After a great weekend in the Netherlands training with Team boss Sander Bouwens I was ready to start racing again after missing the first half of the season by choice and circumstance.
I live close to Manchester and there is a great mid week evening series that runs in the summer. Round 3 was held at Sutton Manor on the way to the city of Liverpool. The usual fast boys were present and the course was going to provide very close racing. 3km long with lots of singletrack and a fast open gravel road ending in a steep climb, meant that getting a gap was very difficult. For the 7 laps we raced we stuck together anyone trying to get a gap was closed down on the gravel road or held up by a back marker. Throughout the race I was thinking of my tactics to try and get the win knowing that if you gave 100% down the road you would be beaten on the final climb to the finish. With 2 laps to go I hit the front and started to push the pace on the singletrack to force people to chase, I knew from training I can go hard, have a small recovery and go again I managed to gain a small gap but only 5 seconds, this held until the final lap where I entered the road section in the lead ahead of a group of three. I decided to ease up until the climb and then made sure no one came past, when the finish was in sight I started the sprint and managed to hold them off for the win. My first win in a sprint finish, really happy and I enjoyed the drive home.
I had planned this weekend to get some good training done with my friend by entering a marathon event, My girlfriend had entered the womens event on the Saturday and it was quite strange to be on the other side of the tape, two hours in the cafe was ok with me though. I had been told of another race local to the marathon, an Evening CX race held at an old Victorian era Museum. The race was held through the old town streets and parkland. I asked the organiser if it was ok to race on my MTB and he said yes, I’m not sure he knew I was coming on a full carbon XX1 race weapon! I decided to give the marathon a miss and hit the CX race hard. The venue was amazing and had everything a good CX race should have, large crowds drinking beer, a long run up some stairs next to the old railway, steep banks, tight turns and full speed sections through the streets. This was going to be fantastic. Watching the youth and junior racers was great and I was really excited to race. The racers were made up of national standard CX, XC and Marathon racers, even Matt Page(multiple 24hr solo champion) turned up. The start was the usual frantic mess and the super tight course meant that a few riders got away as I got stuck in the middle of the pack, racing through the streets we soon got around the course and over towards the long run, leading up to this was a long rocky path that the MTB was a slight advantage on, using this I made a up a few places and could see the leader ahead on the run. All the MTB riders started running and about 4steps later were walking (we’re not used to getting off!). I felt really good on the pedals and started to make ground up quickly on the flatter sections and smash the steep climb without walking. After 2 laps I was with the leader and ready to overtake on the lead up to the steps knowing he could run way faster than me, my tactic worked and I managed to get up the run in the lead and then set about gapping him on the rest of the course, knowing I had a 5second advantage each lap on the rocky section but a 5 second disadvantage on the run, I had to work hard on the rest of the course. I started to feel stronger and stronger and was really enjoying the course and the crowds were fantastic. Over the loud speaker I heard he had flatted trying and had to swop wheels in the pit area, I knew then all I had to do was keep a consistent pace and not push too hard on the running and I could win the race. With 2 laps to go I was very confident of the win and started to pull a few wheelies for the crowd, it is entertainment after all. Crossing the line I was super happy to get two wins in one week and got to chat to the commentator and take some cool photos with the photographer. Another happy drive home, made even better as my girlfriend had finished the marathon first also.
Time to recover and hit the national series next.