Updated: Dec 11, 2019
This year I raced less, trained more and it seemed to work, my fitness was higher than ever and the race results were pretty sensational! In previous years I’ve had double the amount of race days, all the travelling, packing, race stress is tiring and eventually it’s a struggle to maintain the same motivation. This year I was fresher and super motivated.
Whilst I raced less, I still spent 21 days racing my bike, 84 days away at training camps or races, took 19 flights, 7 ferries, and 4 Eurotunnel crossings! Picking my top 5 favourite events from the many races I competed in this year is no easy task! Hopefully it provides you with a little motivation for 2020.
World Marathon Championships.
Here at MarathonMTB we have a soft spot for the mountains, they offer such drama, the landscape just inspires imaginations. Grächen in Switzerland hosted this year’s World Marathon Championships 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 one was a massive challenge. The men raced 95kms with 4000m of climbing and the ladies 70kms with 2800m of climbing.
The are many factors that make an event successful and enjoyable for the participants, for me the quality of the track outweighs everything else and in Grächen you’d be very happy spending several days riding the amazing trails. After a sensational year I’d knew I could perform way above my previous best if everything went well. On the day my legs rode like pistons, I was flying up the mountains like a caffeinated goat! I’ve been racing Worlds since 2012, this was by far the most memorable, well organised and enjoyable events I’ve been too. The experience was made even more memorable because I got to share it with one of my coaching clients who was racing the event.
It’s a shame that this event was a one off but I’d recommend that you visit Grächen and the Valais region to ride the fantastic trails.
Belgium Mountainbike Challenge and Ben Thomas Pro Race Camp
Belgian Mountainbike Challenge has become a yearly highlight for me and many other enthusiastic racers. The Ardennes are undeniably beautiful, a rolling range of green wooded hills hold a plethora of rooty and rocky descents. It’s an idyllic location to hold a bike race.
Hosting the coaching clients and guests on this year’s Pro Race Camp was again a great experience, after many hours of training and sacrifice it was exciting to support them and see their success throughout the week, watching them make their own lifelong memories.
After two stages I had the opportunity to move up onto the podium in stage 3 but a bike issue took me out of the race for the general classification. At the time is was pretty devestating but now its one of my greatest motivations in winter training.
So many events you turn up, race, then go home. This event is so much more than just the race, it's an experience. I left Norway with new friends and many new memories. In terms of an experience, an opportunity to explore somewhere new and really get to know a country, no other event I’ve visited comes close.
Even before the race weekend the organisers put on a 3-day experience with guided rides around their local trails heading deep into the rugged natural terrain with photo opportunities galore and reindeer running wild. Day 2 included a beautiful ferry ride, a fishing trip, lunch on the beach and watching Hvaldimir the whale! Day 3 we visited a reindeer farm for lunch with meat cooked on the fire, there we practised lassoing reindeer (just the antlers) and sat around the camp fire telling stories and making new friends. Then Saturday we raced! A big award ceremony was followed by a banquet and party back at the hotel. This is the final race of the year for the Norwegians so they partied hard till breakfast!
Croatia 4 Islands
After the late race partner change I felt no pressure to search for a race result, it was great to experience this fantastic race without the normal stress, to be able to take in the scenery, enjoy a feed zone or 2 and have a great time riding my bike. Graham did a great job and rode strongly enough for us to secure some UCI points, a bonus from an already amazing week.
The epic finishers party (stage 5?) which lasted until at least 3 or 4am was a chance to have a drink with newly made friends, laugh about stories from the race and start making plans for next year’s 4 Islands MTB. This race is a logistical masterpiece, it’s absolutely astonishing how they can transport a thousand people across 4 Croatian islands without a single delay or problem. 5 days of amazing mountain bike trails left everyone wanting more.
Alps Bike Festival
Ask me my highlight from 2018 and I'll tell you Alps Bike Festival, driving back into La Clusaz this year I was already smiling. This typical French mountain village nestled below the snowy peaks of the Annecy Mountains is becoming a summer playground for mountain bikers and families. The summer season hadn’t yet arrived but the chair lifts were open and it was beginning to get busy. Alps Bike Festival is the first big summer event of the year and over 3 days there’s the UCI mountain bike marathon, the gravity enduro, the cross country, kids events and much more.
After finally stepping onto the podium of a UCI World Marathon Series at Roc d’Ardenne in May this second podium was confirmation I could fight for the win at any nearly any race. Once again La Clusaz and Alps Bike Festival delivered a sensational weekend of cycling. My only regret is not having had the opportunity to spend more time there to ride some of the amazing trail network on offer and to try the 100km bike route over to Annecy and back. The date is already in my diary for 2020.
There’s my top 5 favourite events of 2019, it was a hard choice and events like Roc d’Ardenne, Raid Evolenard, Brighton Big Dog, Roc d’Azur and LaTramun could easily merit one of those spots.
This isn’t necessarily my top 5 moments from 2019, another article is needed for those memories and adventures!