Round 2 of the HSBC UK National Cross Country Series took place at Wasing Park in Berkshire, a familiar stomping ground having raced here several times before albeit a few years back. A 6 kilometre lap was put together with several fun jumps and drops to challenge competitor’s skills and nerves. I had the choice on the weekend of my Simplon Razorblade hardtail or Cirex full suspension. The course was pretty bumpy with lots of ruts and roots being exposed at a previous muddy race. After doing a practise lap on both bikes I opted to race the Cirex for some extra comfort.
Race day arrived and I was motivated to have a good race. I had a big support crew at the event which was great motivation. Simplon were in attendance with a few of their demo bikes and we had the Vauxhall Vivaro on display in the arena. Both brands had representatives at the event so I wanted to impress with a podium/ top 5 result.
The gun went and I made a good start but got swamped slightly heading out of the arena by the stampede of adrenaline filled elite competitors. By the time we entered the first trail however I’d moved back up into the top 6. The race split behind me and I was away with the leaders. Half way through the lap the rider in front of me started to struggle on the singletrack which let the 4 in front open a gap, the trail was narrow and rough with limited opportunities to overtake. I should have overtaken at the first opportunity but my cross country attacking instinct isn’t as good as it could be. The gap had opened further as we finally finished the long narrow singletrack into the arena to end the lap.
I told myself that the next 2 climbs were my only opportunity to close the gap to the leaders, I only had one chance as I’d use so much energy trying to catch them. I was off like a rocket, hitting max heart rate, by the bottom of the second climb they were back in sight and by the top I caught them. I’d gone so deep into the pain cave I was paying for the effort and was quickly dispatched from the leaders once again. It was a good chase but it was now best to slow up and let the next group catch me so I could recover for the second half of the race.
After an hour circulating with the second race group we were on the last lap, who would attack first? Several people tried to split the group but it was the Irish National Champion who escaped. I gave chase but delayed a little too long once again which let the gap open. A gap I tried to close but couldn’t, by lifting the pace both the Irish Champ and I almost caught the lead group at the finish! 6th place over the finish line and a few World Ranking points.
These short intense 1 hour 30 races are a little different to the 4 to 6 hour marathons I usually race but I know I can still be in the mix at the front. I kept that in my mind this weekend but lacked the quick reaction of a cross country racer. It was a fun weekend and great training for the important marathon races coming up.