I like quoting people at the beginning of my writings to take the pressure of writing something gripping in the first paragraph. I think it only fitting that my quote of the day should come courtesy of Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, being that, “I love it when a plan comes together”.
At the end of last year I sat down and planned out what my best course of action would be to get the most out of my time. I knew I didn’t have the time to build myself up to the level that I needed to be able to string together a consistent series. The only realistic option that presented itself was for me to put all my eggs in the National Championship basket.
Eggs are delicate, and to keep them all together is a risky decision. Looking at my numbers I knew I could get to the level I needed if everything went perfectly. This meant no illnesses or extended, unplanned time off the bike, which has made this summer one of my most stressful!
The whole block went smoothly with a predictable and clear upward trajectory of both form and results. All that was left was to manipulate the training over the final week to make sure I came into Saturday’s National Championships at the highest level I could manage. True to form this last week was another stressful one!
Being a home race I knew I had an advantage but it was only an advantage if I could manage the complacency that comes with being at home. I knew from last year that this was a big issue. Again like last year, I still made a mistake. Thankfully this time, it was only forgetting to put my bag with my spare clothes and extra bits and pieces in the car. I’m just glad I didn’t need any of it!
On the start line I felt a fair bit of pressure. Not from having all my eggs in one basket, but from knowing I had the legs to fight for the win. Although I led for a small portion of the start loop, it was clear by the second lap that Scott Bowden was still in a league of his own. I didn’t have any time to worry about that though as I was in a close fight for the silver position with Chris Hamilton.
I felt Chris had the measure of me for the majority of the course with only a few sections swinging in my favor. I made a mistake on the third lap, which let a small gap open. I tried to close the gap over the next lap and a half but it was proving difficult. Due to the switchback nature of a few sections of the course, I could see a group forming behind.
On the fourth lap they really started gaining ground. The gap to Chris was holding but the group behind was catching, which had me thinking that Chris and I had spent a bit of energy racing each other while the others had employed a more consistent ‘Dan McConnell’ style race strategy.
On the last lap, the gap had really closed and I knew I had to push hard to hold my bronze position. I was digging deep and riding as fast as I could but exiting the penultimate single-track section I looked over to see Ben Bradley only a few bike lengths behind!
The next section was a full-blown sprint across the grass. The few bike lengths gap was holding. Exiting the final corner, I dropped it into the 11 tooth and gave it everything, coming across the line for the bronze medal!
It might not have been the win but I’m still very happy with the result. I’m also happy that it’s all over! Now I get to relax, at least for a week, then it’s all systems go for Europe!
I would like to thank and congratulate all the people involved in the 2015 National Championships. From the volunteers, who worked tirelessly to get everything organised and running smoothly, and MTBA for putting on another great event. Also the spectators who came out and cheered us on. It was much appreciated.
And finally, I want to thank Mike from MarathonMTB for his continued support, as well as all my sponsors who keep me pedalling bikes. I won’t push a sponsor list down your throat but I would suggest that you buy a Shimano equipped Bianchi Methanol with a set of Fox forks and Mt Zoom handlebars. Add a set of Stans wheels with some Maxxis rubber and you’ll be set for some epic times!