The first round of the NPS had been occupying my thoughts for some time. Apart from a few small races in the weeks leading up to it, I had no real way of knowing how good my form was, and as a result I was really nervous as to how I would perform. I’ve worked hard this winter, trying to analyse ways in which I can improve. I felt quite strong, but you never know until the gun goes off how well you’re actually going!
So Sherwood would be the first real test, and I wanted the result to be good! Practicing the course the day before, it was clear that it was going to be really fast. The conti race kings were the perfect tyres, and with that in mind I was confident I’d have an advantage come race day! I finished practice and made sure my nutrition was right, so had a decent meal (accompanied with CNP pro-recover!) so I could recover properly for the next day.
Race day dawned, and as soon as I got up I clicked onto auto pilot, following the routine I’ve developed over the last few seasons. It’s amazing how quickly time goes by leading up to race. I just had time to watch the morning races, and then it was all too quickly on the turbo and warming up ready for the fast start.
The field was the largest I’ve raced against and the start line looked quite impressive. The countdown to the start began, and as usual the last 15 seconds before the whistle seemed to go on forever! When the gun finally went off, it was a flat out sprint to the first bit of single track…and I managed to get the holeshot! A group of three of us broke away very quickly. Me, Grant and Ben all came through together on the first lap, but it soon came down to just me and Grant. After four laps at almost flat out pace I couldn’t shake Grant, nor could he drop me, and it became all too obvious it was going to come down to a sprint. To be honest I hadn’t really expected to be in contention by this point, and had no idea how I was going to handle the sprint. Unfortunately I think he sensed this, and nipped past me into the woods as we approached the finish. It became apparent that this cost me the race as there was no way past in the singletrack. I sprinted in 3 seconds down, the closest I’ve ever come to winning a national!
It was disappointing to lose by so little, but a quick analysis of the laps times shows I rode consistently, and at a pace that matched some of the elite riders, meaning that I can take only positives from this race, and can use the confidence gained from this to improve my training and continue to get faster as the season goes on!
One of my mates came along to support; he’s really into to photography and took some cracking pictures of the elite race. Here’s a picture of me during the race (note the awesome new kit, and the blingness of the orbea
!) http://www.flickr.com/photos/achara42/5565454259/in/set-72157626241895407/ alma