Arriving at the course on saturday, I soon realised that this one would be a true test of skill and fitness. The course was described as "old skool" by many, meaning that there wasn't anything in the way of man made groomed berms or surfaces here. Instead, what you basically had was a lot of climbing up some very steep and loose fireroads, through some wooded sections and then a long, natural surfaced singletrack descent through the trees which was full of holes/roots and technical bits to really catch you out. A real nice course!
Myself and Dave stayed at the friendly Fyrish B+B where we recieved a nice warm welcome, with the lady owner even letting us use her kitchen to knock up some Pasta the night before the race, having failed to find somewhere locally that actually served Pasta (Dingwall people appear to live on chippy's and indians...). Anyhow, the B+B brewed Pasta satisfied the fueling strategy perfectly, and after a good nights sleep and some pre-race oatmeal, were good to go!
It appeared that i'd have a good fight on my hands at this one, as Ross Creber (Science in Sport/Trek), Andrew Barlow (Whyte Bikes), James Fraser Moodie (Pedalpower) and Kenny Riddle (An ex-scottish champion) amongst others, were all registered at sign-on. Not so bad I thought, a top 5 and I would be happy. However, I had the gut desire to really lay things out today and try and beat Andy as he's only been winning from me by a small margin in the last few races.
Off the start and into the climb. Ross Creber, being a full time cyclist and british olympic development squad rider, really ripped things apart with a mega fast start, with everyone breathing out their rears trying to hang onto the pace up the climb. I did my usual kind of thing, starting a bit slower but keeping an eye on Andy, and after the first lap, I was right on his wheel, dicing for 2nd position. I felt within my comfort zone on the climbs so decided to hold position and let things unfold. Lap 3 came and James Fraser Moodie appeared to be closing on us. After seeing this, Andy attacked hard and pulled out maybe 30-40 seconds on me, but I just kept the current pace going as I thought it was too early in the race to be digging deep. James never managed to close me down completely, and dropped back during the next lap, where I started to close in on Andy again. Lap 4 and I was on his wheel again, and I could tell he was suffering so decided to make the move. Into the climb, I stepped things up a gear, which proved successful and I arrived at the top of the course solo (although hurting quite a bit) and knew at this point I was home-free unless I made a major mistake on the technical descent. I soon arrived across the line in 2nd, 2mins in front of Andy, with Ross winning, being a good few mins in front of me. A very tough race indeed, but with a very euphoric outcome. Such a good feeling accomplishing what you've set out to do!
Right now, i've decided to take my first rest week of the year for both a physical and mental break, so have been relaxing and doing a bit of walking and stuff. All the racing sure takes it out of you, i've been sleeping like a baby for 10-11hrs the past few nights and am constantly hungry. I like to think of it as repair mode. I haven't even taken my bike out of the Van! My sister is also home at the weekend so we are going to do a spot of Trout Fishing, and i'm also planning on getting the motorbike (Honda Fireblade) on the road.That's it for now, catch you people later :-)