By Ollie Rastall
Perfect conditions welcomed us to the first XC race of 2019 and ideal conditions for an XC race.
Having done a recce the day before the race, I’d had a chance to assess the course and terrain. Despite riding frequently at Minley and knowing many most of the runs, the good folk at Gorrick had designed many new trails.
Choice of rig was my hardtail on summer race tyres and I think it was the correct choice. If it has been at all wet, the course would have been extremely tricky. The off camber loamy lines would have required the full winter tyre setup and the never ending roots might have seen a few nasty falls.
As usual, I started too far back on the grid and spent much of my first two laps finding opportunities to pass riders and staying patient when stuck behind people on single track.
After a couple of laps, I settled in with one of a the 4 hour vets and we held the same pace for a good few laps. My first of two low speed spills occurred with him hot on my tail as I misjudged a tricky off camber dip, colliding with a tree and being thrown off into the bouncy loam.
I didn’t have a clear idea of where I was in the overall standings until lap 3 when I heard the PA announcer state I was in 3rd.
As the 2 hour mark ticked over I felt pretty good but was conscious that my nutrition and hydration would dictate my ability to continue at a similar pace.
Without a power meter on my hardtail, I used HR to gauge my effort. The first two hours was an average of 163 and I felt that I needed to drop it by a few beats per minute in order to avoid bonking, finishing with an average of 158bpm.
As the course began to thin out, I found myself alone for most of the laps. A lack in concentration saw me choose the wrong line in a narrow section and my handlebar clipped a tree which saw me hit the deck again.
My body was well and truly rattled by the relentless roots and lack of rear suspension and cramp began to rear it’s ugly head just after the 3 hour mark.
Seeing my wife and kids at the feed station was a nice little boost but I’d chosen not to utilise the opportunity to refuel and instead opt for full self sufficiency with my USWE race back pack (1.5l), one bottle and a pocket full of nuts and dried fruit.
Safely in second place, I looked back on several occasions to see if 3rd place was in hot pursuit but a significant gap meant I didn’t need to continue at full gas and finished the 7th lap without going into the red.
All in all, a tough and relatively strong start to the season. I’m not entirely sure of the strength of the 4 hour field but it’s satisfying to get a podium at the first time of asking this year.
With the CBBR 4 day stage race in Spain at the end of the month, I feel like I’ve ticked a box in terms of preparation but more work is to be done in the coming weeks.
Overall time: 03:35:41
00:26:16, 00:29:55, 00:29:56, 00:31:00, 00:31:47, 00:33:00, 00:33:45