I made my way to Staffordshire on Saturday for the last of the national series at Cannock chase. I arrived in time for mid day practise and headed out on the course with Jenny who I had met there. The course started with an open field section before heading down a cart track and back up into single track. Unlike most other course I had come across this one seemed to have. A lot of downhill at the beginning. Which was great but left me concerned as to what was to follow!
The first A/B line feature was a drop off which I decided to take the B line on as I still am not totally confident on my new bike. We turned the corner into the forest to be met with a queue of riders, this is usually a sign something good/technical is coming up, and Cannock did not disappoint, a rock garden appeared between the trees which looked manageable, we stood and watched as it claimed a few victims who fell hard. I decided the 15 seconds extra the B line would take each lap was worth it other coming off and spending a couple of minutes composing myself so took the B line and we carried on to the next A line a drop between a narrow tree gap this was easily rollable and was also the start of the course making its way back up hill on a trail which is part of the trail centre is was brilliant fun and included a wood section which was very similar to QE Park with large roots and a lot of off camber riding which spat you out onto a fire road briefly before winding back up through the trees. This climb seemed never ending and the small bit of reliefs that did come from a downhill section was short lived as turning out into the fire road the course once again climbed up! This to me was the most challenging section because the ground was loose stones which seemed to sap my energy even in practise this was tough, I didn’t let myself get worried about what racing it would be like I just looked for the hard packed areas and watched my line ready for tomorrow. The next section was again part of the trail centre and was a brilliant set of berms, sadly we were riding up them instead of down them which wasn’t so fun! 1km to go, and to me the best 1km tight roots single track leading to a bomb hole drop which was slightly on a bend making it a little more interesting sent you flying up the bank on the other side and headed up and back into the arena.
Back at the tent we got changed and went to the rock garden to watch the open and sport category’s race, it was carnage! We met the trail builders who were beaming at how technically challenging their rock garden was, it claimed two collar bones and a nose over the course if Saturday confirming in my head that the B line was the better option, even though I felt sure I could ride the A line having ridden things like it in Scotland.
Saturday evening the wind picked up and the rained moved in, luckily by 09.00 on Sunday it had gone and made way for bright sunshine and blue skies making racing conditions pretty good.
At 10.45 I stood on the start line of my last national race in the Expert category feeling very proud of what I had achieved the year had not been ideal, with a dislocated arm meaning I missed two months racing as well as valuable training time, but that didn’t matter now, I was here fit and ready to give it he’ll one last time.
The start was fast and as I expected I found myself battling to stay with the lead riders, not having quite as much speed as they did. I worked hard and started to pull back riders, but found the climbs so tough my heart rate reached 189 and I new I needed to bring it down to last four laps of this demanding course so I eased off a little and took a gel for an added boost. My first lap felt slow and I left the arena on my second lap after 30 mins knowing I had to work hard to bring back the others. I watched the time and made assessments at different points in the course as to how fast it was compared to my previous lap, coming into the arena I was 4 mins up on my last lap and felt good as I left the arena and started my fire road decent I saw Jenny she was not far ahead so I kept pushing trying to close the gap.
The next lap and a half went by quickly as I kept my head down and kept pushing forward as I came back in on my fourth lap I could now see Helen too and pushed hard to catch her, I lost her on the fire road but was motivated by knowing she wasn’t far ahead! A silly slip coming into the forest cost me time and I had to wait at the bottom of the rack garden as three elite girls charged down it all costing me time but instead of panicking (like normal) I kept calm and worked hard coming back into the arena I had given 110% I crossed the finish line only four second behind Helen which I was very happy about.
1st Lap: 28.50
2nd Lap: 27.16
3rd Lap: 26.59
4th Lap: 28.26