It all feels like it’s coming together! Round 4 of the Scottish MTB series took us …
A new level
After a few races in 2014 and a 10th overall finish in the now defunct Masters category, 2015 was a big year in terms of making myself more competitive and generally fitter. It was clear I needed to drop some serious weight. So after the Rouken Glen race in January I embarked on a pretty serious training regimen with my coach Richard Foxley, targeting the first SXC race in March.
Moving up to the extremely competitive veteran’s category would not be an easy task, and I’d not be afforded the luxury of high placings. The first race of the year at Cathkin Braes was a brilliant race for me, and looking back, one of the standout races of the year. I rode with strength and power competing with people throughout the race, and although my handling and technique still needed a lot of work a 19th place and a sprint finish with David Mason was a great start to the season.
This was a polar opposite to the second race of the SXC series in Dalbeattie which was a complete disaster, I started brilliantly, holding 5th place at the top of the first climb, but took myself way to far in the red, and suffered for the rest of the race dropping back to 19th and again being let down by my technique and lack of upper body strength on the descents.
After a disastrous ERC Crit series in May at Ingliston where I wither crashed, flatted or struggled to hold the bunch, I was a little disheartened, but quickly realised the base training was more about endurance and strength than out and out speed, and helped me understand more how I need to vary my training for specific events.
After a few weeks of solid training and focussing a lot on off-road, I went into the National Marathon MTB Champs in Selkirk, opting for the 50km open race, not wanting to bite off more than I could chew with the 75km just yet. I was rewarded with a rather pleasing 6th place at the end. Sadly, it clashes with one of the SXC rounds in 2016 so I’ll not be returning this coming year.
Round 3 took us north to the Highlands and Laggan to what could possibly have been my favourite track of the year. And another breakthrough race in terms of finally getting my descending head on and actually holding pace with those around me, on what was a very technical descent. 15th place and a close finish with Tony Jones, which saw him pass me in the final fire road to the finish, by which time I had nothing left in the tank to fight back.
A quick return visit to Cathkin for Round 4 of the British series saw my only DNF of the year where I was simply outclassed from the gun, a monumental jump in class, and something to aim for in 2016 as the British National Championships are being held there.
Round 4 at Lochore Meadows was another good race, where I managed to pace myself properly and was rewarded with 14th, so again a step in the right direction.
There then was an almost 2-month gap until the National Championships in Aviemore, and I went through a bit if a lull in training, where I should have been putting some serious effort in, I lost my way a bit. But a 15th place on an incredibly technical and challenging course (but brilliant too, one of the toughest challenges of the year by far) was for me a great result.
The final race of the series in Forfar was another great course, the SXC have outdone themselves with the locations and courses this year, all a massive challenge in their own right. I managed 13th, my best result of the year, and managing a 13th place overall in the SXC series 2015, not bad when you consider over 100 riders took part over the course of the season. I also finished with a national ranking of 68th which is a great base to improve on in 2016
The cross season (still only half done due to the two new race series running from Jan – March) was a mixture of frustration and positives.
Probably my highlight of the year was the Battle of Balloch Castle CX Where I finished 4th in the B race and lead for the first two laps, from a motivation point of view it was a fantastic feeling to be leading and mixing it up at the front of a race and made me realise that’s still the ultimate target!
The first round of the SCX series at Callendar park is always a hard one to gauge because of the numbers (that said Strathclyde outdid Callendar this year, and even monsoon conditions couldn’t keep the riders away.) and with a silly crash and a terrible start I never really got going, but finished in the top half of the field.
Strathclyde I improved a little with a 44th but more positively, I paced myself much better passing 4 or 5 riders on the long climb on the last lap.
And at Lochore Meadows it all came together really well, coming off a couple of weeks of rest and a light cold, I managed a 28th place by a country mile my best result in a National series round.
My final race of the year should have been the National Championships in Irvine, but after getting a pretty awful cold after the Stirling BC race at Plean in awful conditions. I took a month off the bike to recharge the batteries and prep for a big 2016 with some solid targets and a few big changes like introducing a power meter and a bit more structure to my training. The other big thing will be to lose weight, and I’ll be spending some time analysing my diet too.
All in all, 2015 has been a bit of a journey of finding new limits and understanding that it’s not just fitness but also a range of other elements that lead to good results. (but of course mostly fitness) 2016 will be year 2 of a 3-year plan that should hopefully see me near the front of the field.
I can’t wait for 2016 to start. A big thanks as always to Scott for their continued support! #noshortcuts #scott2luvit