Today’s performance was 7 years in the making, since 2012 I've been wearing Great Britain team colours at World Championships with only one absence when the race went to South Africa. This crazy race has been a nemesis for me, never before had I finished the race satisfied with my performance, until now.
On Thursday I travelled to Switzerland with coaching client Ruth, after winning National Championships in July she'd qualified, you can't turn down the opportunity to race Worlds, this is an experience not to be missed. It was a pretty easy travel day compared to the long journey the MarathonMTB.com crew from Australia had to endure. The scene was already beginning to come together with stadium style seating being built along the road into town, big start and finish arches, ceremony podium and arena area already in place. Many of the 270 athletes who'd qualified for this year's Championships had already arrived along with national teams and support teams.
World Champs Training Vlog. Ep 7. Travel, course practise and race day fueling
World Champs Training Vlog. Ep 8. Race Weekend
Grachen in Switzerland was about to put on a huge show and what a location for it! Sat at 1600m above sea level, high up on the mountain side, a plethora of trails to choose from, and big mountain climbs either side of the valley, this was going to be one challenging race. The men would race 95kms with 4000m of climbing and the ladies 70kms with 2800m of climbing. After practising the course on Friday I can tell you there was no recovery time on the descents, there were some great fun trails but everything was so dusty and loose from it being so dry that the trail was crumbling away to valley floor below. The switchback roller coaster trails weren't ideal for me, I'd lose some time here on race day.
After a sensational year I'd come into the race knowing I could perform beyond my previous best if everything went well but I actually decided a while back to focus the second half of my season on the UCI World Marathon Series races I'm doing in October, why would I choose them over World Champs? For me and my sponsors a podium or a win at one of those would be a much bigger result than another 50th place finish at World Champs. I focused all my training in October and came here with quite high fatigue and relatively poor form. I nearly didn't bother coming to World Champs, without support which is how I operate at most races its near impossible to perform. Fortunately, at the last minute we managed to create a support team out of 4 nations who didn't have national team staff here to support them, with our new setup we had support in all 6 feed zones!
Race day suddenly dawned, the town was alive with athletes nervously going about their warms ups and excited crowds gathering. For the first time the race would be shown live on YouTube using static cameras and film crews on e-bikes, you can watch it on replay on the UCI YouTube channel, the coverage was fantastic. I was nervous but the emotions weren’t overwhelming me like in previous years, I felt in control and ready for battle. 5 minutes to go, tension rising, crowds cheering getting louder, the biggest race of the year is about to begin...
Bang 180 men are unleashed like race horses onto the mountain, we speed out of town like a short track race with everyone trying to be the first to the singletrack where carnage would unfold. You have to remember that every one of these athletes here are quick, to qualify you have to podium at your National Championships or finish top 20 at a UCI World Marathon Series, no easy task! I made a good start with sharp elbows helping me keep my start position of 31. Start loop successfully completed we hit the first long descent to Kalpetran, this was the roughest descent of the race and I was losing bundles of time and positions, I was riding like an old age pensioner, just surviving rather than racing, this mode continued on the downhill throughout the race. I was glad to have some big anchors to slow me down, the Magura MT8 Carbon Raceline brakes keeping me safe.
There was 4000m of climbing for me to make up the time I'd lost on the descents, my climbing legs were like pistons, I was flying up the mountains. The Simplon Razorblade was like a caffeinated mountain goat, at 18lbs this bike just wants to climb! Every watt propelling me further and further up the mountain. No one overtook me on any of the 3 long mountain climbs today, I've never climbed this well before, it proves you can train for big mountains in the flat lands of the UK! I rode just below threshold and kept it there for hour long climbs, then repeated that for every climb, this was a rocket ship climbing! I almost cracked on the Torbel climb in the heat, I ran out of drink a long way from the feed zone and was getting dehydrated quickly, the kilometres began to take longer and longer. The good legs remained but it was the one moment I felt vulnerable.
After surviving the last big downhill we approached the final huge climb which included the wall with gradients of up to 37%!!! Coming after 70km this had everyone worried. I was rehydrated and refocused, I began moving up past riders with relative ease, my fatigue resistance training and nutrition strategy using Veloforte products keeping me strong for the last part of the race. I rode a large chunk of the wall passing several riders who were forced to walk. Onto the finish loop and I was sprinting with all the energy I had left. Passing another 7 riders I was hungry for more, I kept chasing but at 1km to go I missed a turn, I only lost 10 seconds but it was enough for 3 riders to come back past me. Blast! Back up to speed and into the finish chute, crowds lined both sides, the noise was deafening. High fives with the crowd and over the line. Wow what just happened!!
Thanks to everyone who helped in the feed zones on the day, it made a huge difference to everyone’s results. Thanks to everyone on social media for the support heading into the race and my sponsors for providing the product to propel me to this huge result.
Grachen put on a one-off event to host World Marathon Championships so it’s unlikely you’ll have the chance to race this event in the future but you should add the location to your bucket list of riding destinations.
27th place, a massive personal best beating many Pro or Factory team athletes once again. If the race had kept heading up that mountain I probably could have finished even higher up the results sheet, I was flying! The emotions were in check at the start line but at the finish line I was beaming! It was so great to share the experience with Ruth, the rest of the Great Britain team, the MarathonMTB.com crew and many other friends who’d travelled for the race.
It’s been a sensational year and on the 22nd of September I had the best day I've ever had on a bike! So far! All those dark days in training and previous race failures were suddenly worthwhile, hard work pays off! After Worlds I'm even more motivated for those 3 UCI World Marathon Series races I’m doing on the 6th, 11th and 13th of October.