By Ollie Rastall
Matterley Estate just outside Winchester was the location for the first in the Southern XC series. A potential quagmire was narrowly avoided thanks to a late start time of 1430, giving the course some time to dry out. Morning starters had a tough time of it apparently.
Choice of tyres might have been key but I didn’t feel too compelled to switch them so just made do with my Ardent Race/Ardent combo and whilst I slipped a fair bit, I don’t think that could’ve been avoided.
A pretty small but strong Expert category made for a fast start and I was jockeying between 2nd and 3rd for a lap or two then dropped a bottle and lost the wheels of the mini bunch.
The mud was very tacky at times and was quite a grind. At times, you’d be pushing huge watts yet not really moving. High winds swept through the course but somehow we never seemed to be affected.
The course was well designed yet lacking a bit of thrill. Slow speed switchbacks demanded good bike handling skills with particular attention to keeping the outside foot weighted on slippy off-camber roots and putting the power down at the right time.
A steep climbing section of rooty switchbacks followed by a slow grassy uphill slog helped split the field at times, and on the latter laps this is where I felt my power lacking.
Over 5 laps my spread was 5.6%, which shows some consistency, but I definitely felt like I wasn’t able to offer any bursts of repeatable power. Back to the training plans!
All in all, it was a half-decent result (6th) for an early-ish race on the calendar but plenty of work to be done.