Following the Andalucia Bike Race I was super motivated to jump back into training but the morning I was due to fly back home from Spain I started to feel ill, just a little groggy to start with but as the day went by the virus I’d caught started to take full effect. It left me in bed for a week and out of training for nearly two weeks.
The long recovery time used up crucial training time leading into this first block of racing and put me into a bad position going into last weekend’s Southern XC series opener. However after a couple of days training my hopes of a decent finish were back and I was motivated going into the race.
Off the start the pace felt high and my breathing immediately became wheezy, so after half a lap I had no choice but to back off the pace, letting a group of four riders speed off ahead. Riding on my own wasn’t much fun as the winds on the open farm track around the course were strong and I was wasting energy. Tim Dunford caught me on the third lap and, although it wasn’t easy, I managed to latch onto his wheel for a lap and a half.
The Santa Cruz Highball with its 29-inch Hope hoops and Kenda Karma tyres were making easy going of the slippery roots and muddy singletrack. With the bike being so easy to ride it helped me recover. Midway through the penultimate lap on one of the climbs Tim appeared to be slowing, having eased off the gas over the last lap my breathing was now under control and I felt strong enough to gap him. The distance between us didn’t really change for the next lap and I rolled over the line in fourth place.
The result is a disappointment but it does gain me valuable series points and a better gridding for round two in a month’s time. There’s a little work to be done before I have the form necessary to ride for the win but had I been at full fitness I’m sure I would have been a lot closer to the podium.
I now look forward to my next race which is the eight-day Cape Epic stage race in South Africa which starts next weekend! Look out for updates on my Twitter feed – @benthomas88
Thanks for reading,