Monday, 17 March 2014

Southern XC Rnd.1 at Wasing Estate

And here we go, a racing season has started!
Still not recovered from the Andalucia Bike Race (apparently it takes a month to recover from a stage race and being in my second week, I can believe it's true), I decided to remind the legs how to do shorter, more intensive rides at the 1st Round of Southern XC League in Wasing.
It's a course with a few interesting technical features and this year another drop was added, with a 6-feet hole at the bottom. I'm a bit angry with myself that I didn't ride it (the only woman who tried it in a practice lap, left the course with a broken collar bone) - before the race I didn't have the head, afterwards I didn't have the legs. I need to learn to gap-jump!

The weather was lovely, with cloudless sky and 20 degrees, and it was fantastic to be out and meet all the racing buddies after a long winter break. The course was mainly singletrack, with already mentioned gap-drop, another steep drop in the middle of the course, a few smaller "steps" drops and countless twists and turns where you need to react quickly and dodge the trees. It is also all roots and shakes you up well!
And it was also my first race as an Elite in the UK - times for fierce competition have arrived!

I started in the middle of the pack and slid to the back within first 10 seconds. I made up some time in a twisty singletrack but lost it again on the next climb. I wasn't surprised that I was slow, I knew my legs were still flat after all the racing I did in Spain but I was surprised how far back I fell and how weak I felt. And it wasn't only the legs, my lungs were hurting, I couldn't catch my breath, my heart was pounding, my temples were pulsing, I felt generally bad.
On my second lap I thought I'd call it a day and go home but decided to stick for another while because "even a bad race is a good training" and I needed a high-intensity training.
I started the third lap just in front Junior men and soon was being overtaken by the fastest guys however after another 10 minutes I found myself around riders I could stick to, which provided a new dose of motivation and some entertainment. I stuck to one particular guy, working hard to stay on his wheel (it wasn't hard in the singletrack but I had to push hard on any climb) and soon started to remind myself what racing was about. As the intensity grew, I started to feel better and better, I started enjoying the course, the harder I rode, the more fun I had.
At the beginning on the fourth lap I caught one Elite woman and soon left her behind, with every minute I felt better and rode faster. If I started weak and low, I finished happy and energised. So that's what XC racing was about, now I remember :D

My laptimes tell the story well:

And what's great is that after moving up to the Elite I'm doing one lap more than last year and a longer race should theoretically be harder. After Andalucia however, it still feels short and sweet :)
And so the season has started...

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