Rock up at the venue, park alongside the 837 vans and go and get signed in. Now as cynical as I can be about the early mornings and the car park dances, I simply cannot fault the event organisation, friendly welcome and extremely helpful people with much better things to do than help me attach the transponder to my bike, and yet they do so with a smile on their faces and constant encouragement about how unlikely it is for me to actually die during the race.
As mentioned, I was sponsored by Dame Cycling, so once the transponder and number are on the trusty steed, I head to the Dame tent to receive yet another warm welcome, and my jersey for the day's races. Kelli Salone from Dame helps set up my bike, checking tyre pressure and suspension setup is optimal for the track. Some more encouragement, and off we go for our first practice run, as one big group of ladies, all slightly terrified of the events to come, but brought together by this shared experience.
The course - Rolling start to a sharp U turn corner, a flat but bumpy strip to get some pedalling speed in, now to the corners, oh boy there were corners, really, really sharp, bumpy, rooty corners. Turns out, I cannot turn corners very well, so I fall off in the slowest speed “crash” known to man, slightly embarrassed, i pick the bike up, sit on it and point it down the hill (apparently that’s where the finish is). More corners, if my memory serves correctly there were 208 in the first half, one had a tree stump in the middle of it, you know, to mix things up. Second half of the track, my favourite, but also the most dangerous; there is a cool drop off some rocks, followed by a jump, another drop off and then 4 tabletops. I was massively proud of my 5cm of air on a jump, and only when I saw the more experienced riders hitting heights closer to 5m I realised just how much more fun could be had with a few more years under my belt
For the race itself, the competitors are let loose on the track with a 30 second gap between each rider and riders are grouped by category, this meant that I was grouped with a lovely bunch of female riders who were all just as new to the sport as I was. Great stuff. So we all heaved our bikes up the push up path, helping eachother out with lines and cornering techniques, feeling comfortable enough to vent our concerns and our excitement about the race to come.
The race goes well for some and not so well for others, me being part of the others rather than the some, but that's ok, it's my second race, I'm not going to come out of this with a sponsorship deal and a free bike, but I know I'll definitely make some awesome friends and gain some great experience. After each run, we all congregate at the bottom checking out our times and congratulating the faster girls and those who've improved on their times.
It doesn't feel like a competition between us at all, we're as much supporters of our own category as we are racers. This is what I love, second to mountain biking of course ;)
It was a very early start for my second ever MTB race but the excitement for the day ahead was enough to coax me promptly out of bed. Not only was I looking forward to taking part in the second race of Tidworth Freerides Root 1 Race series, but I was also had the honour of being a guest rider for Dame Cycling. After setting up base with fellow Dames and chugging down a much needed coffee, it was practice time!
The track, 99 beaches, was made up of tight twisty corners, an avoidable drop with a fast end packed with table tops. As I have been riding less than a year, the best thing about this series is that everything is rollable.
I managed to squeeze in three practice runs though I only tried the drop once. I knew I could do it as I had purposely sessioned a larger drop the day before at Triscombe, but unfortunately my nerves got the better of me.
Before I knew it, it was race time. The thirty second gap between the previous racer and myself is where my nerves built the most. On goes the full face and my goggles and I'm away! I was definitely a bit too friendly with my brakes on my first two runs. I repeatedly thought to myself, in the approach to each corner brake before and carry speed, however my fingers just would not release.
The time difference between my first and second run was a matter of mili seconds and I securely had a hold of fifth place. A couple of my riding buddies came to lend me their support and advised me that as my times were consistent, I should brave the drop for my final run. They had faith that I could do it, and I believed in myself. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, I refrained from avoiding the drop and tackled it head on for my final run.
I rode it, I didn't crash and it lined me up perfectly with confidence to lay off the brakes a little longer than my previous runs. Once I was past the small rock garden, I was fast approaching the table tops. With my lack of ability to nail jumps I was concentrating hard on my body position to avoid going OTB. I successfully stayed on the bike, getting a very small amount of air.
Once I reached the end and caught my breath I was eager to see my time, and as the last girl to ride in my category I could see I had secured fifth place with a time improvement by a few seconds. I was so happy. I lacked confidence with the drop but completed it successfully beating my personal time in the process and securing myself a worthy fifth place. This was an amazing achievement for me, being so new to the sport.
I may not have been quick enough to podium but I felt I learnt so much, really focused on my technique and I beat my own time, which at this stage in my riding was rewarding enough. It was awesome to ride as a guest for Dame Cycling especially having the support of Kelli Salone who is more than happy to offer advice and tips to aid me in becoming a stronger rider. Overall, it was a fantastic day and I am still beaming from the long-lasting euphoria. I can't wait to enter again next year, as a non-novice!