oneeightsix – first ride of 2018 pt.3
Whilst ‘cross and road events were being cancelled left, right ad centre, the start of my fifteenth season was blessed with dry and dusty trails…
I’ve split races up into blocks like normal this year to allow a bit of recovery between them, so my first block consisted of two Eastern League races and a National, which meant quite a bit of travelling, but that’s mountain biking. It was the first time I’ve ever raced at Hadleigh Park in Essex which was the site of the Olympic XC race in 2012. For regional riders it’s quite important to train on this course as it’s the site for the National Champs later on in the year so I was keen to grab some experience.
Biting cold wind straight off the Thames estuary ensured that the sandy soil stayed dry for the whole weekend and I found a good setup straight away. Tyre pressures are crucial on the loose gravelly man-made trails and I was comfortable quite quickly. At the start of the race I followed some good wheels down some bonkers lines and felt strong on the climbs back up to the top. A big Elite/Expert field ensured some top notch racing and I was really pleased to roll over the line in 12th, putting my first points on the board for 2018.
A fairly epic dump of snow later and we headed up to Suffolk for Round 2 of the Eastern League at Henham near Southwold. It must have been about the only part of the country not in chaos due to the white stuff and even remained quite dry, albeit ridiculously cold again – I spent the whole ‘cross season in shorts and now I was putting leg and arm warmers on for XC!
After the first round I’d been getting a lot of riding in and despite a slight lack of raw power I was feeling great at Henham on the mostly natural course – the MSG lads had built a fantastic course and once again a big field made the racing fast and close. I started well and then settled into a small group racing for 6th place. I dropped back for a while but didn’t panic and started to find more pace in the techy bits. With two laps to go I worked back up to 7th and on the final lap went attacked the other rider in our group to take 6th place. The long trip to Suffolk had been well worth it.
An even longer trip up to Nottingham for Round 1 of the National Points Series was the last race in block one for me and this time I had the luxury of being driven up by a team mate who was racing the Vets race in the morning. We left super early to sneak in a practice lap on the Sherwood Pines course, which I last raced 11 years ago – it hadn’t changed a bit and I was loving it from the start.
A great warm up saw me grab a good start from the back of the grid and move straight up into the top 20 places. Quite a bit of jostling and elbows out in the first two laps saw me move a few places higher and then we started caching the Juniors, quickly at first, but then I found some really good riders to work with. I moved a final few positions up to 17th place and finished my first block of racing ranked 6th in the UK – a massive confidence boost ahead of my first recovery week.
Photos by Basil Thornton 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.
GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO RACE WITH US?
For 2018 we’re looking for one or two other riders to be on our race team. The Cøllective is about doing things a little differently. We’re looking to kit our riders out with steel race bikes made in Sussex. Whether that’s for ‘cross, road, crit, TT or mountain bike we’re offering the chance to have a custom steel bike made for you to race on – not just put together, but fully bespoke.
The best part is that we’re not asking you to leave your team or club and that includes racing in club/team kit. We’ve got certain brands that we’d like to work with, but we’re open to suggestions and maybe you’ve got a sponsor or support that you could bring to the table? We have some strict qualifying criteria but don’t be put off by this – if you’re interested in being part of our c ø l l e c t i v e then please get in touch by emailing your racing CV to firstname.lastname@example.org