“The British National Championship was my number one goal this season. The hard work paid off, and I yesterday claimed my fifth British title. Set in the New Forest, the event was well run, well attended and the sun shone. The course, while not offering big gradients, was one where concentration and consistent effort was required as there was little respite. Being set in the South this was a typical track for the region, encompassing all the elements that racers crowd to week in week out for the ever popular Southern and Gorrick series. The only difference this time was the small issue of a bunch of National jerseys up for grabs and lots of fast, finely tuned athletes present to contest them…. so perhaps a little more tension in the air than your average regional event!
“I had prepared impeccably for this race. Since the National Series race at Grizedale five week’s ago, I had not raced. Instead, I had worked my way through what I believed was the training I required to see me in top shape for this event. This training included some real killer sessions, which fully utilised my Tacx Cosmos turbo trainer and Polar CS600 cycle computer. This turbo trainer feeds power back into the grid and I am convinced I may have powered my neighbourhood for at least a few minutes each Tuesday morning! For anyone who has seen Bellevue Rendezvous I felt like the guys on the turbo trainers looked by the end of these sessions. Added to this were some furious laps of Aston Hill (trying to stay on Richard’s and, on her turbo powered days, Theresa Jackson’s wheels) and finally a few monster long rides in the Chilterns and Cotswolds. For the first time this year things began to fall into place during this preparation. A test at the Olympic Medical Institute confirmed that my body was finally being kicked into a positive response and physiologist Kate and I were really quite excited that I had found a way to get myself back into the groove. Now I simply had to hope that all this work would transfer to a result on the day.
“In terms of opposition the women’s field was a strong one. My main rival had to be Sue Clarke for any number of reasons. Sue knows what it takes to win a Nationals, is fighting fit with a very positive mindset and had also raced this course at the Southern event earlier this year, posting some very consistent lap times. Alongside Sue were a handful of other contenders including Paula Moseley, Nadine Spearing, Maddie Horton, Liz Scalia and Gemma Collins. Any of these could pose a threat on this circuit. National Champs is as much a test of ability as it is of nerves. Having woken most mornings last week thinking it was race day, with the accompanying surge of adrenaline, I was keen to get it over and done with so it was good to finally be on the start line waiting for Kelvin to fire the start gun.
“It was Nadine who shot off the start and I slotted in behind, creeping by her before we hit the singletrack. The first few tight bends were a bit of a wobbly affair as I tried to settle into a rhythm, with the field in a line behind me. A push up the grass climb and through the arena saw me gain a few yards, with Sue and Paula right behind and Gemma a little back from them. With a couple more pushes I sensed I was beginning to cause breaks, basically whenever my heart went over 180bpm I knew I was hurting the others, although it was also causing me some pain! By the end of lap one I had a mere 20 seconds over Sue, enough to keep her out of my wheel but not enough to get out of sight. On lap two I began to get into a better flow and find where I could attack the course harder and this allowed me to increase my lead. From here on everything went amazingly smoothly. I continued to give 100% around the full course, trying to use every bit of that precious form I had brought here. Only in the final 1km did I allow myself to ease up a tiny bit and enjoy the moment. It had felt as though I had been waiting for this moment for weeks on end and it was fantastic to finally have done it, everything having worked out in my favour.
“Behind me Paula rode a brilliant race to claim second while Sue, still feeling the effects of a recent cold, dropped a little ground but still held on for the final medal position. I have always said that one British title would have justified my entire mountain bike career, so to now have five feels quite unbelievable and has only been possible with the continued support of my friends, family and sponsors. You all own a bit of that jersey, thank you so much.”
[Picture courtesy of Joolze Dymond]