To start the month off, I headed to Pembrey Country Park in Llanelli, South Wales with team mate Ben Farrer for the first round of the British Cycling National XC Series. With 2016 being my first year with a race license, and my first time entering National-level races, I had no idea what to expect and went into the race with the sole intention of doing as well as I possibly could, but mainly to gain some experience and see just what I’d be up against for other rounds in the series.
It was a pretty drab weekend, having rained best part of Friday and Saturday, and as we arrived at the course on Saturday morning, we spent a good hour or so taking shelter in the van before losing hope the rain would subside and heading to registration.
With my race not starting until mid-afternoon, we headed out on course to get a couple of practice laps in. The course was great fun to ride, and although there were only a couple of steep climbs to play to my strengths, it was fairly flat and flowy giving plenty of opportunities to put down some power.
With Battle on the Beach being hosted in Pembrey just a few weeks prior to the National race, I was expecting there to be an element of sand as part of the course. What I wasn’t prepared for however, was the horrendous noise my drivetrain would make as a result! Getting back to the van, I think I must have spent in excess of half an hour frantically trying to de-grit my bike to suppress the crunching and grinding noises every time I turned the cranks – there’s nothing worse than a noisy bike.
Having not gained a series ranking from last year, I was given a start gridding of 43rd, which was pretty much right at the back, and I think I was pretty much the last person to leave the start field as the race headed into the woods. As the race progressed, I was able to continue picking away at riders, with some close racing towards the last couple of laps with a group of 3 or 4 other riders.
The race was relatively short with just 4 laps, and I crossed the line in just over an hour in 22nd place – far from an amazing result, but for my first National level race, I wasn’t too disappointed. Interestingly, my final lap was the fastest of them all, showing I clearly had plenty left in the tank and maybe I should have pushed harder; something to focus on for the future.
Thanks to A Cycling for the superb organisation, and to team mate Ben Farrer for the trip sharing!
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