As a full time fire fighter, I have to juggle racing with my annual leave and this year I am trying to maximise my racing abroad to gain experience and hopefully improve fitness. It started with the fantastic Andalucia Stage Race at the end of February which is ridden in pairs over the 6 stages where GT team mate Gareth and I finished 10th overall. www.andaluciabikerace.com/
The second instalment was a road trip to Europe. Heading off straight after a disastrous start at Dalby British Series Round 2, it didn’t leave me much time to dwell on it. First up was Bike the Rock Festival in Heubach, Germany (29th April) via a couple of days riding in La Petite Pierre, France. A pre ride of course in over 30 degree heat revealed a super steep long climb followed by an even steeper gnarly descent. I was quite excited about the course. The main challenge would be the heat – especially on the long climb!
On race day I didn’t need much of a warm up as it was roasting! I tried to keep cool in the shade while sipping on some Accelerade before making my way to start the line. The pace up the climb was unbelievable. I wanted to pull over and make the pain stop but pushed as hard as I could to the top and back down the other side. It was basically a 10 minute VO max interval with a 3 minute technical descent that had plenty to catch you out and therefore offered little or no respite! From there I settled into my own rhythm knowing that you had to ride this course at your own pace. On the 2nd lap I nipped my Schwalbe Rocket Ron on the descent and lost a lot of air. Fortunately it was fairly close to the tech zone and there was enough air left to slowly get me there. The tyre sealed no problem with a track pump and I was soon off again. I managed to make up a few positions finally finishing in 36th. Despite the horrible pain I loved the course and wanted to do it again almost immediately. I`ll definitely be looking to do it again next year!
The next race on the agenda was the Swiss Cup in Solothurn a week later (5th May) after some riding in Munster Valley and La Bresse. I raced a Swiss Cup in Basel last year and I was really impressed by the organisation, support and attendance at it. Solothurn didn’t disappoint. The course was fairly urban with a loop through the forest. It was super fast and tactical riding would definitely play a part. As the very last number in the field (89) I was pleasantly surprised to gain a better gridding around mid pack. This really helped as the race was stretched out almost immediately. I was holding a good position in the top 40 after the first lap when I crashed on the descent pushing too hard. I got going again but rolled my tyre which sealed with a CO2 canister but went down again, changed my wheel in the tech zone but got another slow flat which I had to stop to blow up! Meanwhile I was loosing lots of positions! Sometimes its just not your day! Despite this I got a great workout gritting my teeth until the end to finish 61st. Not a great result but a great experience.
Then it was the long drive back to Edinburgh and inevitably back to work. It was a great trip, gaining an insight to riding in the continent full time. My final final block of international racing (and the last of my annual leave for the year!) will be at the World Cup rounds in Mont Saint Anne and Windham. I can`t wait!
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