Ordinarily, the middle of May would signify the mid-point of the race season. This year, the middle of May signifies the start of my cross-country training.

I declared ‘I’m out’ of the national cross-country scene at the end of last year, and decided to target endurance events. Having now won 12 Hours of Exposure and the Gorrick 100 I am leading the British Endurance Series.

Unfortunately I can’t do any of the other races in the series (including the national marathon champs) due to work commitments, so I’ve been looking for something else to train for. Having thought it might be nice to do a bit of XC again, Jay and I started trawling the event calendar.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that a) Jay and I organise the South West Series - so can’t race in it, b) the Welsh series has imploded, and c) we have work booked on the dates of the Southern series, the only XC event available to us, within two tanks of diesel range, is the National Championships.

This posed two questions:

1) Do I want to buy a race licence for one event?

2) Do I really want to put myself out there in elite again? Or could I get away with sloping off into the masters cat? Or better still somewhere where I’d be invisible like sport men?

After much thought and discussion in the Horton household, the answers we came to were:

1) No not really – but it seems I can buy a half year licence for half the price, as the champs is halfway through the year.

2) No – I’ve always said I would race in the hardest category available to me; otherwise it’s just pot-hunting, so Elite it is.

So now I just need to do some serious training. In nine weeks I need to bang a considerable amount of speed and power into my training if I am going stand a chance of putting in a respectable performance. Because I always ride my bikes as ’off the shelf’ (I don’t understand the bike well enough to make any significant changes), I know that my Fate Expert is as equally suited to XC as it is to endurance. So it’s all about me and my legs.


Sooo, the cunning plan is to smash quality sessions in the week and hit the most random ill-suited events at the weekends by way of preparation. The motley assortment of events we can go to are:

1) HellRider. Racing as a team round an 8 hour MTB duathlon. Anything that feels as painful as that is bound to must be good for you.

2) Bristol Bike Fest as a mixed pair. I’m just thinking of it as the mother of all interval sessions, coupled with practicing self-control when tempted to tell your teammate to ‘bog off’ when you don’t want to go out again.

3) TwentyFour12 as 24-hour pairs. Just because we can. Difficult to justify, difficult to see as anything more than a marriage tester (racing with husband), and with only 2 weeks between it and the National Champs I may live to regret it, but think of how much food I can eat afterwards!

So actually I’ve got seven weeks to bang some speed and power into my legs, and two weeks to lie still in a darkened room and hope to recover from the horror that will be 24 pairs.

Maybe it’s not the best training plan I’ve ever come up with, but I like a challenge.

In conjunction with my attendance at these races, I will be continuing to offer demos on my fleet of Specialized Fates (Women’s specific carbon 29ers). The Fate program has been incredibly successful so far.

Any girlies interested in trying out a Fate 29er without having to fork out for it first, should contact me on You can even race on it as part of the demo if you fancy really putting it to the test.

Maddie Horton

Mountain Bike Instructor (

Read our interview with Maddie here.