Battle over! A year on from my fourth place, I had a bit of unfinished …
After the positive race at Cathkin, I was in the mood to race some more while I had some good fitness. So a bit last minute but Craig Owen and I decided to take the trip down to North Yorkshire to race Round 2 of the Nutcracker Series at Gandale.
Gandale is an interesting course that is off limits the rest of the year as it’s an Army tank range, what that did mean however was some great vantage points where you were able to see a lot of the track.
The three hour drive passed relatively quickly, and with different race timings (Craig at 11:30 me at 2) we got sorted and rode a warmup lap. Great to see Jane and Wayne Barr and Richard Greenwood there representing the Scots (well Scots and Kiwis!)
As with Cathkin two weeks previous the weather was unseasonably sunny and warm, Jane and Craig rode superbly pacing themselves to perfection to take a Win and Third in their respective categories, and it was clear that the race would be long, with Craig clocking 2hrs on the nose for his 6 laps in Elites.
Conscious it was going to be a race of attrition I didn’t do a huge warmup and hoped that I could ride myself into the race as it was clear that pacing would be the best plan of attack.
I got off the line well, and the long fire road for the first kilometre the entire field stayed together, sheltering from the strong headwind. On the first short sharp climb, the group started to splinter, as we dropped into the single track alongside the stream.
As the lap progressed the gaps were quite tight, with a long line or riders nose to tail. I was sitting comfortably top ten and climbing well, The winter training has given me good power on the short sharp climbs, so I was pushing hard here (something that’d come back to haunt me later on)
At the end of the first lap I felt strong and latched onto another rider as we headed out again on the long fire road, sheltering from the wind. Whoever he was he was quick and I was using most of what I had just to hold his wheel so felt bad I couldn’t contribute more.
Second lap, as first, hard on the steep stuff, and keep pushing on the long wide sections.
Coming to the end of lap three, I felt the dread of cramp, just a small twinge, in my quad, but it rang alarm bells as I knew I had 2x 20 min+ laps still to ride. Still, no point in slowing.
The fourth lap was tough, and my pace definitely slowed considerably. I’d been riding with Paul Nutton but was finally dropped as the legs started to cramp more consistently, a real frustration as it’s not something I’ve suffered hugely with before, but after 2x races in a row this year I need to consider what’s causing it.
I had electrolyte drink with me this time after thinking that may have been the case at Cathkin, but now considering I may be tightening my new shoes too tight, or purely the fact I’m going out to hard and not pacing myself well enough.
Lap 5 was brutal, I cramped so badly on the climb after the water splash I seriously considered quitting, the medic from the mountain rescue team who were on had that day even asked me if I wanted to go on, I stopped for at least a minute stretching out my calves, I was in agony. I decided to push on as I was so close to the end, and didn’t want to come all this way and have no points to show for it at the end. I have a rule that unless the bike breaks or I’m injured to the point I can’t ride, I’ll never quite a race. But I’ll be honest, this race was the closest I’ve ever come to knocking it on the head!
Through the last wooded section, I had to ease right off, knowing I wouldn’t be caught if I kept a steady pace. One final climb up to the finish and the suffering was finally over.
1hr 57 mins on a super tough course. The Nutcracker team put out a post on Facebook asking if people thought it was worthy of a National Round, in my eyes it’s absolutely of the calibre of a NPS round. The short sharp climbs are energy sapping and the long fire road sections leave no space for recovery. I for one would be signing up!
In the end I rolled across the line in 13th Again pleased that my first couple of laps were fast but frustrated that the cramp probably stopped me potentially grabbing a top 10. Great rides too by Wayne (3rd) and Rich (11th).
Onwards and upwards, next race Dunoon, I think I’ll work on my pacing and perhaps not go out as hard (easier said than done when people are disappearing over the hill in front of you).
There’s a new course at Dunoon, so excited to see what that’ll bring.