After dislocating my elbow five weeks ago I have only been out on proper single track a couple of times. I have had to re build some of my confidence and realise that my elbow is not just going to pop out of joint again!
So today was my first race of the season and my first race in the Expert Category, The Southern Cross Country Series at Crow hill. Arriving at Crow Hill near Ringwood in the New Forest the rain seemed to have cleared, but it was evident from the drive in, that the ground had been saturated making the conditions less than ideal!
My practise lap didn’t go great. I felt tired and my nerves were really affecting my performance. The course was roughly a 5 mile lap of undulating single track with two cart track sections linking the forest trail together. The course was interesting, twisting and turning through the trees, but the saturated ground did not make for easy riding! In places the puddles on the course had turned to bogs and it was hard to tell what was muddy puddle and what was tree route! There were some technical sections where the ground was off camber which, with so many tyre tracks made it hard to find a good line through the mud resulting in everyone sticking within the tracks of the person in front of them.
I got back after my practise lap with 10 minutes until my race started at 10, not the best of rests !After a quick banana, change of top and loo stop and I was on the starting line.
We were gridded in categories and then all sent off together, I did not get a good start ! The start was open field which narrowed quickly onto single track due to my hesitation I didn’t attack to get a good place going into the single track which left me behind people who I could of been riding in front of.
After a little while I had overtaken a couple of riders. I couldn’t see the two girls in my category though which was a bit disheartening, but worked hard on closing the gap. I felt nervous because of my elbow and especially through the thick mud sometimes it was hard to tell the ground from the tree roots so I never felt like I could go totally flat out.
Overall this race was not the best start to the season! My lap times were slow and my confidence was not great which made me lose focus on riding. On reflection I could have ridden more aggressively but at the time was riding defensively to protect my arm, which in the circumstances I had decided was the best thing to do. I went to collect points and achieved that, so mission accomplished.
Drawing from the experience I was able to gauge where my fitness level and race readiness are and more importantly that my elbow was not an issue. Over the next few weeks I hope that my confidence will return and that the courses get dryer!
Total time: 02:24:08
1st lap: 00:42:31
2nd lap: 00:46:31
3rd lap: 00:55:06