It's here, the biggest race of the year is upon us. This is the race we work so hard for all year. And it's being held at Hadleigh farm, which was the venue for the 2012 Olympics. I have heard so much about this course, the good the bad and the ugly.
I was lucky enough to get up to Hadleigh the Saturday before hand with a guided tour from my team mate Thomas Timberlake, and the course did not disappoint. It was loads of fun, the technical sections lived up to there name, riding up towards the technical rock section was always a little intimidating but once you got passed them you thought actually that wasn't so bad. Once we found the lines through the technical sections they actually become fun to ride and had much more flow then I first thought. The hardest part of the course was the loose corners. They lead you in to a false sense of security, as you entered a corner at speed it felt like the burms would hold you but all of a sudden the tyres would lose traction on the loose gravel and the old bum cheeks tense up ready for impact (which luckily never come) this was much trickier then the technical sections in my eyes.
After 5 laps we called it a day. I felt I had a enough knowledge of the course to look back on coming up to national champs.
In the week coming up to the national champs I was pretty busy so only got 3 hours of training in on the bike. 20 minutes at the local bmx track an hour around a motorbike enduro course on the xc bike and an hour and a half doing my bit for my sponsor taking a group of riders around the local woods. I stayed positive and just thought the rest would have done me some good.
The weekend of the champs had arrived, I shared a lift with team mate Steve Jones in the banjo love bus. We arrived just passed midday on the saturday and just missed practice. We was greeted by Chris dobson hobbling towards us, he had a little off and tore his knee apart showing us the gory pictures (yeah cheers chris - I hope recovery is going well) well this got the nerves going a little.
We were lucky enough to get a spot to set up a team banjo cycles gazebo in the trade arena, by the time we set that up the track was soon open for practice. I went out and rode 5 laps to learn the course and get my lines dialled. I felt good, fresh and ready to race.
I was asked by Matt Payne - who I must add does an absolutely blinding job on the mic, never fails to keep me entertained between races, sometimes I'm not sure if I'm laughing with him or at him but the important thing is he's got me laughing....... Anyway back to it, he kindly asked me to meet and greet the winners of the sport/fun/open races to the podiums which I felt more than privileged to do.
We stayed at a local B&B as the camping was sold out online (turned out there was loads of spare camping space)
Sunday.... race day was here.
We arrived at the venue just in time to catch the start of team mate Thomas Timberlake race and what a race. The boy did Banjo cycles proud bring home a silver medal. What a great result. The race of the day for me was in the youth male race, the group of three at the front had me buzzing. I couldn't get enough of the action between these guys. It was a tough battle and on the fourth and final lap Daniel Tullett and Ross Harnden managed to pull a gap on third place Calum Fernie, with Ross leading he started to attack towards the final hill climb to the finish line, Dan gave chase and started closing in by this point I was bouncing all over the place my heart was racing, it was neck and neck towards the line and Dan pipped Ross to the post. My legs was left shaking... what a race!!
This geared me up so much for my race I couldn't wait to get started and it had only just gone 10.15am my race wasn't until 15.15. I went and got a practice lap in to calm myself down which lead up to Steve Jones race. He set off at 10.45 so I watched his race and shouted abuse from the side line. He put in a good solid effort with his race with his last two lap times getting quicker. After his race I was just walking around trying to keep myself occupied talking to anyone and everyone who made eye contact. This takes my mind off the race which helps me keep super relaxed and stress free. Plus it gives me the opportunity to catch up with fellow riders and just gave a good laugh.
I watched the woman's races unfold whilst continuing to find victims to chat to, before I knew it the time had come to gear up and start warming up for my race. 15.15 had arrived we was all gridded on the line. I was on the front row gridded number 5. With the lucky number 7 on my number board and race with the previous races in the day I was feeling ready for this. We got the dreaded line "In the next 15 seconds i'll blow the whistle to start the race" bang the race starts and we're off straight in to a climb I managed to get in front after the first little climb and lead the pack out of the arena under the finish line to begin our first lap, I only managed to hold off grant ferguson for half a lap then he attacked on a hill climb, I gave chase and pushed hard keeping him within a few seconds of me, by the end of the first lap grant was 7 seconds in front, he pulled about 10 seconds per lap in to me, I just focused on my race and gave 100%, digging extra deep when needed and trying to recover where possible. It was a tough race with no let ups, especially when you're trying to chase a world class rider that Grant is. Grant finished the 8th and final lap 1 minute 34 seconds in front of me, I come across the line with trade mark wheelie to take the silver spot on the podium. David fletcher put in a flying last lap to take the bronze and final spot on the podium. I congratulated the rest of the riders coming through, I was buzzing from the race, I wasn't sure if I was happy that the race had finish and could breathe again or the fact I enjoyed the race so much. I think it was a mix of it all.
It was an all round awesome weekend and to come away with a silver medal is just the best.
A massive thanks to Hadleigh park for setting up a great course and all the effort they put in to the weekend. Thanks to British cycling for putting on the event.
THANKS to my sponsors for their great and continued support Banjo cycles - Raceware direct - Specialized - Torq - TheTurbine and of course a special thanks to my brother Gary and his wife olga for their continued support and getting me out to the world cups it wouldn't be possible without them sorting everything out and driving me there.
Thanks to Matt Payne for entertaining us all weekend. A special thanks to Paul Hopkins mum Rosie Lea Hopkins for the lucky Heather and looking into her glass bowl and sending positive vibes my way hahaha. Thanks to Tony Timberlake for feeding me and to Morgan Jones for sitting in the 2nd pits just in case.
And last but not least thank you to all the supporters and spectators shouting and cheers everyone on and creating a great atmosphere throughout the whole weekend. You really helped when the going got tough. Thanks to all the photographer's capturing all the action and sharing your images for everyone to see and for memories in years to come.
I wish all the casualties from the weekend a speedy recovery, hopefully we'll see you all at cannock chase for the final round of the national series.
All the best