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Crow Hill has always been one of those courses that has never really excited me, it may be that I have had some bad luck on the courses over the years with mechanicals or that it always tends to be wet! So when I saw the weather leading up to the weekend I was not in the highest of spirits.

I arrived at the event just before 11am and once I had signed on and fitted my race number I jumped on the bike and headed straight out for some practice laps. The rain had luckily not done too much damage to the course, covered areas were still damp but the course was drying out nicely the more it was being used.  The opening of the lap was similar to past years with lots of tight twisty rooty single-track, followed by a long piece of fire road with a nice gentle rise to the second half of it. With all the training I have been putting into my climbing I felt like I could be strong here come race time. Once off the fire road it was back into the woods and some more twisty rooty single-track that was unfamiliar to me with a nice little drop of worked into the course to keep you on your toes. The lap came back on to the arena to drop away to more single-track that was familiar before climbing back to the finish.

 

After completing my laps I headed back to the car for lunch and to reflect on the course. My thoughts were that this was by far the best course that I had ridden here and the damp was actually helping to keep the course fast and flowing by keeping the dust levels down, I hoped that this would make the race a lot easier not breathing in tons of dust!!

As race time got closer I headed off to do some warming up. While waiting to be gridded I had a quick chat with some of the Army and Navy riders, nice bit of inter-service banter! I was gridded on the second row after a good performance at the last event. The whistle blew and as I shot forward the guy ahead of me stalled slightly trying to clip in, I moved right to miss smashing into the back of him only to get hit by the rider next to me, I ended up being wedged between the two riders with some awful sounds of expensive parts breaking!!! Not sure how but we all escaped unhurt and upright and continued sprinting up the fire road into the main arena. After losing my bearings from the incident on the line I was not sure what position I was in but I had caught the back of the group ahead before we hit the first bit of single-track. As we progressed through the wood the guy in front began to full back from the group, desperate to get past I was looking for any chance but had to wait for the fire road before I could push past. At  the end of the fire road I must have slowed enough for the guy to get back past and gap me, all I could do now is sit in and try and recover. Through the next technical section we caught a rider from in front and as I moved of line at took a very rooty line to get past a lost my bottle, rubbish I thought it's going to be a long race now!! The next section of fire road allowed me to get back on the wheel of the guy in the place ahead of me but in a technical climb he lost traction and stalled, as I tried to track stand and power over the top him I lost traction and fell losing a handful of place in the process. As I got back to my feet I accelerated up the climb and began the chase again to gain back my places. Coming over the line I heard my position over the tannoy as sixth, I had caught all but one of the guys I had lost ground to before. On the second lap I closed in on fifth and managed to pick my bottle back up! By lap three I was pegging the gap to the rider in front but was struggling to make any inroads. By the last lap he was putting time into me and I was feeling very fatigued which was beginning to affect my line choices.

Final result was sixth place and the best result I have had in a Southern XC race and I was able to post very competitive and consistent lap times.

Next up is round three at Wasing and will also be the Southern Champs so I’m expecting even tougher competition but I’m also hoping to get nearer to the podium.

 

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