So finally after all the training and build up over the winter, the time had arrived… race time!
My first race of 2012 was the Andalucia Bike Race in southern Spain. It’s a six-day race where competitiors race in pairs. I teamed up with fellow Santa Cruz UK rider Ben Thomas. Ben is super fast in the UK XC and marathon scene so I have to admit that I was a little worried about actually keeping up!
My worries were confirmed as soon as the first stage began and he disappeared off up the first climb of the day! It turns out that XC racers can go much faster than enduro riders at the start of a race! However, we soon settled down into a good rhythm and began to learn the subtleties of racing together in a pair. I suffer on the steeper climbs and with hard accelerations so Ben had to back it down a notch in these situations to save me from digging too deep. Equally we found that it was quicker for me to lead on the descents as I am more used to the dry rocky and sometime loose conditions found in Spain.
The first few days went fairly well. We finished in the late 20s , a little lower than we had hoped for, but gradually as the race progressed we gelled as a team and our results improved. However, disaster struck on the fourth day when Ben was forced to abandon due to a dislocated finger. This was a disappointing as I felt that we would only improve our position as the race progressed but it was definitely the best option for Ben as racing with an injury could have compromised our trip to the Cape Epic.
I did continue the race alone, although my position would not be recorded in the official results. Pleasingly on the final day I had my best day on the bike. I managed to stick in the second group all day and was riding with riders who were previously much higher in the results earlier in the week. I think a top 15 stage result would have been possible had Ben not picked up his injury which is very encouraging for me coming into the next few races.
Unfortunately there was a bug going around the hotel during the last few days and a large number of riders picked up illness after the race. I was fortunate to only get a cold, however Ben picked up the flu and other riders developed chest infections. For me this meant a week off the bike and missing the Gorrick Spring Series race – but it did allow me to recover fully from the effects of the race. Every cloud and all that!
The next adventure for me starts in Heathrow Airport. Ben and I will once again be teaming up for the eight-stage Cape Epic. This is by far the most exotic place I have ever visited and I am now immensely excited. It’s certainly going to live up to it name with the majority of the stages exceeding 100km. I’m hoping that this will favor me as an endurance rider and that we can get a good result.
I hope that training for the last week in all my North Face winter kit will help with acclimatisation to the heat of Africa. I fear that this is wishful thinking however and that it will be a sufferfest from the off! Whatever the outcome it is sure to be an amazing experience and one that I will remember for a long time to come.