Monday, July 25, 2011

2011 Irish National XC Championships

At the start of the season I had not really planned to be in the country for the National XC Championships, but as plans changed – so did my attendance. With only a few outings on the mountain bike in recent months (but a fun win on a great course a couple of weeks earlier), I found myself preriding the National Championships course in Kilruddery.

The course was basically 90% twisty forested singletrack – there were a few short climbs and a few technical sections but the guts of the course was easily ridable – the faster you go, the more difficult it gets. As it was, being really efficient and smooth on the bike, rather than absolute power or speed was the most important aspect of racing this course fast – me, coming back from racing on the road, was almost opposite of what suited me. There wasn't really anywhere where I could really dig in and put in long hard efforts. Having said that, the course was really fun to ride.

Race day arrived and I got a great warmup in only to find the start was going to be delayed for 30 minutes. In an earlier race, a rider hurt themseleves badly on a feature known as “Tombstone” (basically, a big rock drop – easy to ride but the sheer hight meant that it was much more about your mental abilities rather than skill or bike handling – roll into it not committed and bad things could happen). The ambulance had to take the person to hospital so we had to wait until it returned – these things happen... (oh, the rider is fine)

Garreth McKee and myself (from Andrew Lowry)
The start was frantic – on the final bend into the singletrack Aidan McDonald and I got tangled and unfortunately he fell – that really threw me off my game for a while as Aidan is a fantastic rider and I don't like seeing anything negative happen to him at the start of a race.

Anyway, my little time on the mountain bike was apparent for the first couple of laps – I was riding around in 5th place but 3rd was only a little further ahead. I knew, come the end of the race that I could make up the time.

As the race went by, I got more used to the singletrack and finished off with my last lap being the fastest of my race. I caught and passed Joe McCall towards the end of the last lap and finished in 3rd.

Robin Seymour won his billionth championship going from the gun and really showing that on that type of course, there is no one in Ireland that can come close. Peter Buggle finished 2nd.

Picture by Ciaran Maunsell
Am I happy with the race – well, yes and no... I'm fit and strong at the moment but that type of course really didn't suit me – so 3rd place I'm reasonably happy with. I had a fun day and the event was ran off perfectly. My only gripe is that there has been almost no publicity about it – many people (outside of the MTB community) have been asking me if it has taken place yet – and these are cyclist. Guys, you ran an amazing event – tell the world about it!

Many thanks for Stewart Carr on the day for helping out with some logistics and a massage, Angela Oakley for feed support and to my MTB sponsors, especially Cycleways, ZipVit.

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