Words: Tracy Moseley
Photos: Matt Wragg/Enduro World Series
Over the last 6 weeks I have continued the theme of a varied training and racing program. Early March began with some tyre testing with Bontrager, testing a new XC mud tyre and some new compounds for the SE Enduro tyres that I will be using this season. I always enjoy the tyre tests as the different feeling you can get from tyres is amazing and I know putting work into them in the off season will always help when the races get started.
From tyre testing I went to join a GB XC training camp at the Hadleigh Olympic XC course, thankfully I opted to only join them for three days, as any longer and I don’t think I would have made it! Getting the chance to train with the best XC guys and girls we have in the UK at the moment from U16 up to Olympians was a great experience. We did multiple repeated efforts around different sections of the Olympic course, and always my first effort was good, often one of the fastest and then as soon as I was asked to repeat it with little time for recovery I just got slower and slower.Too many years of single effort sprints and a body genetically designed to be more of a sprint athlete left me in pieces by the end of three tough days with these guys. I chose to escape while I still had the energy to drive home and went straight to race the Hopton Enduro in preference to finishing the final day of ‘boot camp’ on the Sunday.
Without any practice the stages at Hopton were good fun, but sadly I had not escaped the pedaling as both stages had a fair amount of climbing. My legs were definitely not in ‘tip top’ shape after the last few hard days, but it was good to get a local enduro race under my belt as the first Enduro World Series race was getting closer and closer.
With a glimmer of possibility of selection for this year’s Commonwealth Games XC team I continued with my plans to enter the first National XC race. It was again a trip down to Essex but this time a different venue of Codham Park. It was a pretty flat, simple XC course and reminded me more of a cyclocross course than a MTB course and I knew it would be tough for me to hang with the XC girls on a course like this. I had a good start and managed to stay with the front group for most of the first lap, but as we climbed through the bumpy field to the start of lap two I was beginning to suffer from my efforts in the first. It was my first race on a hardtail and I had picked the worst place to use it as it was the bumpiest grass field you could ever ride on! My poor old back had a tough day and I slipped back to seventh place by the end of lap three, but managed to hold on to it till the end of the race. I was a little disappointed as I had felt a lot better on my bike than that in previous weeks’ training, but that’s the joy of XC racing - getting your legs to feel 100% come race day!
With a feeling of disappointment I began to question my decision which had been to travel to the first World Cup XC race in South Africa on my way to Chile for the first Enduro World Series race. My idea was that I would give the World Cup race a go with two goals in mind: one was to actually finish the race as the previous three World Cup XC races I have done I have always been pulled with a lap to go; and the second goal was to try and secure a good result to help towards my small chance of CG selection. The flights have been booked weeks before so I was going whatever and I just hoped that I would go a bit better in two weeks’ time!
Heading back to South Africa three years after my last DH race out there was a bizarre experience, seeing all the same faces I had not seen for a few years was nice but I was this time on the other side of the fence, watching the DH and taking part in the XC race. I had a great time practicing the course as it had some really fun jumps, drops and good technical sections for an XC bike. However, I knew that racing the course would be a different experience, as there was no rest in a lap.
The life of a pro is certainly not all plain sailing.
There was sadly a very small field of women so even though I was called up last I was still only a couple of rows back and managed to have a great start, finding myself up into the top 15 as we hit the first climb!I still have little experience in mass start races like that and all the pushing and shoving that goes on in the first lap is quite scary! There is no time for any ‘no after yous’ as it’s an all-out battle for the first 10mins of the race. Sadly my good start was short lived as we hit the first steep climb and I quickly went backwards. Those girls really do keep one hell of a pace up for the entire length of the race and one that I was a long way off. However, this time I did manage to maintain a good enough pace and didn’t lose too much time so I was allowed to complete the five laps, finishing in 29th place.
A 40min ride up the hill back to my accommodation was my recovery ride as I had little time to pack my bike and grab a couple of hours of sleep as I was up at 4.30am to get to the airport in time for my first flight to Chile! A long few hours on numerous planes and 2.5hrs in a taxi finally got me to the venue for the first EWS. Possibly not the best preparation for the start of the season but it was a challenge that I thought I could cope with as practice did not start till Thursday.
I had a couple of easy road rides to get used to a brand new bike and get the feeling back for my enduro bike and then we were straight into practice! I actually felt pretty good on my bike in practice and was loving being back on a full suspension bike with some gravity helping out on the trails. I had missed it and really enjoyed the buzz from riding trails for the first time flat out.
I decided to do minimal practice and just do one run on each stage to make sure I didn’t overdo it before race day considering my previous week’s travel and racing. A few people did mange to get two runs in on each stage, but they had two pretty full days to get that done.
Happy to be on the podium.
I felt good and ready for the race. The first day was a tough one for me as I battled a little to find my race head. I struggled to ride at a good pace, either not pushing enough or making lots of silly mistakes. I did mange to get one good run together on stage three and took the stage win, but I’d already lost over 20secs to Anne Caro. However, I managed to hold on to second place so I was happy with that. I really hoped that it would all click on Sunday and I would be back in the zone but once again a good stage for me on stage four was still 10sec off the pace and then stages five and six were just littered with so many near crashes that I found myself trying too hard to get time back and ended up losing more and more with scrappy riding. It was definitely a tough two days of racing for me, I was disappointed with how I felt on the bike, but also satisfied to have been able to hold on to second place after the weekend. I just need a few more weeks getting my feeling back on the enduro bike and then I hope all my hard work on my fitness this winter will be able to show.
Next stop of the Enduro World Series is in Peebles, Scotland, in 4 weeks time, so I’ll be hoping to be challenging for a few more stage wins on home soil!