Over the last fifteen years XC courses have got shorter and more technically demanding. In my book, the organizers of the MSG Eastern XC Series absolutely nailed it this Sunday. Big smiles from me at Round five, Chelmsford…
First impressions were good – I showed up to the neatly laid out arena and headed to sign-on where one of the organizers not only acknowledged me, but actually smiled. After the welcome you normally get at a Southern I had to double check that we were actually at a mountain bike race.
The practice lap wasn’t quite so good – everyone kept on stopping at the top of bomb-holes for no apparent reason and thus ensued the longest shortest lap of a course I’ve ever done. On the plus side it did make me realize that this race was going to be raced from the first corner – no point hanging about for queues so I made sure I had those sharp elbows from Beastway firmly attached!
I’ve not been on the mountain bike for ten days so the first lap was hard work technically, but I’d got a reasonable start – we all went together (Elites, Expert, Junior, Sport, Masters, Vets and Grand Vets), like in a ‘cross race. This is always good for me, but especially as I’d been gridded at the back of the Masters field, due to not having raced the series all year. I made up some valuable places straight away and settled into a rhythm within sight of the overall leader.
I’d just about got my head around how hard I could push through the dry dusty berms and whoops when on lap three the heavens opened – normally a welcome sight for me, but again I’ve spent too long on the road bike this year and I really struggled for a lap. The roots and exposed rocks that I hadn’t even considered before suddenly reared up to fight me, messing with my tyres but more importantly with my head.
Another lap in and as the weather deteriorated further I’d started to get my head around it again. Re-taking a couple of lost places did a lot to help my confidence and I was back in the zone. Looking at the lap times, the time I lost on that lap ended up being crucial to my overall result, but the important thing was that I stuck in there and didn’t give up. Being mentally quite strong is important and I guess that’s where us slightly older dogs pull through.
Having said that with two laps to go, I started a battle with a rider in the sport category who was flying (Shane Ashby who finished 2nd in the Sport race). We quickly realized that being in different categories meant that we could work together to try and catch some of the guys ahead of us. Even if we weren’t catching riders we could, at least, gap the guys behind us. This worked a treat and as we did a section or two on the front each, we started to go faster and faster.
My back, forearms and hands were in trouble on the final lap, but I was so inspired by our pace that I simply rode through the pain. Even a bit of leg cramp in the final kilometer was passed off as insignificant. I haven’t been able to ride like that for quite some time so excuse me if I’m showing off, but it felt fucking good. A top ten finish was a sweet end to the race, but to be honest I was more excited just to be riding my bike on a course that made me smile all the way round – Tough, fast, technical and just rough enough to make you feel alive.
Photos by Pip Jenkins.
- Andrew Cockburn 01:46:58
- Glenn Stanford
- Nick Drew
- Stewart MacKay
- Jamie Wightman
- Glen Whittington
- Paul Thomas
- Ian Grist
- Jimmy Humpton
- Chris Harley
Glen rides a Colnago Master and races a Scott Addict at local road races, both available via The Velo House. He races a KTM Aera Pro 27.5 hardtail in the UK National Points Series and the Eastern XC Series. He receives personal sponsorship from Helly Hansen, KTM 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.