RACE REPORT: Dalby Forest National XC3

Yesterday was the third round of the British Cycling National XC Series at Dalby Forest. Whilst still being really quite tired from the weekend, I’d first like to say that was just the best race course I’ve raced on in a long time! However, I am paying for it somewhat today in terms of lethargy and aches.
As a Nathan might say, that was definitely Type 2 fun.

In brief, the preparation and the race went well, the only downer was not having a low enough gear to really push it on the climbs! I think the slogan for the weekend would have to be looking fast, slowly….

I’m pleased to say the weekend started well, with me heading home after work, having dinner with Lizzie and Meg before leaving them behind to pick up Nathan and head into the uncharted North towards Bridlington. Nathan’s mum had kindly offered to feed and house us for the weekend and the 45 minute commute to the course and back would definitely turn out to be worth it! We ended up in Bridlington just before midnight after a 2.5 hour drive, sorted our rooms out and decided on an 8am start in the morning.

In the morning we were greeted with two delicious packed lunches, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and a promise of a delicious dinner. This was very exciting! Nathan’s mum (like most Jewish mums) is an excellent cook and after a day of warming up, course practice and bottling for Nathan the promise of an expansive roast was awesome. Not to mention that whilst a lot of my competitors would be sleeping in a tent in a field I’d be tucked up in a double bed after having a bath….

We headed over to Dalby more or less on time, had a chat with a few of the commissaires (who always give up their time free of charge and its always massively appreciated – especially Geordie, George, Kelvin and John) and then went for a course walk. The course looked great, nice technical descents, dry as a bone with a couple of nasty steep climbs thrown in. The course preview can be seen here. The first half was a brilliant twisty, bermy descent with a short climb, across the starting field, more twisty descents into a few slabby drops and climbs, then drop into Worry Gill. Worry Gill is a rocky fast gully, lots of exposed rocks which fires you into the first of the climbs, a short switchbacky steep climb into the bermed descent of Medusas. Then the bastard of the course, a loooooooong fireroad climb back up to the top, a very thrutchy descent to a fireroad, a technical climb and then some berms back to the start. It was an excellent course. We managed an early lap once the course had opened, decided on our line choices (one B Line was faster than the A, specifically the section after the North Shore) and then got changed ready for Nathan’s race that afternoon.

I bottled for Nathan in the Sport race who had a good race for his first ever National, although he looked pretty ruined by the finish! I nipped out for another lap after Nathan had finished to practice a few more of the technical lines, although I couldn’t seem to nail the technical climb towards the end of the course. I should say this is despite the excellent advice from Phil Pearce, who was super helpful!

We headed back to Bridlington and had a fantastic roast beef dinner before crashing out ready for Sunday. The day started with a frittata and a shot of the Neals Yard Organic Green Powder. This was reviewed in Cycling Weekly recently and got a good reception and it seems to work for me. It’s packed full of good stuff and is available to buy here. The other nice thing is that its totally organic – and if you’re interested you can get a whole load of great stuff including the Greens Complex, the Berry Complex, the Omega 3.6.9 Organic Oil Blend, Coconut Oil and more for just £45 if you join here…

We left Bridlington with another packed lunch, as well as a goody bag full of food to take home! I can thoroughly recommend staying with a Jewish host – you will definitely not leave hungry! A promise was made to visit soon with Lizzie and Meg before we were allowed to leave which meant Nathan and I got to Dalby for about 9am to a pretty lovely day. I did another practice lap before meeting up with George Budd and the KTM crew and just relaxing for a few hours as well as watching a few of the races. I had lunch at approximately 12pm, a good 3 hours pre race. This consisted of salad, eggs, a banana and a Cocoa and Cashew 9Bar. The aim was to get some BCAA, slow GI carbs and useful fats in, in a long enough time frame so gastric emptying wouldn’t be an issue.

2pm rolled up so I bolted the bike to the turbo and began the warm up that Melissa of Potential Energy Coaching had devised. While an hours warm up seems excessive, it works for me as it gives me chance to get the legs going properly, avoiding any dead feeling on the first lap. During this time I took on plenty of water and nothing else – energy drink or gels too early can cause an unwanted insulin spike just before the race, neutralising any carbs you actually put in in the form of gels or sports drink!

I got off the turbo at 3, rolled up to the start line having briefed Nathan on bottling strategies and started the race. Melissa had given me a start line strategy to use to get me off the line quickly, and it worked great. The race went well generally for me, I nailed the descents (I even got a KOM down Worry Gill!), however the fireroad climb was just too steep for my gearing/my leg strength. A 34T up front mated to a 11-36 cassette out back just wasn’t low enough for me – so I’ve now ordered an 11-42 which will hopefully work a bit better next time! I had a bit of back and forth with a few riders, but a bit of cramp unfortunately allowed them to creep away on the last lap meaning I finished in 35th out of 41 riders. I wasn’t too upset with this, it gives me plenty of room for improvement and hopefully changing the gearing will be a decent step in the right direction!

Overall it was a great weekend, just wished I could have stayed there for another couple of days to ride the trails a bit more!

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