Friday, April 13, 2007

British NPS round 1 :: XC :: Kate's Report

Less than two weeks ago Ian and I were in Oz basking on the glorious Sydney beaches and topping up our tans. It has been a complete shock to the system returning to cloudier days and the cooler temperature of the UK, but this Easter weekend the Cotic Soda in all her Bontrager finery were sparkling in the sunshine.

The first round of the British National Point Series was held at Thetford Forest. I wasn’t too sure if the jet lag would still be hanging around this weekend, but was really looking forward to testing my form against the best girls in Britain and also two of the top girls of New Zealand.

Thetford is not known for it’s mountainous terrain, but the last time I raced here I absolutely loved the fast and flowing single track. There was nothing I found difficult on the course, but I knew it would be a very fast paced race and possibly be almost like a road race. There weren’t many obvious places to attack, and I imagined good tactics would play an important part to the end result. With absolutely no road racing experience, I knew it could be a very difficult race for me, but was very excited about the challenge.

On the start line with a minute to go, I wondered whether the start would be a crazy sprint around the first loose corner or if it would be slightly more chilled out as we found wheels to sit behind as to save energy for the first of the five laps we had to face. As the whistle sounded we were off and the Soda literally sprung into action and made her way to the front. I needed to chill out though as there was no point wasting energy early on. It was the first time I had all my Bontrager wheels and components, plus the Pace C-Type forks on the bike too, and the whole package felt amazing. I was leading the pack as we finished the first lap and my coach Matt Hart from TORQ reminded me not to be doing all the work at the front, so I started to back off slightly.

The first half of the race was quite strange, as I’m used to going hard from the word go and then just maintaining that pace. In this case it was a combination of a comfortable chilled out cadence to cranking it up so hard that my heart was pounding to well above maximal zone. However my legs were feeling strong and I enjoyed the short bursts of intensity as a few of the girls started to attack.

Jenn O’Connor (Patterson Training) and Paula Moseley (Climb On Bikes) and I were taking our turns at the front. Even though I knew I was working hard while others drafted, I enjoyed the freedom I had when I was out in front on the single track. Nobody tried to overtake on the narrow trail and it was such an awesome feeling pumping the bike into the bends and dips. I was having such a great time that there were moments I forgot I was racing, it was only when we hit the long sections of fire road that I had to stick my racing head back on to avoid being left behind by the group. On the third lap there were five girls left and I was expecting silver Commonwealth games medallist Rosara Joseph (Giant) to make a move soon enough. On the fourth lap the move came, as Rosara and Amy Hunt (Trek) made a break. Jenn O’Connor, Jenny Copnall (Gary Fisher) and I fought on. The three of us could still see the two girls in the distance. As we passed the feed zone for the last time Ian called out that the girls were only 30 seconds in front. The three of us worked together, taking our turns at the front and really pushing the pace. I thought after almost 2 hours of racing that fatigue would start to set in, but we weren’t fading and my Soda was feeling right at home on the twisty single track. With only 2km to go it looked unlikely we would catch the two in front, and now it was down to the three of us racing for positions third to fifth. I decided it was time to make a move and before I knew it I had snuck in front of Jenn O’Connor on the last single track climb. I wasn’t sure if this was a wise move or not, and knew there was a long fire road section coming up before a tight piece of single track that dropped down onto the fire road, before a 10 metre climb to the finish line. I dug deep and just wanted to head into the single track first. I knew my legs weren’t feeling fatigued and was confident I had more in me, but I also knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to take third. As soon as I dropped on to the fire road I gave it everything. I actually closed my eyes and pretended I was being chased by a snake (I hate snakes). I kept expecting the girls to go past, but before I knew it I had crossed the finish line in third position, with Jenn O’Connor fourth and Jenny Copnall fifth. There were only 1-2 seconds between the three of us. Amy Hunt took the win and Rosara Joseph finished second.

I was very pleased with how I raced. I did a lot of work at the front and felt strong. Although I was racing, I wanted a really hard work out this weekend, in order to get stronger for the remaining races. It wasn’t until later that I remembered that I still had an important race coming up. Unfortunately my heart was beating so hard all night that I couldn’t sleep. Plus I could feel my legs trying to repair themselves and a mild pain in my lower back. When I woke at 6am I felt 100 years old.

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