Two weeks ago I wanted to test my legs at the first round of the Eastern XC Series, but my truck bailed before we got there. Then last week, an admin error meant that I missed the sign-on for the first round of the Nationals! Finally this week I’d have my chance to race…
As we drove into the Chilterns the Red Kites circled above looking for prey. It crossed my mind then that the riders in Flanders would later be focusing both on their prey and their own red kite. But before that I had my own race to focus on. Round two of the Southern XC series was at Checkendon, just north of Reading.
I met up with one of my team mates for a warm-up lap of the short, but very physical circuit. Even in the warm-up it was obvious how hard the lap was – loamy and rooty in places and sticky and wet everywhere else. I lined up for the start on the third row after having missed the first race of the season.
My goal for the race was to compare my speed with the other riders in the Masters category and to finish on the same lap as the leader, so when the gun went I settled straight into a nice rhythm in the main bunch and concentrated on how everyone around me was riding – I’ve ridden quite a bit recently, but nothing prepares you for riding at race pace in a big group and I was loving my first XC race for two years!
So much so that the first three laps went by in a flash. A nice battle with a Fruit4London rider kept me busy and once the fastest Sport riders caught up I made sure I stuck with them for as long as possible and learnt from them. Everything seemed to be going well.
Meanwhile in Belgium the relentless pace seemed to be causing Boonen and Sagen to tire and I likewise had begun to suffer. I’d worked especially hard in the technical sections, but due to a poor tyre choice I was forced to slide into each corner, pick the bike up and then accelerate out which is fine for a short while, but by halfway through lap four I was starting to feel it. The rain was softening up the open sections too, which meant they’d begun to sap the energy out of you, making it hard to even take a drink.
On the last lap it was everything I could do to just hold on to the bike – my shoulders hurt, and when I tried to stretch out my back my legs started to cramp. My fingers were numb and my concentration was gone, but something deep inside me forced me to race on. Pulling out wasn’t an option and when I finally finished I didn’t even care where I’d come. I’ve raced for points, prizes, money, but today I’d won – I may not have been standing on the podium, but I’d put to bed all the little things inside my head that told me I couldn’t do it.
Chapeau to Mister Cancellara, who also had to work hard in the final kilometer of his race on Sunday.
Photos by Pip Jenkins.
Glen races a KTM Aera Pro 27.5 hardtail in the UK National Points Series, the Eastern XC Series and the Southern XC Series. He receives personal sponsorship from Helly Hansen and THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY. He’s also supported by Lazer helmets.The KTM team is supported by Continental Tyres, Torq Fitness and Four4th Lights.