What a weekend! Beautiful weather, bike racing and best of all I was NOT at work. This weekend I avoided the Bedford 3 day stage race. I am still very new to road racing and so far this season my confidence has been pretty rock bottom. Therefore I decided to try something a little different. My training partner Di (previous MBG guest rider in Malta) and I teamed up to race the singletrack enduro 6h MTB race. This race is set in the beautiful location of Catton Park. The course consists of twisty single track and lots and lots of draggy leg busting climbs. Di and I probably would not consider ourselves mountain bikers. Having been shown how a proper girl DH rider hits the descents riding with Anna, we set about in the weeks before practising our skills as much as possible.
Race day arrived and we were greeted with glorious sunshine. Di still insisted on trying to wear leg and arm warmers - she believes these offer some sort of skin protection when she falls off. We managed to wrestle the leg warmers off her once temperatures reached 20 degrees. The race started with a short 1/4mile run before jumping on the bikes. Di being the ironman triathlete that she is was happy to do the run. She lined up on the front row elbow to elbow with the men. The whistle blew and she was off. She came round the corner to collect her bike in the top 20! I started to feel rather sick. Acutely aware Di was pulling off an absolute stormer I was going to have a great deal to live up to. I sprinted out on to my first lap only to realise my front mech wasn't working. It looked like the whole race was going to be done in the big ring (my legs shuddered at the thought).
We were lapping in approx 35minutes which was an all out max HR effort. This left little time in between laps to catch your breath, wolf down a mule bar and open a can of coke. The laps were unrelenting and by the 3rd lap we had dropped to second place. As I waited for Di to come in to hand over I started to get nervous as again we were a couple of minutes down and I needed to make up some ground. Di came flying into the arena shouting that the other team had had a problem and we were back in front. I went off like a woman possessed determined to make every advantage. I hit one of the more bumpy descents and something went wrong. My rear mech would no longer shift. Panting and sweating I fumbled about trying to fix it but in my panic I couldn't see what was wrong. Unfortunately I was stuck in the smallest cog on the back. I managed to get the chain on to the front little ring and managed to muscle the last quarter of lap. Thankfully the boys managed to fix my rear mech (no luck with the front). We had lost a little time and going into our fifth and final laps Di had a 1min50 lead. In the previous lap the other girls had put 3 minutes into me. Victory was looking unlikely.
With Di's boyfriend Gary shouting on encouragement and time gaps, Di managed to put in another fantastic lap giving me a 4 min lead on my final lap. I was shattered, my right calf had blown up and the pressure was starting to get to me. Shaking with nerves I set off again. Constantly telling myself this is it, this is to finally get that win, that first ever win, this is to prove you are not a looser. All the way round I willed myself on, taking another gear when my legs were screaming. The other team had still put 30 seconds into me. Coming into the last section of the course, bang it happened again my rear mech. swearing and cursing I jumped off, trying to keep calm I managed to fix it. Jumping on again for the penultimate climb I gave it all I could. Coming round the final corner I looked back, no sign of the competition. Finally I could ride into the finish - we had won. I managed in my exhaustion to put one arm in the air (victory salutes aren't something I've needed before). 6hours of close racing 5 x 35minute all out intervals and I was spent. Limping off my bike, my right calf finally gave up. Luckily Di caught me. She was a fantastic team mate, knowing she was giving it everything on every lap allowed me to push thoughts of pain and fatigue aside.