So, the cross season finished a long time ago and while the weather doesn't seem to have improved I haven't let that reduce the amount of time I've spent on my bikes.
The biggest change in my riding has been the employment of a coach. I know that in some circles this is a dirty word, but I've found it really useful. I always knew what I should be doing but I was pretty good at putting it off until tomorrow. A coach means I have not only the guilt of someone checking on me but also the guilt of not using what I've paid for.
My first mountain bike event this year was the Whinlatter Challenge. This is a great course with technical descents and long hard climbs. I'd been using my coach for about 4 weeks at this point, I'm sure that there will have been no real training benefits in this short period but I managed to knock about an hour off my time from the previous year, not bad for a 32 mile course!
Enjoying sunshine and singletrack at WhinlatterSecond race this year was the Colne Valley, this wasn't particularly technical but it had some horrible climbs and a nasty headwind. I was going really well but with only 5 miles to go I blew. I knew I had been pushing hard but I forgot to eat and didn't drink very much, my own fault, lessons learnt. In the last 5 miles I hemorrhaged places, a personal low light was being overtaken by a rider wearing a Wallace and Gromit jersey who looked like he was an a day out with the family!
I eventually crossed the line to be handed a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich by Rich and Paul - excellent recovery food! Any race that ends with bacon, tea and cakes is a great race in my books!
First cobble climb at Colne ValleyThe third race was the Glentress 7 which is part of the TweedLove festival with Crossclub riders Rich and Rob joining me in the solo category. The race as the name subtly suggests is a 7 hour race around Glentress. It was pretty cold as we lined up on the start line for the naturalised start behind a race vehicle, as the car drove up the long climb from the visitors centre to buzzards nest car park, Rich and Rob start to pull away and I settled into my own pace, seven hours is a long time and there was no need to burn out on the first hill.
Differing reaction from Rob and I on the discovery there would be 300+ m of climbing per lap!
The course was brilliant, lots of climbing but well worth it for the fast and technical descent, I'm not a strong climber but managed to make up most of the time I lost on the group I was riding with on the descents.
After a couple of laps I came into the pit area to see Rob just leaving, this was a massive boost to my confidence, Rob is much faster than I am generally, but I think the technical descent and my Scott Spark meant I was not losing as much time on him as usual, although I was still losing time! In the end it turned out he'd had a bad lap which allowed me to close in, I didn't see him again!
Rich came passed me on the descent on my penultimate lap, I must have been pulling some gnarly sick moves at the time (haha) so I missed him approaching. Rich announced he was going for another lap which gave me the required kick up the arse to make sure I beat the cut off to fit in another lap as well.
In the end Rich finished with 9 laps and a brilliant 12th place, and both Rob and I finished with 8 laps albeit about 20 places apart due to Rob finishing about 35 minutes in front of me. All in all this is a brilliant race and I will certainly be back next year!
So, as the year is progressing I feel as though I'm become a stronger rider, I'm still not challenging my Cross Club team mates but the coaching is paying off. This time next year, they should all be worried!
If anyone is interested my coach is http://www.ultimatefitnesspt.co.uk/ Steve has been a great source of help and advice so if you are in the market for a coach check him out.