Evening readers. I'm happy to say that i've just bagged myself another great result of the season with 3rd at the Scottish XC MTB Championships. The race was held down in Glennifer Braes, Paisley last weekend which provided a controversial course which had very little total climbing and long, grassy drags across fields and through a couple of wooded sections.
My good friend Dave Henderson who is dominating the Sport category this year offered to put me up for the weekend, which was great as he lives not too far away in Edinburgh (thanks for that again Dave). We both hit the course on the Saturday to get in a practice lap, but being more of a climber, I didn't hold out much hope of doing so well on the flatter course which kind of resembled a Belgian cyclocross circuit. Despite criticism, I actually quite liked the course and could tell it would really test your fitness to the max, as there was pretty much no-where to rest.
However, come race day, we were hit with some heavy rain and on walking up to sign-in we could see that everything had changed - the course had turned very muddy indeed. The fact that everyone was mounting up 1.5" Mud tyres didn't make me feel any better about the situation though, as I had an almost semi-slick rear and worn Conti Explorer up front, and no other tyres with me. Trying to stay calm, I knocked the pressure down a bit to try and find some grip.
The race was started 200m down a rather steep, World Cup style, tarmac road climb which had been closed off for the race. Being the championship round, Sport and Elite/Expert were all started together, so there was a fair old peleton of riders elbowing and shoving once the start whistle went. I took no chances at this one, and powered up the outside, straight into 3rd/4th position behind Andy Barlow before we hit the mud. The effects of my recent cold were soon evident as I was coughing up all sorts of nasty snot and flegm soon after the start (eww). Half a lap in, I was holding Andy's wheel, closely followed by James Fraser Moodie and another couple of riders. Up front, Gareth Mongtomerie (who had just won the Elite British National race the week before) and Rab Wardel were driving things on. Before long, James Fraser attacked and I followed through, which appeared to leave Andy unable to respond (!!). That was the last we saw of him for the race. The two of us plowed on ahead, but were soon joined by my mate Dave Henderson for the next lap or so (top effort Dave!).
From then on, it was pretty much myself and James battling and trying to stay upright for 3rd position. We kept getting shouts advising 1min to the leaders, but on lap 3, I made a bit of a mistake which gave James a little gap. However, in traditional style, I kept something for the last lap, and came past him just into lap 5, with him unable to follow. With my sights then set on Rab Wardel, who I could see just up front, it was "full hammer" to the finish. Disaster then struck with about 1km to go, as the rear mech jammed up, ripping the hanger clean off!! I proceeded to run with the bike, hoping that i'd make it to the line before James caught me. Let me tell you, the run hurt more than the entire race, I must have gone completely anaerobic for those few mins until I crossed the line, thankfully with James still out of sight.
Beaten up and caked with the finest Paisley mud, I was however quite content with 3rd spot on the podium. Nice to reach one of my other goals of the season. I also figured that the recent interval work must have payed off. I'm definately one of the lightest riders on the start list so doing so well on a flat course must mean that i've upped my wattage output a bit. Just wait for a course where power to weight comes into play - Fort William is the next round and it's on the World cup circuit ;-)