First race of the 2010 season, and getting the season underway was not something I had been particularly looking forward to. Really, I had a crap January and February, coughing relentlessly and spending most of it on antibiotics unable to shake off a stubborn chest infection. This meant zero mileage and any hopes I had of racing Elites went out the window, as I heard back from my friends taking in training camps and racing abroad, which made me more than a little jealous!
After a couple of weeks of training, I didn't feel like I was going particularly well, a few of good days aside, and resigned myself to trying to race experts for the time being. In the days leading up to the race, I had completely empty legs and a heart rate that refused to rise above 83%, regardless of how hard I pushed it. But a race is a race, and reports from the course made it seem like a good one, so myself and Agata headed down early on Sunday morning (after a short nights sleep - was at the Irish Concrete Society annual dinner the night before, and the clocks moved forward an hour)suited up and rode a practice lap. I enjoyed the course immensely, some nice climbs and cool singletrack and it all rolled really well, even after the rain during the week.
While watching Agata's race, I started to get that familiar yawning feeling that indicated I'm either going to have a really good or really bad day. Knowing that I didn't have enough kilometers in the legs, I kept the warmup short and lined up with 8 Experts for what would be a nice short race. As the gun went, the elites disappeared up the hill but to my surprise the experts stayed more or less together for the first lap at a less-than-furious pace, with a lead group of 2 followed by 3 MAD riders and Colm Mullen of WORC. Midway through the second lap, on the steeper climb, the 5 lead riders and top Masters were coming together again when I started to realise that the legs were good and I seemed to be pushing a little less than the others, so I started considering how to race it from here on.
I must say that to this point, this race was one of the most fun I've ever taken part in, the course and field combining for ultra-close wheel-to-wheel racing with constant fighting for every piece of ground.
Starting the third lap, myself and Colm made a move to break clear of the others and got a gap going into the singletrack, but I made a mistake here and lost a few seconds which I had to make up on the climb - I was happy that I could not only regain the time, but push on through and establish a small gap which Colm didn't close until the end of the lap. I had been carefully watching how much ground he was gaining on me in the singletrack so I knew what gap I needed on the last lap.
After hitting the finish line for the penultimate time, I pushed on and thankfully got rid of Colm to enter the singletrack alone. Encountering Arek on the second climb, I asked him how far behind the next guy was...his answer was "a bit," which was good enough for me :)
I knew I just had to be careful coming back down, no panicing and no silly mistakes and I was home and dry with a 15 second margin. My first win!
Results of the race are here and loads of photos here
Thanks so much to Agata and Aine for the feedzone support and the various photographers and supporters around the course.
The Racing795 crew put on a really great event and I'm really looking forward to going back next year.
The plan for the next couple of weeks is to put in plenty of long spins and build kilometers before the start of the NPS, and polish up the singletrack skills