oneeightseven – smiles per miles
One small problem with mountain bike racing is that in the South-East we’re slightly short-changed in the mountain stakes, which means that the bigger races often attract a few more air miles. The positive side of this is that you get to see some fantastic places…
After a great few races in block one, I enjoyed a rest week (which to be honest doesn’t differ very much from a racing week) and then got ready for my second National Points race at Dalby Forest in Yorkshire. A 550 mile round trip was a long trek to make in a single weekend, but I was confident of some good results and so it was worth it. Course recon took place on the Saturday and returning to Dalby after a break of seven years was great fun, with all the same features having been retained from the old World Cup course.
I felt good after the morning warm-up on the Sunday and had a good grid position from my round one result – the first section out and around Adder rock went to plan and I’d gained a couple of places to be in the top 15. And then, “pppssssstttt-sttt-sttt”, said my rear tyre as I came up short on a blind drop off, “fuck”! Riding on the rim (and running up the climbs) back round to my spare wheels was shit, but in the end I road two more laps of the course to finish – 8 points being worth more than nothing and hopefully they’ll prove crucial at the end of the season! Death before DNF!
Putting the disappointment of Dalby behind me, I headed out to Houffalize in Belgium to compete in the three day Roc D’Ardenne Trophy which is made up of a 27.5km Night stage, the 59km “Roc D’Ardenne” itself, and finally the 84km UCI Marathon race. You can enter the events individually or as a complete three-day trophy. I managed to finish 21st in the night race which ended up being my stand out race of the weekend.
The Saturday race was brilliant and featured many of the same climbs and downhills as the World Cup used to be raced over – brutal amounts of climbing, a terrible start pen and a bit of tiredness were taking their toll but out of 1300 riders I managed 104th so well inside the top 10% and moving up a couple of places in the Trophy. This qualified me for the 1st pen on Sunday so I serviced my bike, ate all the pasta I could find and got an early night!
An early start on the Sunday saw us roll out from Houffalize in the rain, before the trails started to dry out again. I felt good for the first few hours, 2400 meters of climbing and two previous days of racing were always going to make today tough but I kept everything rolling and rode to my advantages on the climbs. In the end I was pleased with another 104th place (bit spooky), this time against some of the world’s best racers in the official UCI race – first one I’ve done for a few years. But my aim for the weekend was the Trophy where I finished 16th overall and was the first Brit – such a great weekend away and well worth a 700 mile round trip.
Glentress will be the second longest road trip of the year at 900 miles and was the destination for Round 3 of the NPS – 2150 miles in the van and so far, lots of smiles but not so many points, so I had to make Glentress count. The track was way out of my comfort zone and my first practice lap was a white knuckle ride! There were six A/B lines and I wasn’t confident on a couple of them – another 2 practice laps and I was starting to feel a little more at home!
Sunday’s race was not until late afternoon so it’s always difficult to time everything perfectly but I got my warm-up nailed and I’d eaten well. The first lap was super quick and we were all fighting from the gun for every single corner. I was making all my time on the climbs, but losing out on the techy downhills – I really need to work on that! My second and third laps were much better and I was starting to find a rhythm. In the end I found all the best lines and that enabled me to take a few places back on the final lap, eventually rolling across the line in 21st place – big miles and big smiles at the end of block 2!
Photos by “Roots and Rain” and Glen Whittington.
Glen rides for the.æight.bicycle.cøllective and Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level and is currently racing his 15th season. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, the.æight.bicycle.cøllective, Wildside Cycles, Four4th Lights, Praxis Works, VeeTireCo, Schwalbe, Lazer Helmets and CeramicSpeed.
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