I’ve neglected the site for a too long, so I figured I’d try and paraphrase what I’ve been up to over the last few weeks. I’ve had plenty of adventures, some solid training and a lot of race.
I’m going to have to go way back to the last round of the British Cycling Cross Country Series at Kirroughtree near Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway. The course at Kirroughtree is pretty awesome, with sections of trail centre, steep loamy descents and plenty of ups and downs. The weather hadn’t been kind to the course though which meant some sections were super muddy and it was impossible to ride sections making a 2 minute run each lap which I’m not a fan of. After a year of scoring UCI points consistently I was up to the second row on the grid and able to get into the race from the off. I made the top 3 into the singletrack and by the end of lap 1 I came through with Oli Becknigsale and Hamish Bachelor in 3rd, 4th and 5th. I was losing ground on the running section and pulling it back on the muddy downhills. Going into the final lap there were 6 riders in with a chance of the podium. I was disappointed not to make the top 5 when I faded on the final lap to finish 6th.
Next up I was working in the Pyrenees with GPM10, helping guide a group of great guys from Northern Ireland in the Transpyreneenne trip. The ‘Dirty Half Dozen’ were raising money for Marie Curie and McMillan Cancer Care. The guys did a great job covering the 650kms across the cols of the Pyrenees and many a laugh was had! The guys also managed to raise over £12,000 for charity! Rock stars!
When I was back it was time to try and recover a little, race the SXC at Forfar where I managed to win (hooray!) and then rest up for the final round of the British Cycling XC series, National Champs and the World Cup in Val D’Isere. This didn’t go quite to plan with the final round of the British XC being postponed due to flooding….
I made the trip to the south east for the National Championship at Wasing park with an eye on the podium. My legs felt good and I was motivated to stomp out a good race. The course was a bit of a let down, pretty flat and not much going on technically either. It was really physical though and difficult to carry speed.
From 14th on the grid I moved up to around 7th on lap 1 just behind a group of 4 leaders and 2 others. I was riding with cross supremo and ‘cross World Cup regular Ian Field who gapped me slightly going into the start of lap 2. Following this was a long section of fire road with a bit of head wind and on the climb leading into the first descent I was passed by a group of riders led by a stomping Dan Fleeman, with Jody Crawforth, Paul Oldham local boy Adrian Landsley and superstar Nicky Craig. I slipped to around 15th at this point. As the race progressed I managed to pass some more riders back and moved into a group with Fleeman and Lee Williams and tried to press on to catch riders in front. By the end of the race I was on my own, Fleeman suffered a mechanical and Lee’s back was giving him trouble after a long race. I rolled in 9th which wasn’t what I was after really, but I finished spent after a long day out.
It’s funny but most of the British XC races have lasted between 15 – 25 minutes longer than the World Cups and Olympics XC did. It doesn’t help when trying to prepare for these races. Shorter and more technical tracks is what we need to make the step to international races.
From Wasing it was on to Val D’Isere World Cup with Scottish Cycling national coach Paul Newnham, and Gareth Montgomerie and Dave Henderson of GT Racing UK. We arrived in Val D’Isere late on a monday night with the race on Saturday. The week was made up of climbing the Col D’Iserean, riding local trails, resting up and practising the course. The track itself wasn’t all that technically challenging but had a couple of narrow sections of singletrack and plenty of climbing. What I did find challenging was the 1800m – 1950m altitude we were racing at. I was struggling to catch a breath and my chest felt tight which wasn’t helped by my hay fever.
On race day we also had heavy rain to contend with . I was gridded in 112th based on my world ranking which has been a work in progress this year. The start was pretty technical with a 180 degree turn after about 80m before the tape narrowed and the climb began. I started well and moved up about 15 places before passing a few more riders on the first climb. At the top of the climb and into the first downhill standard World Cup frustrations began. The bottle neck was so bad that we were stationary or walking from about 40th to 115th and riders filtering into the singletrack. At this point I think I lost around 3 minutes to the font riders. This is why an XC race starts so quickly!
By the end of lap 1 I was in the top 90 when I tried to settle into my effort. The course was so slippery with the rain and mud and I was struggling to recover from my lap 1 effort; I was really fighting the bike and struggling to press on and recover. At the end of lap 2 coming off the steep bridge and towards the river crossing I came in too fast, struggling to scrub speed on the grassy descent and I hit a rock too hard, pitching me over the bars and puncturing my front wheel which I couldn’t re-inflate. It was about 3kms to the next technical zone to change a wheel so my race was over. Not what I wanted from the race but I took a lot away from the race and I know what I have to do to improve and step into World Cup racing next year.
What was really apparent to me was the infrastructure and support needed to compete at this level. Paul was our only support for the week and he was working his ass off cleaning and repairing bikes, attending race meeting, practicing the course with us and making sure we had essentials like good quality food. Without the support of Scottish Cycling I couldn’t have made this trip and even then we were really operating on a shoestring budget. This is the level we need to be racing at if we wish to be competitive at Glasgow 2014 though, so we have to make it work somehow. Work in progress for 2013…
Since coming home from Val D’Isere I’ve been on a midseason lull in racing. I’m competing in the Scottish Criterium championships this weekend in Paisley town centre. Next week I ‘hit the trail’ with Dirt School with a UK wide road trip coaching at some new venues with the world famous Andy Barlow. Unfortunately this means I’ll miss the rescheduled British Cycling XC series race in Essex which I’m pretty disappointed about. For now though I’m pressing on with some road miles and building for a busy end of season including the final SXC at Drumlanrig where I hope to wrap up a race win and a series win. From there I fly out that night with Rob Friel, Allan Clarke, Katy Winton and Lisa Kamphausen to Pakistan for the Tour of the Himalayas mountain bike stage race which should be amazing! When home I hope to round out the MTB season with an attempt to break 12 hours up the west highland way for charity (more info on that soon) and then the No Fuss Relentless 24 hours the following week with some friends.
Phew! That’s a biggy. Thanks for reading… To get some more quick fire updates follow me on Twitter @rabwardell, like Rab Wardell on Facebook, Check @rabwardell pics on Instagram, follow me on Strava and read Rabs World on www.singletrackworld.com! Bam!