Tuesday, 17 July 2012

5 jours O'VTT de Samois-Sud77

The run in - the only control I reliably rode well on :-)
 It already seems like ages ago that I was in France racing MTBO, but it was only last week!  It's been a week of many firsts, first head to head MTBO race, first time I have shot a knome with an air rifle at a wedding and first time I've had to present at a conference proper.
Since last Thursday I've travelled from Fontainebleau to Sheffield via York, down to Taunton for Shelf and Lorna's wedding (CONGRATULATIONS!) complete with welly wanging and air rifles! Then back to Sheffield and on to Liverpool for the launch of the Centre for the Integrated approach to Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing (CIMA) and finally home! Phew...

So, back to Fontainebleau, one of the most varied racing weeks I've ever done. Race 1,2,3 and 5 were a bit of a write off but race 4 almost made up for it!

 The first race of the week was a bit of a warm up for the World Ranking event the following day so I rode it with the aim of getting back into smooth riding with nav. It was all going so well for the first 4 controls, despite riding hard into a tree (oops), however control 5 was in a quarry and here I caught Chalie, looking in the same place as me for the control. We had both interpreted the map wrong (easily done in this section) and lost a chunk of time. Wouldn't have been too bad had it not been for the next control at which I promptly lost another 5minutes as there were far more paths on the ground than the map.
A bit cheesed off, I got back into the flow for the next few controls but my head was no longer in it and it was only a matter of time before I made another mistake en route to 14.
After this I chose to employ my age old tactic of 'If in doubt ride harder' and promptly finished the race off in style losing 3-4mins at control 15 before doing a superman impression over the handlebars on the way to 18.
It's fair to say I've had better races, however finished mid field...
I decided to learn from my mistakes and knew I was riding (and when fully concentrating navving) well.

 The next morning we arrived at the race just after 9am, I wasn't racing until 12:16 so there was plenty of time to prepare. Well there would have been if I hadn't accidentally been missed off the WRE start list. If I started at 12:16 I would have missed quarentine and not count for the WRE. So at 9:20 it was sorted out, I would start before the rest of the WRE riders at 9:39!

I ran back to the car, got changed, sorted my bike out and was on the way to the start before I knew what was happening. It was a few km to the start and I could have done with some tri bars and an aerodynamic skin suit to get me there in time. Sadly I had neither and the track was wet and sandy, bit of an effort but I made it with a minute to spare. Windy then kindly explained to the start crew, in French, that I needed to start whilst I caught my breath, then I was off! Adrenaline pumping like never before!

I was slow off the mark, not too surprisingly, and several of the tracks were basically overgrown, could have done with a few people through before me to break track....But the nav was smooth and all was well to control 9 this time. On the way to 10 my compass indicated I was on a different track to the one I had aimed for, so I corrected my 'mistake' and headed for 10....sadly there had been no mistake and so I lost about 3 minutes correcting the true mistake.

At 11 I learnt what it meant to be out first on this course, the track was so indistinct from the direction I came that I had to play it safe and ride 2 sides of a triangle to reach the control. Another minute lost but still feeling reasonably in control. 12 was a long leg and here I really felt the adrenaline had worn off!

Another mistake at 13 due to another overgrown indistinct track at a star junction cost me a minute or so but the rest of the course was reasonably ok. I progressively got slower, as did my mind and finished, more pleased than day 1, but still having made too many scrappy mistakes, in 14th position.

Team GB - 'there were 10 bottles of bubbly, sitting on the wall....'
The next day was the sprint which I was really looking forward to but I kept my disasterous streak going, losing well over 4 minutes on control 5 (amazingly only a fraction of the time lost by Ursina on the same control apparently) and making a small mistake 3 controls later. On the plus side I practiced track stand punching and made it on all but 3 controls, including an awkward spectator control :-). After the mistakes I just rolled around, knowing the game was up and enjoying the forest tracks.

The thing I was most looking forward to during the week was the second WRE, the long distance. This had a bit of a twist as it was a mass start event, basically the first leg of a relay if the relay was a long distance race. In essence perfect for me :-) in theory....
Before the start I noticed my compass was doing odd things but whenever I checked it appeared to be working. Thankfully for the race it wasn't needed anyway really.

I loved this race. It started with some long legs with a bit of route choice and I felt strong, overtaking all the way through the first 4 controls (my map folding abilities need some practice). This was the hilliest day in an all but flat area of france and I kicked on up the short but realtively steep climbs.

As I headed for control 6 I was looking ahead to 7. There was some  confusing marking of OOB on my preferred route and I was scrutinising it when I looked up to see Ingrid! I was still not far behind her as I swung into the track to pick up 6 :-). Sadly, concentrating on 7 instead of making sure I reached 6 meant I made a mistake, picked up number 1 again instead of 6 and headed off for 7.....I worked out my mistake when I stumbled upon the actual junction for control 6 and corrected but the damage was done....about 3:30 lost. Thankfully not a mispunch though, phew!

I carried on riding hard, only losing another minute or two on some less than optimum route choices. As I picked up the third  to last control I reovertook Pippa (she passed me at my number 6 faff...) and rode really hard for the penultimate control. Age old bloomin mistake, I reached a junction and turned left, thinking I should see my control. It wasn't there so I turned around, ah there it was, but Pippa had caught me again. I punched  and bombed it off for the finish. I only noticed my mistake by pure coincidence as i passed my actual penultimate control en route to the finish. I'd punched a 'paralell' control by mistake. Near mispunch number 2 avoided, numpty!

Ingrid went on to win the day and I finished in 9th position, however 35seconds would have got me 6th and less than 1.5mins to 5th. As I had visited 2 more controls than anyone else I'm not too disappointed by this :-).

Although I made mistakes I was happy with the race,  I loved the head to head aspect as it allowed me to see where I stand on both riding and nav. I learnt I really can ride well atm and I can't really complain about the nav as I just haven't been practicing. Up until control 6 I was in the mix and with a bit more training time my nav will improve.

Sat on the train back from Liverpool today I suddenly realised I don't have to do anything this evening. The string of deadlines that have meant some insane working hours and not very much training since January have come to an end. I'm shattered!
Tomorrow I can actually start training again :-) I'm going to ride a bike and go for a run :-). And I don't envisage any more deadlines until....well...at least next week!!