Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Irish MTB Marathon Championships

[500th blog post - wohoo]

The Irish MTB Marathon Championships – unfortunately last year I was not in the country to try and defend the title I won in 2011 (I was road racing in France) so this year when I returned to Ballyhoura, I was determined to reclaim it.

Before the National Championships, I had been racing Kermesse races in Belgium for a month – no off-roading possible but the explosive nature of the races there carried over pretty well to racing on the mountain bike, the only difference was that, outside of recovery rides, I hadn't trained or raced at a particular intensity for more than a few seconds in weeks – on the long climbs in Ballyhoura it didn't seem to matter. My month in Belgium was basically – Race, Race, Rest, Race, Race, Rest – for a month – that was a good month :)

My race bike for the day - S-Work Epic 29er
2013's race was a little more special than usual as for the first time, were running the event which was being used as a dry run for when Ireland host the European MTB Marathon Championships in 2014 on a very similar course (a little longer though).

Once returned from Belgium, the road bike was put away and I went back to learning how to ride a mountain bike – the first session was a little embarrassing – squirrels were holding straighter lines down the descents than me but fortunately, most of the skills returned quickly – a large part I put down to the bike, a 29er full suspension bike – moving back from the road, it felt pretty natural – more so then when I would switch to a 26er from the road.

Race day arrived and we all lined up. British Champion and world class marathon racer, Sally Bigham lined up alongside me – she obviously couldn't become Irish champ, but was using it as a recce for the Euro's next year – great to have her here for the race and she simply smoked the course. It was also great to see AnPost CRC pro rider, Ronan McLoughlin line up in his first MTB race – sources say he will be back for more.

The race itself was pretty straight forward – I felt strong, but was always wary of a) crashing hard and b) having a mechanical – I pushed on pretty hard on the fireroads but took the technical trails reasonably carefully. Throughout the race I was in the front group, and for the second half, off the front so I didn't feel the need to really push it. Three and a half hours later, with a big smile on my face I finished reclaiming the national title.

Almost finished - photo Max Power (taking fantastic pics as always)
I have won this title before but this one means a lot to me as I hope to represent Ireland next year in the Euro Champs on this course (in the National Champions jersey) – it is a course well suited to racing a road season and lies one week before the road race nationals – fingers crossed I'll have some good form for it.

Thanks to for putting on a stellar show. The course was fantastic with a good mix between flowy trail center singletrack, natural trails and fireroad. The following morning my body felt like it had been hit by a truck – something I don't get racing road races – means a tough technical race! Also, many thanks to Cycleways, Specialized, Schwalbe, KCNC, NoTubes and Zipvit for the equipment and fueling - I have said it before, but with my bike/fuel setup, I feel like I'm cheating (seriously, go find a demo Epic 29er to ride).

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