait, who was last year's national champ and I. She's been nipping at my ankles for the last few weeks now and beaten me in a couple of club races and some of my Strava records, so I was excited to measure myself against her in a proper race situation.

Photo by Cieran Maunsell

I was happy I was allowed to take part, because the race was organized by Team WORC in one of my favourite race venues, Killruddery, which is private land, so it's off-limits to mtbers outside the event. The course was great, almost all of it twisty, windy singletrack, featuring a fun bombhole and the "tombstone" drop (although this was taken out of the course later on). After a short grassy start you entered never-ending tight singletrack, so on pre-ride day I made sure to learn the corners well. The tight, twisty singletrack is something that suits Cait, but there was very little climb in the course and the flat suits me. So no advantage either way.

Photo by Cieran Maunsell

On race day there was an awful wind and a few spits of rain before 5 Elite ladies and a Junior lined up at the start for a total of 4 laps. I must have missed the 30sec warning and was about to grab my bottle again for one last sip when we were told "Go! Go now!". Until I got going, Claire had sprinted off into the front, followed by Cait, Ciara and then me. I overtook Ciara before entering the singletrack and then stuck to Cait's wheel. The speed was comfortable and I was enjoying myself. On one of the short climb sections both Cait and I overtook Claire. A few times Cait managed to open a small gap, especially when I messed up on some of the technical rocky sections, but I made sure I didn't loose her out of my view too much.

Photo by Cieran Maunsell

In the second lap then I caught back up to her on the twisty singletrack section and was pondering where it would be a good idea to attack, deciding that probably on the fireroad to the tombstone forest or the short climb within the tombstone forest would be a good idea. But just as I was pondering that, Cait dropped her chain and had to stop to put it back on. I didn't hesitate and took my chances, overtook her and went full gas to open up a gap. Whenever I looked back, I could see Cait behind me, about the same distance as I had been behind her in the 1st lap. In the 3rd lap the gap increased, and I took the last two laps a little easier, keeping an eye out for Cait behind me, ready to speed up again if needs be, but she didn't catch back up.

So I won the race, but as I'm not eligible for the National Champs title this year, it went to Cait, who came in just a minute behind me. Next year! ;)

l-r: Ciara MacManus, Cait Elliott and Orla McClean (Photo by Cieran Maunsell)

Thanks to the officials allowing me to race, thanks to Team WORC to have put together such a nice challenging course, to Stew for his help on the day and to all my sponsors, particularly Cycleways, ZipVit and KCNC for their loyalty and ongoing support.

Full results available here.

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