RACE REPORT: Open Race at Pembrey Country Park (National XC1)

Well, this didn’t end the way I would have liked!
In a very brief summary – I was an idiot and didn’t get my entry in on time, I had a nice 4 day holiday in Wales with my family, Pembrey was properly, properly sticky and a bit washed out, I got taken out by a stupid and dangerous overtake and I still have road rash three weeks later.
I also finished 5th!

So, a bit more info!
I only really noticed that I’d been an idiot when I checked the BC website for my gridding position when they released them, only to find my name wasn’t on there. I had had issues this year with British Cycling thinking I was a Sport rider rather than Expert – and I think this is why I had managed to forget to enter. BC wouldn’t accept my entry until my category was correct and after I sorted this out it must have slipped my mind! Oops…

Lizzie and I had already planned to make a bit of a holiday of going down to race so we had sorted a cottage, so I decided to race the Open race – only three laps, but hopefully it’d be a good course. Having been in South Wales for a day or two, we drove down on Friday to pre-ride the course. It was a gorgeous day, and I was lucky enough to bump into none other than Phil Pearce (2015 BC National Series winner) who was also pre-riding! A couple of laps (including several times off the infamous “ladder drop”) meant that I finally felt OK with the course. It seemed to be running well, so I was thinking I would either run my tubular Dugast Fast Birds or a Racing Ralph/Thunder Burt combo.

Unfortunately, overnight it tipped down with rain – meaning that the course was pretty sodden while I was warming up and for the whole morning pre-race. I did another lap as a chance to ride the ladder drop again, however it seemed that the A-Line was closed due to a few injuries until a paramedic could be on-site. Twenty minutes the A-Line was open and I dropped in. The rain had washed away some of the landing making it sketchier than the previous day, but rideable with a bit of courage! I got back to the van, got changed into my skinsuit, prepped the bike and warmed up properly. A few sprints, some sweetspot work and I got myself gridded. We then found out from the commissaire the Ladder Drop was not going to be open for the Saturday races due to the injuries – which sucked, but at least I knew the B-Line pretty thoroughly by now! Whilst I thought I might be sandbagging the Open race somewhat, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few familiar (and fast) faces at the front of the race. I might get a good race out of this!

As I knew I would only be racing for around an hour I decided to have a 9bar about two hours pre-race (an Original if you’re interested!), and then have a sachet of gel on the start line and then just rely on some more diluted energy drink for the race itself. For a longer race I would probably have gone for 2 or 3 bottles and then have a sachet approx one third and two thirds of the way through (so at about 35 and 70 minutes in), but that’s not really necessary for something so short.

The starting gun went off and I had a strong start, straight into fourth place. A group of five of us stayed together throughout Lap One, where I was to find a few short sections towards the end were getting unrideably muddy, especially on my Fast Bird tyres. To be fair, the tyres needed for 90% of the course needed to be fast, with just the last 10% of the course being really slidey mud. During the first lap I moved up into third place on the faster sections, but then lost a few places in the mud. This repeated for Lap Two – I made up positions on the short sharp climbs, and lost them in the mud again. Entering the final lap I was holding steady with third place and held fourth easily round most of the course. As I approached one of the very last sections of the course (a short, wet section of tarmac) I could hear fifth place just behind me. I knew he would wait for it to open up before attempting an overtake so I kept left as we left the woods, hoping to force him round my right side to the outside of the corner where any sensible person would go….

No. He smashed through on my left, clipping my bars in a quite frankly stupid manoeuvre, sending me flying and dumping me on the ground. Prick. There was no stopping to check if I was OK so I yelled something rather unprofessional. All I knew has that my leg really hurt and the blood pouring down into my sock was not a good sight. I was even more surprised to see a rather familiar Sussed Out Suspension jersey riding away – this was one particular rider who I know has a wealth of experience in racing and I really would have expected better.

I limped back to the finish where said rider did at least apologise, and promised to replace my favourite socks (which were now ruined). I wasn’t terribly impressed and I’ll admit I went off to scrub as much mud as possible out of the wounds and wash my bike rather than say something I would regret later. I had crossed the line in fifth with a broken bike (thankfully now fixed), a couple of nasty wounds (which took a week to stop sticking to clothing, bed linen and more) and a lot of frustration. At the end of the day though, I suppose that’s all part of racing and something you just have to accept.

I have now entered the next National XC round at Dalby (in the correct category!) and will be looking forward to racing it as hard as I can!

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