Monday, April 28, 2008

2008 Irish NPS Round 1 - Ballinastoe

This weekend saw the start of the Irish NPS series hosted by Sorrento. Having just ended the K-Capital series and have raced 9 times in the last 9 weeks I was going to give this one a miss to get some long training spins in – but in the end, it was so close and rumors of a good elite field meant that I couldn't not take part - so Mel and I headed over on Sunday to race it. The course was a little bit over 6km long and had 175 meters of climb per lap. Elites were going to be doing 6 laps. The course started up a steep hill that turned into some new twisty single track, a short fireroad sprint and onto more foresty singletrack. You then joined onto a fireroad with a bit of a brag up to the first 'man made' single track section – basically, the new all weather trails... After that, another climb followed by a huge amount of very fast single track all the way back to the start.

Course Profile

At 1:30 the whistle blew and we were off up the hill for another 2 hours of pain. Joe McCall and a couple of others went for it over the first 100 meters but as the hill got steeper I moved into first to grab first entry into the singletrack, which I didn't relinquish. I took the first few sections of single track pretty carefully – I was in first and didn't want to make a silly mistake and let others through – there was no room for passing at all :) As we hit some of the climbs I upped my own pace a bit to make sure anyone that wanted to stay on my wheel had to work but the elastic broke pretty quickly and I rode the first lap alone. On one of the sections of singletrack midway around the second lap, Peter Buggle, closely followed by Liam McCreavy bridged up to me. They were riding the singletrack well but were a little off my pace when climbing so for the next four laps I rode pretty steady on the climbs (a little harder then they were going) and took the single track pretty easy, basically recovering, learning the fastest line, making sure I didn't do anything silly like puncture and getting some practice in racing under pressure. My plan was to attack hard on the last lap on the last big climb and then actually ride the single track fast seeing as I spent a few laps scouting the trail.

One of the very fast singletrack sections - Yeah, for warm weather :)

The final lap bell went and we rode with me leading, then Peter, then Liam. Two sections of single track into the lap and at the start of the second last climb I noticed that there was a bit of a gap back to the guys, it was a bit earlier then I planned but I felt good so I decided to go for it then. By the time I entered the next section of single track I couldn't see them and that was that for the rest of the lap. Fortunately, I was able to ride over the line about 50 seconds up on Peter without having to do a sprint finish.

Must practice my victory salute ;)

When I did my warm up lap (no preride this time) I didn't know what the track would be like for racing on – but as soon as you started to race it really was a lot of fun. A course that really favoured close racing and I had a lot of fine riding with the two other guys.

One down, five more rounds to go, although I'm pretty sure I'll be missing some races due to other race commitments. My title defense has started :)

Results are available here, and some photos here and here.

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