It was a chilly start for the first round of the Off Camber Winter XC series, especially at 5am when my day started for the drive up to Dorset! The thermometer on my dashboard kept fluctuating from -3ºc to the dizzying heights of 2ºc, but the sun was starting to rise and it was forecast to be dry, which is more than can be said for most of the races throughout last summer!
This was my first time racing at The Inside Park, which seemed to be a familiar venue for regulars of Off Camber’s events. With the main race season over and having not been between the tapes for a while, the 2.5hr endurance race format seemed a good opportunity to push myself hard again as well as a change of scenery riding somewhere new.
After arriving and signing on, I headed out for the usual course recce ride, and it was at that point everything went downhill! Time just seemed to warp, and before I knew it I glanced at my Garmin to see it was only 4 minutes to 10am when the race would start, I was still in the middle of the woods, and I had no idea how far away from the start I was! Shortly after I rounded a corner to find myself back in the car park, but I was too late and the race had already started with no riders in sight. With far too many layers on to be racing in, I quickly dashed back to the car, swapped jerseys and bottles, grabbed a handful of gels and sprinted off with the new motivation to claw back as many places as possible within the 2.5hrs!
The course was a fairly rooty affair, and it was pretty easy to be caught off-guard by slippery roots hiding under the litter of leaves. There were a few technical features to keep things fun and interesting, with some drops, a gap jump and a rock garden. Technical riding has never been my strongest point, often shying away from A lines, but after feeling more confident recently it was reassuring to hit every relatively technical feature each lap, especially the gap jump… besides, I didn’t need the B line time penalty adding to the four and a half minutes I’d already lost!
After putting in a big effort on lap 1, I managed to climb back from dead last (103rd) to around 42nd. I continued to pick off riders, eventually finishing 16th overall, and 14th in Senior category. It certainly felt good to be racing again even if summer form isn’t there yet, and sparked up some more motivation to keep working hard towards the 2018 season.
Thanks to Off Camber for a well organised event – looking forward to Round 2 in February… and I’ll make sure I leave enough time to pre-ride next time!