Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Bunclody, 25th March 2012

What a race!
As always Racing795 provided us with a well-organised event, the sign-on was quick, the timing system worked really well and the results were up online immediately after the race (they were uploaded in real time).  The marshals were where they were needed, making sure everybody is safe and given continuous encouragement, whether it was the first lap of the first race at 12:00pm, or the final lap 3 hours later. The course was brilliant, slightly different to the last year's one, with new singletracks added and 2 fireroads where one could grab a water-bottle or a gel. And at the end there were hot and cold drinks, cakes and biscuits. On top of that was the weather: blue skies, sun and 18 degrees.
Riders were gridded according to their results from last week's race (a short report here) and women were set off with one minute gap from the men (S1 ladies started at the back of S1 men). S2 ladies started after S2 men, which made much more sense than starting after S3 guys - it'd be good if that was set as a rule for the whole season.

I started well and hoped to get to the singletrack first, I felt Caroline at the back of my wheel and I knew she would sprint just before the entrance to the forest. I heard her gears shifting, did the same, but she was stronger and managed to overtake me. Paula was just behind us. A minute later the fastest of S3 guys caught up with us and I heard Marcin saying "steady pace Agata" while he was passing by. I knew that was a piece of good advice but it was difficult to stick to that in the racing buzz ;)
Another group of guys caught me in the singletrack, some of them saying "rider up when you can" (after which the rider in the front moves slightly to the side at the nearest place possible and let the faster one pass), others were just sticking to my wheel, saying nothing and trying to overtake in some stupid places without any warning.

Dear riders, were are all human and as such we have only one pair of eyes at the front of our heads. We don't know who is behind us. We cannot know if that person wants to overtake us or is happily sticking to our wheel. If you want to pass by, just say "rider up" (you can add something along the line of "when you can" or "when you have a chance" to keep the conversation nice, but if you're fighting for breath that may be a difficult task) - in that way everybody will stay informed, happy and safe (the last bit is probably the most important).
It always (ok, almost always) works so well when S1 riders are overtaking. They let you know they are approaching, they don't want to push you off the course but instead just to lean slightly to the side, 2 seconds later they are already in front of you, disappearing behind the next corner, without disturbing your race or causing dangerous situation.

Ok, back to the race. I climbed the second fireroad, which in the full sun felt like a frying pan, and I thought about withdrawing from the race once I roll down to the start/finish line. It all felt awful, all the body felt sick, and slow, and awful. Crowds overtook me on that climb. I hit another singletrack (the one with big rocks and small drops - the really cool one!) and when I was rolling down a flat stone slab, somebody appeared to my right and tried to overtake me there. There was no space there. I guessed I should have stayed where I was, without caring about the safety of the guy, but as it meant also my own safety, I dodged to the left. And that was when my front tyre burped. Not completely but enough to make the bike difficult to steer. And that was when I cursed my stupidy. I had been looking at the pump before the race, and I didn't take it. Stupid. There was just enough air to roll slowly the remaining tracks, taking care not to ride too fast and to avoid rocks, to run in places, to take the corners slowly. I'll never know how much time I lost there... Got a pump in the feedzone, lost another 40 seconds getting air in, while Conor L was swapping my bottles (thanks Conor!) and back to the race. And then I saw Paula walking down the road with a crank in her hand. Well, that's a quite useful part of a bike... Race over for her but she was still smiling :)
I climbed slowly, at my own pace, with not that many people around. Colm from Epic overtook me on the climb, I caught him in the forest, he got me on the next climb... I heard Marlena saying that Caroline was only a minute ahead. Ok, not bad, still 1.5 lap to go. Then Aine told me Caroline was 20-30 seconds ahead. But Aine always implements some improvements to timing ;) Then I heard "Caroline is maybe 2 minutes ahead" (Where the heck is she?) I decided I'd stick to Marlena's info and just keep going at my own pace and focus on riding the trails smoothly as mistakes cost a lot of time. I liked the second lap, and I loved the third one. I felt better and better as the race was progressing, I felt like doing another lap. I sprinted to the finish line, heard Sean saying "Where did that come from?" What came from where? A while later I found out I finished 40 seconds after Caroline. Close.

I hated that course 2 years ago, at the beginning of my racing adventure when I walked most of the course. I loved it last year, when I rode everything and got a proof of my improvement. I absolutely loved it this year. Already looking forward to 2013 one.

Conclusions from that race: I need to take air with me. I need to get more relaxed when riding with crowds around me. I need not to care about guys around shouting abuse, it's their problem. And there is basically just one thing I need to do to win the next race: I need to get faster.

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