It was a busy weekend for me this weekend in Plymouth. On Saturday I raced and won the fourth round of the Premier National Mountain Bike Series, making it four out of four and securing the overall series crown for the fourth year consecutively with one round remaining. On Sunday I contested my first ever marathon in the British National Marathon Championship and, to my surprise and delight, took the title after four and a quarter hours of racing. This was also the first outing for my Gary Fisher Raceday bike, on which I rode both events.
With fine weather greeting us in the south west of England and one of the most enduringly popular race venues, this event was always set to be an enjoyable one. This is where many World Cup events were held during the nineties, and the current XC course still includes some aspects of the original course including the river crossing and grassy climb straight off the start. In the women’s elite race we were missing series number two, Kate Potter, who was taking a well earned rest after finishing second in the TransAlp [see the link below to Kate’s TransAlp Diary]. Her partner in that event, Jenn O’Connor clearly needs little rest as she was lined up and raring to go. Also present was Amy Hunt, riding her first domestic elite event this year.
Somewhat predictably the pace from the start was pretty hot with Jenn displaying impressive speed after the TransAlp to lead by a few yards up the first climb. By midway through lap one Amy had joined Jenn and me as we pushed on round the course. Having not ridden a full susser for a long time, and being up against a field of hardtails on this super fast course, I used this first lap to ascertain where I could gain an advantage in future laps. While the long descent was an obvious place it was in the top woods, with a combination of roots and twisty singletrack, where I was most comfortable and it was here on lap two that I moved to the front and pushed on. This gained me a small gap that I consolidated on the long descent to take a 25 second lead over Amy going into lap three.
The last two laps
Lap three went well for me as my endurance began to kick in. I was vulnerable on the grassy climb but once I realised that I was losing no time there I knew that the race should be wrapped up. I increased my lead on lap three and four but tried not to push on more than necessary as the Marathon the following day was in the back of my mind. I eventually won by two minutes from Amy, with Jenn taking a solid third on undoubtedly tired legs after her recent exploits. This win also secures me the series overall with one round remaining, so the trophy remains on display in my living room for a fourth year!
I awoke on Sunday seriously wondering whether I was taking on too much! My idea with the Marathon was to start really steady, spin tiny gears and work out the previous day’s race before hopefully winding it up a bit in the second half. I was looking forward to riding out onto Dartmoor and decided to treat the first half of the race as a ride not a race. The competition was tough for this event. Anglo Italian Elizabeth Scalia is current world number ten in Marathon and Paula Moseley is an accomplished triathlete, ex masters National Champ and all round toughie! Both had opted to sit out the racing the day before and so had the benefit of fresh legs. My chances did not look good! As the gun went these two flew past, along with a couple of other girls. Meanwhile I spun away, chatted to a few of the guys I was riding with and got to know our course for the day.
The course for the marathon was fantastic, really varied and challenging. It took in lots of what used to be the World Cup course including the farmyard, moor and some super fast descents. Despite the last World Cup race here being in 1999 it seemed as though I had ridden it yesterday! I remembered all the roots and rocks and this certainly helped me. We were racing 5 x 17km loops after a 3km start loop. After a couple of laps I decided my legs were quite good and caught up with Paula. We rode together for sometime which was fun (I forgot I was racing!) and blitzed the descents. It is not since I used to race with Tracy Brunger that I have ridden descents that fast with another girl – Paula is a bit of a speed demon! At this stage we both thought that Elizabeth was out in front so on lap three I pushed on, left Paula and went in pursuit of Elizabeth. Only on lap four was I told that Elizabeth was, in fact, behind me. This was a surprise since I had not passed her. I assumed she must have suffered a puncture. This changed things a little as I went from being the hunter to the hunted! I decided to continue to push for home and hoped that my legs would hold up. I tried not to think about winning, telling myself I was still out on a ride!
My final lap was great. I felt faster than I did in the XC the day before and was actually riding parts of the previous day’s course in bigger gears than I had then. The diesel power had definitely come good and the Raceday had kept my body fresh. Once the main climbs were out of the way I knew the title was mine. It was so exciting to win when I had never imagined that I would – I even found the energy to lift the Raceday up over my head as I crossed the line.
Elizabeth followed me in a few minutes later. Apparently it was not a puncture but a course detour that had denied her the lead on lap one and then she had chased hard for the rest of the race but had been unable to catch me. I wish her better luck next week at the World Marathon Championship where I am sure she’ll post a great result. Meanwhile Paula took a well deserved third place.
While I do not intend to take up Marathon racing just yet (I feel I still have scope to improve in the XC discipline) it is wonderful to achieve the triple crown of National XC, Marathon and Series Champion all in one year. Once again thanks must go to my sponsors Subaru-Gary Fisher for providing me with, what I am convinced is, the perfect marathon race bike in the Raceday.
Now I have a rest week scheduled before beginning to prepare for my final target of the year, the World Cup Final in Scladming, Austria on 10th September.Happy Trails! Jenny