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Over the last 5 years a lot of work has been done year on year to make the course at Wasing more and more challenging. This year was no exception with the large drop off mid-course becoming a B-line with a new A-line built next to it with a log jump into a drop. The log climb had been extended and a lot more log jumps placed around the course. Definitely the hardest Southern course not only of the year but that I have raced on. It would seem that with the shift to 29er by the majority of racers has meant the course designers have ad to think off new ways to challenge riders, and personally I think they are doing a great job. 

I took my time on my first practice laps looking at each obstacle and seeing how best to ride each one and where time could be made or lost. On the my second lap I picked the pace up and worked on some of the B-lines knowing that sometimes when in a group at the start of a race time can be gained nipping down an B–line whilst people stack up on the A-line. At one point a quick test with some other riders showed that on one particular obstacle the B-line was hardly any slower and would be a safer option in the heat of a race. 

On the start line I was gridded on the front row due to my series standing of 6th. I hoped this would mean no issues off the line with riders stalling in front of me like the last round. As the whistle blew I struggled to clip in and lost some ground slipping a few places back, not panicking I just kept accelerating as hard as possible, on the first split in the course I hit the B-line and gained a place, and accelerated up the climb to catch the leading group. As the race lap went on I was able to pass a few more places and as I crossed the line I was at the back of a group of three riders. On the second lap I was able to pass them and begin to put a nice gap into them, my plan now was to hunt a rider I could see in the distance. Crossing the line to start my third lap I was in 9th fairly happy with my position but I knew I could do better, the gap to the rider in front was coming down and he seemed to have caught some more riders, the hunt was on. Halfway through the lap and I felt the rear tyre was a lot softer than it should be. I jumped off pulled out my co2 cartridge and the thing blew up in my face, cue a bunch of expletives and the cartridge flew through the woods. Race over.

Once I was home and I had cooled off a bit I cleaned the bike down and took a look at the damage to the tyre. There was a tear in the side wall that needed patching from the inside - it looked like I had caught the sidewall on some of the flint on the trail, had the co2 cartridge worked it would probably have failed to reseal the cut anyhow. I had taken to dropping the pressure for the race after finding lack of traction on the practice laps, perhaps I had been too brave and gone too low, I had also slightly dented the rim in two places but more evidence that I may have gone too low especially on a course with lots of drops and jumps. 

Lesson learned I will be looking closely at bike set up ready for round 3 of the National series.

 

Chris
RAF Cycling and BucksMTB Team Rider

 

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