On Saturday 1st April I travelled to Pembrey Country Park, Llanelli for round 1 of the HSBC UK National XC MTB race. Although the race was not until the following day it was possible to pre ride the course on the Saturday. It was a great course for me as there were only 3 very technical downhill short sections, not my strength, but these were all bi-passable by very rideable “B lines”! This is not always the case! In fact someone had described the course as more CX than MTB. The course was on a mixture of mud, but also as very close to the beach and dunes very sandy ground. There were lovely single track sections through the forest and a couple of short but steep climbs. I was pleased to go to sleep that evening knowing that I had nothing to worry about the course!
Race day was sunny and the muddy sections had dried out further by the time by race started at 1.00pm. I lined up on the start line knowing that I needed a good start so that when the course entered the single track area through the woods after about 200m I would be in a strong place as overtaking options were limited. The plan was good and I started well, however after about 100m on the first tight turn my chain came off and jammed. Luckily this was right by the pit area where Steve Birchill was standing to support me. Steve un jammed the chain and got the gears running again, but as this happened obviously everyone passed me. When I set off I was on my own at the very very back. Not how I had planned it! I had two options; give up now or see what I could grind out for the three 7kms laps. Number one was not an option for me having come all that way and gone through the whole pre race build up. So I rode as hard as I could, continually being frustrated as I had to try and pass the back markers who were going much slower, and on the single track it was hard to find places to pass safely and with good cycling etiquette! Also because I was now coming from the back there were stretches when I no-one in my sights and didn’t know how far away the next rider was that I could chase down. In mountain biking the race numbers are also on the front and so as I passed riders I didn’t know if they were in my age category or not.
I had no idea where I was as I came over the finish line after the three laps but knew that I had given it my best shot. In fact it wasn’t until about 5 minutes after I had finished that it was suggested that I got ready for the podium! I had no idea that I had come 2nd! In my first national race as a MDCC member I was delighted to put the club shirt on and go on the podium.