Fresh from our trip to Houffalize, Belgium for the UCI World Cup, where Erica [Zaveta] and Imogen [Buick] did a sterling job of showing their competitors they meant business, it was straight back to the UK and time to get prepared for the next round of the British Cycling MTB Cross-Country Series at Dalby Forest.
I love Dalby; it’s a great course and with plenty of climbing so it really suits my strengths. I achieved my first national win in the expert category at Dalby in 2011 so I knew I wanted to have another good race here in 2012 – but I knew it would be tough as this is my first year in the elite field.
With a start list of 28 riders, it was going to be a tough race so I decided to drive up nice and early to give myself plenty of time to practice the course and be happy with my line choices. I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday and went straight out for two practice laps (in the pouring rain!) and it was immediately evident how different Dalby is when the conditions are bad, so I took extra time practicing the technical sections.
Then I had a chilled out evening and an early night in my (rather chilly!) tent. I woke up to yet more rain on Saturday and knew that this weekend was going to be a wash out, so we just had to make the most of it and do our best. Saturday featured possibly the heaviest hail storm I’ve seen in a long time, and lots of very muddy, angry looking people as they returned from their practice loops.
After a meal at a local pub where the portion sizes were gigantic, we had another early night at our cosy B&B (much warmer than a tent!) ready for the mudfest the next morning.
We arrived at the course bright and early on Sunday and thankfully it wasn’t raining. I had a better warm up than at round one and got to the start line feeling ready. The start was fast, frantic and a little manic with riders trying to stay on their bikes while negotiating the very muddy and slippy start loop. I didn’t get the best start, and came out of the start loop in around 20th place, which wasn’t as good as I’d wanted.
After fighting hard for the first couple of laps I passed a few riders and got into 17th, and then into 16th as Mel Spath had to pull out due to technical issues. At this point I got the bit between my teeth because that 15th place and ultimately my first UCI point was within reach. My legs were feeling strong and with a concerted effort I managed to drop a couple of riders I’d been battling with and pull out a healthy gap. Passing Sally Gabriel at the end of my third lap put me into 15th and I knew all I needed to do was keep going at that pace for one more lap.
My last lap was interesting as I had gone through my brake pads, both front and back, due to the conditions, so I had to take a few downhill sections a little faster than I’d have liked, purely because I couldn’t stop! However, I finished strong, and in 15th place, claiming my first ever UCI point. I am very proud and hope that there will be plenty more to come.
Thanks to Mike [Jenner], our team manager, for all his time spent in the rain bottling for us, and for spending hours cleaning our poor Moda Solos after they’d battled through those conditions!