After a week off training in which I simply rode my bike for fun with my cousin who was visiting from England, I started the first build phase of my training two weeks ago. The focus has moved away from base training elements, but not totally, and onto more race specific elements. In particular the race elements which are limiters for me. This means we are looking in particular at explosive power to enable fast starts and technical descending directly after a climb, which has taken me over threshold heart rate. This might sound mad, but I have learnt to really get into these sessions. It’s taken a while but I now realise that I have to devote serious time and effort into my limiters. It’s no good just training what you’re good at.
Marathon car journey
Many people might think that a 14-hour car journey for a 70-minute bike race is crazy; maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.
Round two of the British National Series took place at Newnham Park, Plymouth last weekend and I went with the intention of making a statement.
One goal for this race was a top 10 finish from a start position on the last row of the grid. A further goal was to be able to race well despite a long journey, lack of sleep and little practice time. Therefore, you see, it wasn’t just about a 70-minute bike race.
There are not many courses in Britain which suit my strengths, namely climbing, in particular steep climbs, that’s why we had no doubts about the 14 hour drive being worth the effort. We’d had reliable reports that Newnham was for climbers and I wanted to race in Britain.
We set off from Darmstadt on Thursday night to catch our 5am ferry from Calais. Dad did his usual ‘Withnail and I’ “…making time” lines as he raced the navigation, proudly lopping off 15 minutes from the ETA.
We arrived in Dover, set our watches back an hour to 06:00 and set off along the south west towards Plymouth, a place neither of had ever been to before. We arrived after what seemed like the longest car journey ever, which I’m sure is down to British motorways being coned off to one or two lanes for all but the briefest of sections and Dad’s serious lack of knowledge about the south of England.
Anyway, we arrived in Plympton around 11am and headed straight for the nearest supermarket to stock-up on Soreen. What a marvel that stuff is! Having cleared the Co-op’s shelf of Soreen, we set up camp at the beautiful Newnham Park. What a wonderful spot to camp. Magic!
Training times were seriously limited and we weren’t even allowed to walk the course on Friday. Restricting the training sessions to a couple of hours Saturday morning and the same again Saturday afternoon meant that the technical sections were congested with riders standing over them looking, fretting and generally not getting on with the business of riding lines. Nevertheless, I got all my lines sorted by Saturday evening and knew exactly which tyres I’d be on in the race.
Starting from the last row of the grid, the plan was clear if not simple; get to the front as soon as possible and work up through the field on the climbs. Unfortunately the rider in front on the start grid unclicked and forced me onto the inside line and as a result I became boxed in and unable to get out until the field was strung out.
On the first climb I moved steadily up through the big field of elite and junior riders and by the end of lap one was up into 10th in the junior race but the three leaders were able to pull away as they had a clear track in front of them.
Maintaining consistent lap times was something I’ve been working on in training and this enabled me to hold position and pass when possible. With one lap to go, I had moved up into 7th place and was closing in on the three riders ahead fighting for 4th spot. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough race left to catch the group but I came over the line 7th and satisfied with the weekend’s work.
Vans & Tents
One thing both my Dad and I really felt strongly was the difference in the atmospheres between racing in Britain and racing in Switzerland or Germany or Austria. In Britain, the atmosphere is inclusive, open and informal. In Germany, Switzerland and Austria, the atmosphere is cold, exclusive and very serious. The Brits tend to use more tents and vans for camping as opposed to motorhomes. Practically everyone at the races over here uses a motorhome and I believe this tends to encourage people to stay locked away inside rather than socialise.
The next race is in Singen, Germany at the UCI MTB World Marathon Series on 8th May.