It may still be winter in the UK but sadly the race season doesn’t know that, so it’s race time but way too cold to get your shorts and short sleeve jerseys out.
My race preparation began with a Fox Suspension testing session out in Spain, which was sadly as cold and wet as the UK, but a great opportunity to get loads of DH runs in on my bike. Some great time on my enduro race bike and some good training time to remind my body what multiple rough, rocky 4min plus DH runs feel like. I enjoyed getting back into some more technical riding and getting the Freelap timing system out got the adrenaline flowing again.
From Spain I returned back to the UK on a plane full of elderly Brits who all seemed to be coughing and spluttering and sure enough I had a cold within 24 hours! Perfect start to my race season, but sadly picking up germs on planes comes with the territory of travelling, especially after a tough few days of riding when you are tired and your body is a bit run down. Fortunately after a few days off the bike I was feeling better just in time for my first race. I decided to race the first round of the midlands XC to get some proper tough fitness training in the bank. I have been focusing my efforts more on my endurance and fitness this winter in readiness for the Enduro World Series racing I have planned, so it was going to be a good test to see if the effort had paid off.
There was a great turnout for the first race of the year and also a good showing of women across all categories, which was good to see. I had a good start managing to get to the front of the race just about hanging on to the wheel of the leader. That horrible start interval at an XC race just never ends, and I dug deep to get in front before the first singletrack and pushed really hard for the first lap. It was a pretty tight, twisty singletrack course in places and passing was not an option, so the first lap ended up in a lot of queuing traffic as we caught the back of the vets and master men. I was being hotly pursued by Jessie Roberts who, after a bit of cat and mouse, passed me on the climb on lap two and that was how it stayed. I kept her in my sights for most of the race, but just couldn’t bridge the gap. I ended up just over one minute back at the finish but I was happy with second place out of a decent elite field and to Jessie who was ranked third in the UK in 2012. I had forgotten just how much XC races hurt and my legs ached for the next 48 hours.
I managed to get a few more good training sessions in once the legs had recovered and I then headed to Afan for the first round of the UK Gravity Enduro series. With snow blanketing much of the UK we were really lucky that south wales just missed it. We had a snow-free trail, but still freezing conditions all weekend. On the ride out to the first stage people’s shifters and mechs were freezing up. My water froze in the hose of my Osprey pack and the entire of Stage 1 was entirely frozen which made for pretty rapid trail conditions, just having to avoid the sketchy icy patches along the way!
During the stages you got some warmth into your body and any excuse to help someone fix a puncture was a great chance to use my pump and stay warm! As soon as you had to wait for your next stage time you just got cold instantly. I just tried to keep moving and kept putting layers on and off all day. The first three stages were based on the trail-centre trails around The Wall and Whyte’s Level and conditions were great. They were all pretty physical stages with a good amount of pedalling to keep your speed up. I seeded first so was always last off on the stages and had Helen Gaskell as my 20-second target to aim for on each stage!
Stage 4 was a short one with some trail-centre trail to start and then it dropped into a freshly cut trail that would have been soft and loamy if it had not rained solidly two days before the race… It turned into a mud bath and staying feet up was the only way to get through it. It reminded me of some old-school DH tracks. I quite enjoyed the challenge of keeping your momentum through it and it certainly challenged a different aspect of your bike handling skills. After being thoroughly muddy we then had one final climb back up to stage 5 where the wind was blowing straight into the start and it froze all the mud on my bike. I was really conscious of being gentle with all my shifting on this stage, as I just wanted to get to the finish without any problems. I made it to the finish and slid into the finish arena, pretty happy to have the season underway with a good race and glad to be able to go and get changed and put some warm clothes on.
I took the win in the women’s ahead of Helen Gaskell and I was really pleased with how I felt during the race. The training has definitely put me in a good place going into the season and helped me to a 16th place overall on the day. I just need to keep it going now.
To read Tracy's previous entry click here.