It’s been an amazing year with two 2nd places at the UCI World Marathon Series (Roc d’Ardenne and Alps Bike Festival), third place at Raid Evolenard, a 5th and 6th at BeMC and now the National Marathon Championship title. Hard work pays off!
Since winning the title back in 2015 and 2016 the event moved to the Isle of Man in 2017, the event has been a tricky nut to crack with 2 near misses finishing a close second on both occasions. The first year my preparation was exceptional, the second year even better until a week before the event where a big crash caused a knee injury which kept me off the bike until race day. This year I struggled in the weeks before the event, I’d set the May and June races as a big goal and after that success I then tried to maintain the momentum into early July for European Champs and onto National Championships end of July. European Championships I punctured out off after 10km, I’d tapered for the event and on returning home didn’t feel great on the bike, despite the short race I needed another recovery week. My fitness was slipping away and I was failing a few training session, I’d lost the wave I’d been riding, confidence was low.
Despite previous difficulties we always love visiting this island, before National Championships came here we raced the Isle of Man End 2 End for several years, each year until recently the sell out event was shown on Sky and Bike Channel on freeview. Whilst the Manx 100 race is the highlight of the British mountain bike calendar it’s the island that makes this trip a highlight of our year. Every year we travel with coaching clients and enjoy exploring a new part of the island, this year we spent time on the beautiful Laxey beach relaxing before the race and spent Monday after the race getting a suntan in Port St Mary and Castletown which is the old historic capital of the Isle of Man. The island might be famous for the motorbike TT but it has a lot more to offer, it’s network of trails and beautiful seaside towns make it a great place to visit.
Out in the Isle of Man I was able to refocus and motivation began to grow, I still wasn’t buzzing on adrenaline like I had been in previous years but from the start I was confident enough to lead the first 1 hour 30 with others having to follow my pace. Gapping the field unexpectedly on the long Laxey climb was an unexpected surprise and gave me the realisation that this race was mine to win.
Conditions were awful on the day, each year we go to the Isle of Man the weather is terrible on race day, last year we didn’t think it could get any worse but this years torrential rain proved far worse. Descending to feed zone 2 I was absolutely freezing and my legs were close to cramping because of the cold. I grabbed my Kalas eVent jacket which saved the day.
The race was won on penultimate climb from feed zone 4 in Kirk Michael, local rider Leon Mazzone could no longer sustain the pace so dropped off, it was then just me and Jo Griffiths. The climb went from tarmac to gravel to rocky farm track, I set a tempo pace, not yet attacking but it was enough to dislodge Joe from my wheel. From here I soloed away into the clouds, it was impossible to know the gap I had so I keep the pace consistent using two of my big strengths, sustainable power output and long range fatigue resistance. Up the final climb and onto the final descent which was a fast moving river, it was impossible to see what huge rocks waiting to puncture your wheel or take you off your bike lay under the water. Safely off the mountain I crossed into the finish field, still not knowing the gap I had to second place. Over the line to win the National title, I collapsed onto the floor in a shivering wreck, the freezing conditions tested everyone today, what a crazy race! Joe finished second place 5 minute back and the legend Nick Craig finished third a further 6 minutes back. Great news followed again shortly after with coaching client Ruth Miller taking the ladies National title, proud coach, well done Ruth!! I’m excited to race in the stripes again! National Marathon Champion 2015, 2016, 2019.
The Isle of Man delivers a fantastic location to race or ride a bike, the race track is as tough and rewarding as any mountain bike race track I’ve ridden in Europe. Each year the race organiser makes big improvements, I wonder in future years if the Manx 100 could be a great race to hold a UCI World Marathon Series race or even European Marathon Championships?