This weekend National XC Champs takes place at the 2012 Olympic MTB venue Hadleigh Farm. As we make final preparations for the big event we first take a look back at the team’s race results from the last few weeks.

The UCI MTB World Marathon Championships this year took place in Val Gardena in the Dolomites on 27th June. The area really was the picture postcard place I'd seen on the internet. The 87km course had super tough climbs creating a total altitude gain of 4700 metres! Never since swapping to a single chainring have I wished for a double setup but here on this course that's what was needed. Fortunately the big climbs meant big descents and there was some great singletrack including some fun technical bits I was glad to have pre ridden.

The race was the most challenging day I can remember having on the bike for quite a while. The first 3 climbs for me were just about surviving and it wasn’t until the final climb that I felt I could really race. I finished completely spent and was so pleased to have John (Vermont Images) waiting at the finish for me, he did a great job driving the Vauxhall Vivaro over 100kms to the feed zones to keep me hydrated with USN.

It was great to represent Great Britain at the World Champs once again; it always feels good pulling on that jersey. The result of 71st wasn't what I'd hoped for but in reality 71st best in the World is still not too bad!

As a Junior Dylan raced numerous UCI MTB XC World Cups but the Lenzerheide World Cup on the 5th July would be his first as an Under 23. “I travelled over to Switzerland on Thursday, the 38 degree heat on arrival was a shock. Friday was a big practice day doing 5 laps and I also watched a bit of the DH qualifying which was pretty impressive! Saturday I did another couple of laps, was feeling good on course, and definitely riding the right bike, the Scott Spark was amazing over all the roots and rocks.

Sunday was race day and the Under 23 men's race was a 9am start, not something I’m been used to. It was already hot at the start and by the end it must have close to 30 degrees. I was gridded 56th after collecting just enough UCI points. The start was far from perfect colliding with the barriers, then being held up by the inevitable crash, then having to join the back of the scrum to get down the first single track section.

From then on it was a case of moving up when possible and trying not to make any silly mistake as the smallest hiccup would allow at least a couple of riders past, this is one of the main differences about racing at World Cups and abroad in general, even when you are racing around 70th you are still racing with other guys as the gaps are so tight all the way down the field.

Part way around my 5th lap I heard the lead motorbike coming up behind me, I was about to get pulled out by the 80% rule. 71st was my finish position. I learnt a lot from the experience and it was a reminder of where the level is.”

These 2 results leave Dylan and I hungry for more and every day will put that into our training as we look ahead to the next opportunity.

On the 5th July I attended the 3rd round of the Scott MTB Series which is going from strength to strength with 800 people attending this round in Church Stretton. This circuit is a firm favourite with fantastic trails and views from the top of the Long Mynd. The full marathon distance also visits the trails at Eastridge Forest which is a big highlight. After riding the event in 2014 I knew the course was good so took the opportunity to pre ride the whole 75kms on Saturday just to make the most of the trip.

As the event began Sunday we had the normal neutralized start followed by the first big acceleration as the car pulls off at the bottom of the first climb. I led down the first descent and on the following climb a group of 5 formed including Nick Craig, David Creber, Chris Andrews, Paul Oldham and myself. We stayed together nearly the whole distance enjoying the trails, having a good chat, and tasting the delights at the feed zones. The group was the first back to the arena, everyone happy after a great few hours on the bike. The next round of the Scott MTB Marathon Series is on the 2nd of August in Wantage, Oxfordshire.

Mark has been busy training hard in the lead up to a busy summer of international racing. With the British Cycling Junior team Mark took part in the Ras De Cymru road stage race. The

Junior’s took on the race as a training exercise but after day 1 found themselves at the front with Mark in the yellow leader’s jersey. Mark led the race for the first 3 days. The future of British mountain biking looks bright with the current crop of Junior’s.

On the 12th July Dylan raced the final round of the Welsh XC MTB Series. “I was looking for a good workout before the National Champs to test the form. The weather was far from summer like and it reminded me of Sherwood Pines earlier on in the season! I came away having had the workout needed and took the win giving me a good moral boost ahead of next weekend."

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