But it didn’t start well. After 3 hours sleep and a rubbish warm up, I rolled into the first lap of the flat, fast course in 3rd gear and never moved out of it! Sitting 5th I watched as my teammates Kerry and Jessie knocked lumps out of each other a few seconds up the road. They reeled in GB’s Beth Crumpton while I stayed at a safe distance then Kerry punctured and I overtook all 3 to try and claw my way back into race contention with the Belgian National Champion way up front. But 3rd gear was never going to be enough for that and with screaming legs I contented myself with finishing 2nd.
The course beat me down. Long drags through lumpy grass, tight turn through trees, bunny hops over logs and a surprising little BMX track interlude made for a diverse 5 lap race in Braintree, Essex.
I watched from the crack in the door of the dope control tent (for the top 2 finishers plus 1 random sample) as the men’s race got underway and stayed there for its entirety while I tried to rehydrate enough to provide a urine sample! So glamorous. Now Dave Henderson and I are having a mini break in a premier inn at Stanstead airport before flying to Croatia on Tuesday for another Cat 1 race and back to back marathon. Bit more glamorous (not the premier inn part necessarily).
It really really hurt. Having had a bit of a later start to my winter training than usual this race was to be my first top end effort of 2014. And it felt like it.
The course weaved through dusty red trails between olive groves high on a hill above the blue lake of Banyoles. In the distance the white peaks of the Pyranees provided the perfect backdrop for the first round of the Copa de Cataluna.
66 women were set off sandwiched between 200 guys so the entire race was spent battling to keep position. I didn’t quite have the fight in me so found myself losing place after place to male riders who would force braking and increase the distance between the leading female riders and me. Having held a solid 3rd place for a the first lap I found that by the second I had slipped back to 6th which is where I would stay for the remainder of the race.
Such a physical course through rutted field and up short power climbs. I now feel as though I have been run over by a bus and made to inhale a desert. Am I selling mountain bike racing to anyone?
In the men’s race, Kenta Gallagher held onto a ferocious start effort to finish in the 20’s. Dave Henderson followed a few mins down then Ian Paton (wee legend in his first elite level race) just after. Gareth Montgomerie got held up in a crash at the start and never regained his time penalty but finished strong for a solid top 40 finish.
In all a good first Category 1 race for the Scottish Team. Now we get cared for at Mas Pelegri by Girona Cycling for the following week to build on our fitness as strength in preparation for the season ahead.
Not a bad place to unwind…
I’m in Spain on International Woman’s Day and it’s the eve of my first mountain bike race of the 2014 season. It’s been a rocky winter but I’m stronger than I deserve to be and I find that for the first time ever before a race I’m not filled with an excitement that tips over to dread. Instead my excitement feels just like excitement and I am actually looking forward to racing this Cat 1 event in Banyoles, Girona tomorrow. Is this experience? A shift in values? Perspective? Not sure but it feels good.
In the sporting world (and particularly the mountain bike one) masculinity dominates. All the things traditionally thought of as comprising a good athlete ; competitiveness, combatively, aggression, physical strength, a set of bollocks to produce testosterone, I will now attempt to put a bomb under.
As it’s International Woman’s Day, let’s examine some traditionally female personality traits in terms of elite sporting performance. Patience, physical endurance, intuition, emotional attunment. These things are just as important and quite often overlooked. I’m not saying that woman are better than men at sport. I’m saying than an individual not afraid to embrace both the masculine and feminine attributes within themselves will be the ones to watch when that gun goes.
Wish both parts of my personality luck tomorrow!!