Tuesday, October 07, 2008

2008 Scottish XC Round 7

It was all a little last minute -I was talking to Robin on-line and he was asking me about what other races I had planned on going to for the rest of the year. There were not many XC races left and he mentioned a UCI C2 race that was being held in Scotland as part of the Scottish XC league. The race was going to be held in the famous 7Stanes MTB park so my interest was perked and Mel and I went and booked flights and a car.

A few days later we arrived into Glentress. On the drive there I was getting scared, I seen car after car with nice mountain bikes on the back driving in the opposite direction - were we missing something. When we actually arrived at 7 Stanes MTB park all become clear... We had actually arrived at a mountain bikers heaven. I actually have never seen so many recreational cyclists in the one place before (that were not part of some big event). It was amazing – all shapes and sizes on all forms of bikes from tiny kids on miniature mountain bikes to the strangest looking (normal) bike I have ever seen. It was a small jump frame with a massive downhill fork. It looked like a chopper!

Anyway, back to the race at hand – a preride of the course was had. Basically a big climb, (fireroad and singletrack) followed by a long, very wet and mucky descent, another climb and then another descent back to the start finish. The final section was down a freeride/jump park style track so there were lots of jumps to launch off. I liked the course, I didn't feel fast on the schlompy sections but the profile suited me.

Race day arrived with the usual “why am I doing this” sort of feelings. Regardless, I warmed up and got to the start line with plenty of time. My UCI points meant a front row start. At 2pm we were off. Gareth Montgomery lead us up the long climb (about 8 minutes) with Robin and I trailing a second or two off the back. My legs were feeling great and I was very comfortable – could this be the day for me to get a podium at a C2 event. I started the muddy traverse and into the descent, a slight gap grew to Robin (who seems to float over this kind of thing – I also think my tire choice – Racing Ralphs – for these long muddy sections was very bad – if I knew what it was going to be like I would have put a Nobby Nick on the front – ahh well, you live and learn). One guy passed me about half we down the descent and then towards the bottom another took an 'interesting' line trying to get by me and promptly crashed in front of me taking me down too :( I didn't notice it at the time, but his 44 tooth big chain ring left some bad cuts on my left leg. This wasn't too bad and once we got untangled I descended the final section, it was only when I hit the fireroad that disaster struck – my chain was completely messed up. I spun around the bike and started to try and fix it – my Garmin tells me I spent about 100 seconds doing this. All the time watching rider after rider passing – damn, that podium. I got back on the bike and decided to push hard hard on the climbs and just enjoy the descents. So for the final 100 minutes of the race that is what I did. The race actually felt really short and I enjoyed it a lot, the final few sections of single track were a real pleasure to ride and the single track climb towards the top of the major climb 'flowed' really well.

Riding up the climb from the start - pic from here

As the race progressed I picked off riders every lap and eventually finished off in 5th place – my last lap being my fastest (damn, I really need to learn to push harder) – I was closing in quickly on 4th and 3rd at the time. Considering, I was happy with the 5th but a bit frustrated that I blew my chance at a better race. The few days before the race my legs felt great and I had hoped for an even better result.

Lessons from this (and you'll see in my next race report too) – I really need to spend more time on the mountain bike going fast descending, since the Epic Blast (where I badly hurt my shoulder – it's now a month later and I'm still going to the physio) I have mostly been on the road bike. My feel for riding quickly on technical terrain really left me – it was frustrating, on a course like that, you can make up time on the climbs but the descents really did kill me.

View from our B&B

I have to say thanks to Alex of the Colnago Ergon team for providing support for both Mel and I and also the Millburn House Bed and Breakfast for a really pleasant stay. One last thing, I think this race was possibly the best organised and marshalled race I had ever been too. Commentary as you passed through each lap (telling you your position), digital timing with results up as you finished and more marshals on the course on the practice lap then I would see during a normal race! Excellent and thank you.

Mel won her race - her first UCI C2 win and her report is available here.

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