oneeightten – finals pt.1
The National Points Series was a goal of mine this year along with a decent showing at the National Champs. Pulling everything together in the hottest summer for years was a lot of work, but like people always say, “its the same for everyone”, and I ended up having a great couple of races…
After some pretty heavy blocks of racing I took advantage of the chance to get some proper training miles in again before the National Champs, which this year took place at Hadleigh Farm. Hadleigh was the Olympic venue in 2012 and is always a tough course to race – at a regional race they usually put in one or two of the big features but for the nationals we get to ride the full Olympic course so you have to have a big set of balls ready for it.
A couple of us went up the day before to check the big features out and pre-ride the course. Riding with Ed was mint as we were able to encourage each other to ride everything – I didn’t fancy one of the drop off’s and I thought it was slow anyway, but Ed was convinced it would be faster on race day. I felt strong on everything else and had gained a lot of confidence from the test. Three laps on the Saturday also meant that come Sunday I’d only need one sighting lap.
I think a lot of riders over-think the National Champs – I focused on it being just-another-race and this seemed to keep the pressure off. I felt a bit nervous on the Saturday but was quite relaxed on the Sunday. That said, being in the start pen with people like Grant Ferguson soon builds up the pre-race nerves again. The first lap was intense – normally XC races go off at a fairly strong pace but nothing mental – this was like racing a ‘cross race! I went from the third row of the grid pretty much to the back and then I crashed!
Jumping back on and chasing back through positions was probably a blessing rather than a curse – there were a few riders up the road now but I like hunting rather than being hunted so that suited me. I went straight past a couple of riders but soon started working my way through some proper class. I was riding all the technical features well, including where I’d crashed on the first lap and was making a few places up, per lap.
As the race went on I was more and more relaxed – I think it was then that I made the decision,… I’m never going to be this competitive again without a huge amount of training – I realised that the amount I want to win outweighs the amount I want to train and that this would only get worse. There’s so much more I want to do that it’s not a good use of my time to try and train for something I can’t have. I’m not making excuses, in fact it’s the opposite, I’ve got a massive list of things I want to do and I’ve loved every minute of the cross-country racing this year, but I like winning rather than coming top 20 or whatever. There are plenty of things I can win at so I’m going to focus on them, but that’s a story for another day maybe.
Back into the race and I had one more objective – one that I almost felt bad about – I was hunting a particular prey. It’s strange and I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone else but I have irrational likes and dislikes of the people I race with. There are always a few riders in any series that you race closely with, some of whom are fair and some of whom take the piss (wheelsucking and cutting you off). Those that take the piss I take pleasure in beating, but with those who are fair and whom I respect, I always feel a bit bad about beating – not enough to write off my killer instinct but I still feel bad about it. One of those is a guy called Sam who I now had in my sights.
With half a lap to go I was up to 20th – my grid position was 19 so this was where the organiser had expected me to be running, but the game is always to beat your grid position, so my target became Sam. For the third or fourth time this year (and not the last) I was moving closer to him with every pedal stroke. Trying to stay quiet as I came up behind him with one hill to go I attacked with everything I had. He started his counter attack and the pair of us raced back up to the Olympic start straight after which we had one final rise. The pair of us were giving everything we had, but my tyres found that little bit more grip before we crossed the line and I came home in 18th. I’ve loved racing with Sam this year and we’ve had some proper close battles.
19th (and a top twenty) in my final National Champs was a good result and I’m happy – unlike some riders in my Expert category I hadn’t wimped out and done the Masters race, I’d raced the big one – there isn’t a bigger race for XC racers in the UK. It’s the premium category at the biggest race of the year and I came 19th out of everyone so that’s got to be good. There’s nowhere to hide and it’s not like one of those UCI sportives, this is the National Champs – either brings your A-game or don’t enter. I’m proud that in my final year I brought my A-game with me.
19. Glen Whittington
Photos by Cameron Preece, Pip Jenkins 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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