Monday, July 20, 2009

2009 Irish National XC Championships

Another year, another National XC Championships. This one was going to be a little different for me as it was going to be my 2nd MTB race in 3 months and only the 7th time on a mountain bike in that period. Training, from a fitness point of view, was coming along well up to the champs setting some good times up my favourite climbs, but then riding a road bike is very very different from racing off-road. Having done some anerobic capacity work, I knew my biggest weakness coming back from my injury was repeated hard efforts – the type of efforts needed for a punchy climby course - exactly what Dromara CC gave us.

Race day arrived and I was feeling pretty prepared – I put no expectations on myself as I didn't really know how my body would react to the full out racing (the previous weeks final NPS, I cruised the climbs and concentrated on riding the singletrack well). I arrived at the race course early as there was no opportunity of having a preride due to the course being on private land - it was only possible to ride on the day of the event (Grrr – this annoyed me a bit!). I like climby courses but this one hit what I felt was my least redeveloped trait – super steep climbs with little recovery – give me draggy climbs any day.

The course was nice, it was going to be a very hard race with the home straight being the only place on the course you could drink without having to slow down too much. The course was also bone dry, which was very fortunate as if it was wet, some of the climbs could become almost unridable and the descents treacherous. I signed on to see, roadie Pro and Track Olympian David O'Loughlin had signed on – I didn't know he rode much offroad...

The lap profile

Shortly before 2pm we all lined up. Everyone seemed pretty relaxed on the line and the time flew as we awaited the whistle. An official looking person walked in front of us and then declared – anytime in the next 10 seconds – eeek, I wish I had more of a warning and GO, we were off. Conor McConvey took the lead with Lewis Ferguson and I on his wheel. This was pretty much the way it stayed for the race (well, apart from Lewis and I being on Conor's wheel).

Moments to go...

The first lap went by at a blistering pace, every climb was “big ringed” and the legs burned while we chased Conor. After the first lap, my body went caboom and I entered a world of suffering I have not been in for a long long time! Lewis and I had a close battle for the first 3 laps until he pulled a bit of a lead on me on the 4th of 7 laps. At that point, I knew Conor was gone and I was racing for second so I kept Lewis in my sights with the knowledge that he usually slows a little towards the end of races while I usually speed up.

Going into the final lap, the gap to Lewis was around 30 seconds but closing quickly – mid way up the second major climb I passed him and then focused on getting back to the finish line safely to claim second.

My shoulder handled the race pretty well, I did notice that I was overly cautious on the descents though but my biggest issue was the burning in my legs! You really can't compare a full out XC race to a road race (well, at least any road race I have ever done) from an intensity point of view. David O'Loughlin finished another few places back and I would loved to have heard what he had to say about the race as a full time roadie and track Olympian.

As my race finished, the skies opened up and the rain began – it meant prize giving was a very humble affair but I think everyone was very glad that the rain did not arrive during the race.

Finally, congratulations on Conor for winning his first senior elite title – he really was in a class of his own on the day.

Full results are available here. I'll add in some pictures/reports as I find them.

Oh, and that was my THIRD 2nd place in three weeks - I'm going to have to go for the win this weekend with Mel in Bontrager 24/12.

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