I'm not entire sure I know how to start this blog/statement of intent, which is pretty apt considering its purpose. I suppose an introduction is the best and most obvious place to finally get these wheels in motion – pun intended. My name’s Andy, I'm an XC MTB fan who is hovering perilously close to his 40th birthday. A family man with bills to pay, kids to nurture into a viable retirement plan and a family orientated sports utility vehicle to obsessively clean . Throw in a beer, cake and biscuit fuelled midriff that is beginning to clamber for freedom over the belt of my ever expanding waistline and you may start to build a familiar picture. I suppose what I'm trying to say, in a meandering kinda round-about way, is that I'm pretty much normal. An average Joe who is approaching midlife armed with a 9-5 job, a slightly high cholesterol level and a draw full of underused lycra! I'm the perennial ‘gonna, shoulda, coulda’ and fully paid up member of the last minute excuses club; starter of much, finisher of not a lot.... but I’m about to change all that! Here’s the plan… I want to race! I want to train hard, learn new skills and stick myself onto a XC MTB start line, but how do I start? What kit do I need? Where should I race? Is it expensive? What category should I enter? Is my current bike up to the job? Do I need a Race Licence? Is my body up to it? How do I begin to train? What is a training plan? Do I need to have great bike skills? Should I shave my legs? Will I make a prat of myself? Did I leave the oven on? So many questions, and hopefully, over time, they’ll be questions we’ll be able to answer together. Now I'm not a complete newbie to the sport, but my XC racing experience is only that of a fan and pushy parent. I've never had to pin a number on myself (and there’s another; how do you pin a number on correctly and how do you attach a number to a bike?), so over the next few months I’m making it my pre 40th year mission to finally race, and along the way answer a few niggling questions newbie riders may want to know but are possibly a little too nervous to ask – and to also attempt to disprove a few XC related myths I've heard along the way. I also want to try and answer another couple of those nagging questions that I’ve had floating around: Do you need to spend a fortune on top end, lightweight carbon kit or will a sub £1000 bike bought on the cyclescheme keep you in the mix? And at what point do you need to consider coaching? In a nutshell, can you race competitively on a very tight budget? After each update I’ll be asking for your input. A chance for you to either added extra questions to the project or for you to answer up and help out as we (myself and UKXCNews) build a library of questions and answers that will hopefully serve new racers well over the coming years. First Steps For me, the mission has already begun. I’ve this week started a very simple training schedule that I’ll turn into a proper training plan over the next couple of weeks. So stay tuned for the next update where we’ll look at taking the first steps and constructing your first training plan. If you want to follow my progress away from the blog, then feel free to catch me on the old social media: Twitter: @AndyMawer Instagram: @andy_xcmtb Strava: www.Strava.com/athletes/andy_xcmtb Happy pedalling folks and I’ll see you on the start line very soon!!