Sunday, 15 September 2013

Xterra England 2013 2nd place

Sorry for the lack of blogging in the last couple of years.

This race was my world champs of 2013.

I have lived about 3 miles from the course since I was about 4 years old, until recently when I moved 25 miles away in neighbouring Berkshire.

Since the demise of the UK round in Wales, I have worked with several potential organisers to get an event back in this country, and I had almost given up hope when Mark contacted me and tried to sell the Cranleigh idea. He didn't need to sell it, I was already in!

Yesterday it all came together and now the stress and excitment has worn off I feel quite emmotional.

It was a funny race for me, and in many ways not suited to my strengths.

The swim was about 1700m which is  200m long, which being my weakness, meant I had even more of a catch up job to do than usual. Having Richard Stannard swimming with Ben Allen just increased the speed at the front and they both started the bike with over 4 minutes lead on me.

I didn't immediately feel good on the bike and the Frenchman Francois Carloni who exited the swim with me pulled away at the start of the bike. It took me a while to get me spanky white brand new Lake shoes tightened and get in the zone. I decided to race in my Lake aero helmet as we were getting round the 15km lap in about 35 minutes, given all the slow technical sections this meant there was a lot of the course where we were doing over 30km/h which is road bike speeds and aerodynamics come into play. Even if it didn't help it was a pschological boost and a talking point. As I found out later, the seconds were going to matter!

I caught Francois halfway round lap 1 and we worked together well, catching more riders in front of us. Then we were caught ourselves by a flying spaniard Hector Guerra (the current European series leader). We tried to work as a trio, carving our way through the lapped riders, who were very courteuous, thanks everyone! The only riders ahead of us now were Ben Allen leading and the talented cross country runner Yeray Luxem from Belgium.

Towards the end of the bike Hector attacked from our group, Francois crashed behind me on a fast slippery corner and injured himself, leaving me on my own and struggling a bit.

I composed myself, necked a Maxifuel Viper gel and tried back in a decent pedalling cadence on the Rotor rings. I could see Hector ahead and he had caught Yeray. I don't know if his earlier attack had taken some of his energy or if he was saving himself for the run, but I started clawing my way back. I took some big risks in the final technical section and manged to get with the duo as we entered T2 for the start of the run.

Yeray had a great transition and set off like a rocket, soon out of sight.

I had been struggling with a niggling achillies injury for the last week (huge thanks to my physio's Care for Health for helping get it better) and hadn't run at all for 6 days. It was either going to be a fantastic run on fresh legs or a limp to the finish. Luckily it was the former.

Hector sat behind me most of the first lap of the 2 lap run. I knew I couldn't be running that bad if he wasn't running away from me. Then on the major climb he decided to go and I had no answer. On the rutted descent that followed I started gaining on him again and caught him and then without really attacking I had a small gap. As I started lap 2 my parents shouted I had 30m on Hector. This put me in 3rd on the podium. I had given up on catching Yeray and he was totally out of sight, but i just ran on fear of being caught and losing my podium position.

As I approached the final km of the race, I was feeling safe in my 3rd place, but I didn't let up for a second. I had no idea that Yeray was having a melt down ahead. I exited the final wooded section and there was was, I had to do a double take, as he was only 50m ahead with 400m to the line. Unfortunately the Belgiun supporters let him know I was coming and I couldn't use the element of surprise. What I did have was the home crowd down the finishing straight, which seemed to go on for ever, and I needed it to as I inched closer to him. I don't think I've ever had such support and such a dramatic finish as I collapsed across the line to claim second place.

I was so relieved than I had been able to run and had been in great shape, and that the event had been a success with worthy winners in both Ben Allen and Jacquie Slack. Now the relief is turning to happiness as I look back on a fanstic weekend.

Please do check out the TV coverage on Sunday 22nd September on channel 4, and then repeats on both Sky Sports and Eurosport.

Thanks as ever to all sponsors that let me compete at this level. Hopefully the coverage of all of your products on these TV show will repay your support this year!