We arrived with Paul on the camp site on early Friday afternoon to set up our tent, thumb get our race plates and go for a little reconnaissance of the course.
The first two points were dealt with quite promptly and easily. Then we got ready for the course bit. I don’t know if any of you guys have been watching the 1st round of the XC World Cup on Eurosport earlier this year. It does look quite “special” in my own words: steep hills, ambulance sudden vertical 4 feet drop (Worry Gill), pharmacy technical -full of slippery muddy rocks- downhill (down Worry Gill), roots kind of everywhere (especially in the steep down known as Medusa’s Drop, I wonder why???).
Anyway a mountain bike X-country race heaven I thought. The first 1.5 to 2 km is quite nice and flowing with short power climbs and flowing downs. Then you reach a step down section, with a couple about a foot high, that you have to go down as fast as you can, obviously. Or like me, take the chicken run that is as fast and flatter.
From there you go straight into the Worry Gill area, with again half a dozen 1 foot high steps down to manage, before reaching the massive vertical drop. On Friday, I told myself that there was no way I would take it. So, I went through the chicken run, fell down on another wet slab, broke my handle bar and nicely bruised my leg. Brilliant! Then we were going down the slippery downhill from there. Arriving at the bottom, I noticed that I had punctured again- 2nd time in 500 metres.
We kept going on until we reached the bottom of the “Medusa section”: a 25% incline that twists around to the top, a major test of power. From the top, you are twisting down to Medusa’s Drop that I chicken ran (again). It is one of the steepest downhill sections that you can imagine; the now famous foot down step of logs again, then just a drop, then roots, then more roots and then another drop. All of that in a 50 metre section.
From here you are back up a 500 metres long hill relatively steep even for a mountain biker with plenty of gears. After being overtaken by a few pros; I can tell you that they were pushing hard as well, just with an unbelievable cadence to go that much faster.
From here you get a slight rest; an easy (by the local standard) short down that brought you to a flat fire road that went on for a minute or two and then back in Worry Gill, this time trying to go up one to two feet high boulders (what the hell are you thinking of Yorkshire men, I am not a trial rider, am I?) that everybody ran up. From there it was a 1.5 km fast single track to the finish.
The race went well for a first time at National level. Paul and I were at the back of the 40 strong field of Sport rider as we didn’t have any points at National level. We didn’t chicken Worry Gill’s drop and Paul even went down Medusa’s Drop (what a nutter). The results are not published yet, but I think we finished mid pack, with Paul being a few minutes behind me.
It was a great week end for both of us and you get to realise that the pros that go around the course in 17-18 minutes/lap are not so well in the head, as well as incredibly masterful in anything technical, compared to us the majority of riders. I am very glad to have ridden a World Cup Course, it was definitely the hardest, most technical race I have ever entered. I think I’ll do it again next year with a plan of passing everything section this time.