Up early to meet the lads from WORC and to scab a lift to lovely lovely Lurgan. Racing up North always has a different feel to it, you dont know who's going to line up and it makes for better racing as you dont know just how hard the others can go. Add to that first race of the season and you have a perfect recipie for a good race.
Last years nationals were hosted in Lurgan and it proved to be a mixed bag, good but not great, not a race i'd rank as A1 but not a B class race. Yesterday the Apollo boys pulled all the stops out and the course was as good as any UCI cat race you are going to get in the UK.....not as good as the St Anne's round mind you ;)
Warmed up with the WORC boys (my other club) which felt good, all 5 of us trucking around, checking out the roots and lines and generally looking professional. I'm sure we looked like cocks but sure thats just the way. 5 laps warm up, then told the race is 30mins late, 2 more slow paced laps and we're lining up. Very warm day by cross standards so shorts and jerseys were the order of the day, long finger gloves still though.
30 seconds to start, clip in right foot, look for a line through the mess that's about to occur. GO, hard out, hitting max HR in about 30 seconds, into the first 15 and hitting the first bend, get a few places here and push push push. Boards, flat, boards, uphill and corneres, singletrack, straightaway, start finish area. 9 more times around this...this is going to suck.
Ollie on left, Arek on the right, Polish Ultra Man!
Got dropped by the bunch on lap 3 and ended up in no mans land. Stuck it out for a lap then let Arek and Ollie from MAD get up onto me, hid behind Arek into the wind section, passed him on all the tech stuff. Ollie was there 2 seconds ago..where's he gone! Good hard racing, needed to stay alert as Arek was bound to attack me. Laps 6-7 i recovered, watched Arek and figured i could beat him on the last straight and all the runs, on the singletracks i needed to get ahead of him, he owned me there. Must work on my twisty stuff.
Lap 8 it all kicked off, we had picked up another northern rider and they started rotating attacks on me into all the single track sections. Had to dig in hard so as to not get beaten to them. Every time we got in i eased up and tried to get the breathing under control while checking every 5 seconds. Mind was getting tired but the body was even worse, cramping, needing to puke, usual joys of cross.
Massive attack from Arek, tried to go around me on the straight. out of the saddle 50*14 trying to get ahead of him, massively late breaking into a corner nearly puts me in the spectators but he didn't get past. Suffering, need to recover. Northern lad attacks, cant get his wheel, he's into the singletrack before me, riding fast need to catch him. Cant get him, flat section, Arek goes past. Boards, the boards will save me, these guys cant run. Hit the boards section flat out, in between the lads and running hard, quick mount and back on the gas, ahead, now recover on the twisty climb. Second boards, 5m's on them. Into the single track Arek right on my wheel, can hear him breathing hard, he's on the edge. Must attack early.
Last section of single track i'm clicking up the gears, hitting the exit onto the fast section i'm in 50*15 and still going faster, click, out of the saddle, click, sprinting, 100m to go, quick glance, he's blown! Click click click down, squeal go the brakes, right, left 180 turn, roll over the line. Roll around catching my breath, shake hands with the lads, roll off and try to keep the vomit down, i need a drink bad. Stomach and thighs cramping. Best feeling in the world.