Words: Tracy Moseley
Photos: Matt Delorme
After the first round of the World Enduro in Chile I knew I needed to spend a bit more time on my enduro bike, so the first weekend I was home I decided to support the local mini enduro at the Forest of Dean. It’s so good to see grassroots enduro racing looking so healthy. It was a miserable day with some of the muddiest trails, that it felt like a winter race, but yet everyone was still loving it!
Riding in those conditions was tough as just a week ago I had been surfing the dry volcanic sand in Chile on my bike, and now I was sliding down the forest sideways !! It was still a good day on the bike and some good mud training!
During May I had a pretty intensive block of XC racing and training as I still had my sights set on a place on the England Commonwealth Games XC team. I raced at the 2nd round of the National XC series in Cornwall and managed to grab a podium spot, finishing in 3rd place. I was really happy as I finally felt as though I had managed a race that reflected how I have been feeling on my bike during training. I then joined the GB XC squad for a training camp in Glasgow on the Commonwealth Games course. This was another brutal 4 days of on and off road riding with the youngsters and I pushed myself to new levels of pain and suffering on my bike! I was really happy with the improvement I had made since the last camp, as I was able to complete all the efforts on the MTB course a lot better than the last camp at the Olympic course. The road rides still caused me some serious pain, and after one big session I even got cramp in my jaw from having my mouth open for so long breathing that hard! Afterwards Annie Last told me ‘ Oh yeah I often get that !’ It was a great experience but I retuned home truly ruined for a good few days!
After feeling like I was improving my XC performance I decided at the last minute go out to the first European XC World Cup race in the Czech Republic. Sadly my race did not go well, I had a pretty poor start as I was at the back of a 90 strong women’s field and did not have the climbing pace for the first half of the start lap and didn’t manage to work my way up the field much. I then spent the 2nd half of the lap walking in a queue up and downhill as the sheer volume of riders were just too much for the narrow trail and lost 3 mins to the leader in the first 10mins of the race! The race leader was setting such a cracking pace that it spread out the field so much that after only 3 laps I was pulled from the race as I was too far behind. In the end only around 40 riders actually completed the 5 laps!
I was gutted as I was starting to move forward in the race and my goal of a top 50 finish was definitely within my ability if I had been able to complete the 5 lap race. Sadly I finished in 63rd place and I could feel my hopes of a spot on the Commonwealth Games team were not looking as good as they had just a few hours before the race.
I had no time to really dwell on this as I flew straight from Czech to Edinburgh and had to switch straight into enduro mode as the following weekend was the big race of the year for me. My first ever home World Enduro in Peebles, Scotland.
After Chile I knew I would have to be on my ‘A’ game to beat Anne Caro this season, so my tactic at Scotland was to rely on my XC fitness and do as much practice as I could! This round was the ‘rally style’ format or exactly like we race enduro in the UK, with no lifts, just pedaling the loop to practice. We had 3 days of practice and I spent 5-6hrs each of those days getting to ride every stage twice ! It was a lot of riding but I was feeling better and better on my bike each day so knew it was a good plan. I just hoped that I would be able to still feel fresh enough for the long 2 days of racing too!
Fortunately I felt good on the bike both days and took a comfortable win on home soil, which felt so good. It was great to see yet another world level MTB event in the UK getting such great support from the bike industry and fans, and I think it really put Peebles on the world map as a great riding destination too.
The day after the race I was out doing some photos for Trek and got back to my computer to an email from British Cycling to say that I had not been selected for the Commonwealth Games.
I was gutted…the massive high I was on from winning at the weekend was gone. This had been my biggest personal goal of the last 6 months and there was now no chance of achieving it. I had buried myself in training and reached new levels of suffering on my bike and at this moment it felt like for nothing…
Even a few weeks after I am still sad that I will not be able to pull on an England shirt in a few weeks time as I really felt like I could have put in a good performance on that course with a home crowd behind me, but sadly big events always have stories of selection panel issues and this was just one of them. I missed out to younger riders who are all just starting out in their cycling careers with XC as their focus.
With my summer now taking a different path to what I had hoped for I had a few days of getting myself together to regain my motivation to ride my bike and stop eating all the things I had been good and not had for the last 6 months!
I soon made plans and decided that there was no need to do anymore XC races as I had no goals left now, and instead I headed out to Europe in the campervan to ride in the mountains and get ready for the rest of the World Enduro season!
For the last 7 years I have been stopping off close to Verbier on the way to races in the alps to ride with the guys from Bike Verbier on their days off! Phil and Lucy have become great friends and have been a big help in enabling me to transition to Enduro racing so easily. For the last 7 years every time I ride with them we ride a different trail, and ride some amazing tech, natural high alpine stuff that is just perfect preparation for the French style enduro races.
Whilst in the area I also took part in an enduro race in La Clusaz, the alpine version of the bike festival Roc D’Azur that takes place in the south of France. It was great preparation for the next World Enduro as the stages were steep, long and on virgin trails! Such good fun and also really helped heal the disappointment of the XC selection. This was proper fun on your bike without all that suffering!
After another quick mad Wednesday ride with Bike Verbier it was off to round 3 of the enduro world series in Valloire in France!
With no practice allowed ahead of the race days it felt like a short weekend, arriving on Friday to register and then two big days on the bike. Each day we were on the lift by 8am and had 3 timed stages each day. Each new stage we had chance to do one practice run to just see the trail and then straight into racing! I really like the French style of minimal training as you really then have to rely on your ability to read the trail and ride what you see ahead of you. Its pretty exciting and can at times get the adrenaline pumping pretty high!
This weekend we only had 15 sec intervals between riders which on long 20min plus descents is nothing, so always seeing riders ahead of you was something that was quite strange but you had to get used to quickly. It’s hard not to get distracted by the person just ahead of you and then make a mistake. In some places it was good as on a long pedaling section it gave you a target and on Saturday I managed to catch Anne Caro on every stage and ended the day with a healthy lead of around 40 secs. However day two was just as tough and I really felt my efforts of day one! Having only done a few big rides in the mountains the week leading up to this, my body was still not used to the pounding over 12 000m of descending in a weekend does to your body! I crashed in the first stage on Sunday just from trying to ride safe, and lost some valuable time. I then had to get myself back together and keep pushing on the final two stages. I managed to stay smooth and took 2 more stage wins and the overall win of the weekend. I was so happy as I had given my all this weekend and it had paid off and it also helped with my disappointment of not going to the Commonwealth Games. I felt like all the hard work I had put in over the winter had not been for nothing… it was now going to help me all season in the defence of my World Enduro title!