My practice laps went off without too much of an issue, I ended up doing about three of them due to how technical a lot of the riding is through various rock gardens. This was because of two separate crashes on my last two laps on one of the initial technical sections which eventually led to the A-line being shut for the race as to prevent any more injuries.
For the race I was gridded on the second row and I got a fast start, the opening lap had an extended start loop before crossing the finish line and we then did a shortened first loop of the main course for lap one. The pace was high from the start and I soon found myself in a small group fighting for position. As the laps went by we started to lose riders. On the last lap we were down to three. On the dual slalom one of the riders put an attack in and tried to make a gap, I responded by jumping on his wheel and sticking to it like glue, this put a small gap into the third rider which he was able to gain ground on the twisty hairpins that followed. As we exited on to a small dragy open climb we were all back together before we hit the main climb of the course with tight hairpin switchbacks and rock obstacles. At the top I made my attack and pushed hard, I nailed the next small rock drop and pulled a bit of a gap from the other riders. As we hit the next climb it was down to just two of us, I dug deep again and opened up more of a gap before another rock drop. I hit the A-line whilst the other rider took the slower B-line, I now though I would have a massive gap. As I hit the main rock garden I was going a lot faster than previous laps and was been bounced around a lot harder, as I landed the drop at the bottom I went over the bars and hit the ground hard on my right hand side. Game over. I had ripped the sidewall on the front tyre, lost all the air and the tyre had folded over as I landed. This meant I dropped from a 19th place finish to be classified as 24th. A quick trip to the ambulance for a wound clean ended my day.
I had a week to recover from the cuts, grazes and bruises. The following weekend I was racing at Newham Park for the Bontrager 24/12. This was going to be my first ever 24h race. This race is used for the Inter-service 24h champs and I had been selected for the B-team. I had been prepping for a while for this event and I had even been on the training camp in Wales leading up to it. As a team we were aiming to better the third place from the year before.
Due to family issues with the guy I was travelling with on the Friday we didn’t make it in time to pre ride the course and ended up staying with some friends about an hour outside of the venue. To be honest it was probably a good thing as we had nice warm beds and were tucked up away from the rain! We arrived about 1000h on the Saturday morning, found the team camp and started preparing for the race. We had a team talk and it was decided I was going to be the B-teams starting rider as I was the strongest and fastest starter. Happy with this I then prepped the bike, had some food and headed onto the turbo to warm up. With fifteen minutes to go the three of us who were starting went down to the start lines, our team members had already taken our bikes down to get a good start positions, I was on row five.
The start was fast, faster than I expected for a 24h race!! We looped around the campsite being cheered on by everyone before looping round back to the start line and on to the course for real. Already the pack was beginning to spread out, I had made good ground already and was pushing to catch the lead rider of our A-team, the plan was to work together on the opening lap and be nice and high up the field out of trouble. As we left the campsite up a small climb I passed two more riders and we then dropped between a wall of trees and I saw roots ahead and adjusted my speed. Whack, the rider behind hit my rear wheel; I managed to catch the slide but then hit the wet roots and smacked into a tree, bounced off, and then got run over by another rider. I couldn’t breathe. I crawled off the race track and curled into a ball to relive the pain. Marshals ran to the accident and one of the Army riders stopped to help me.
I was in the worst pain I had ever felt my mind was running through a checklist of damaged I may have done. To cut a long story short two ambulance rides straight into re-suss in Plymouth hospital, shed load of morphine, CT scans X-rays, three days in hospital. The out come was five fractured vertebrate T1-T5, two fractured ribs a collapsed lung and damaged rotator cuff.
Four minutes of racing and hitting a tree at over twenty miles per hour I actually feel really lucky not to be in a worse condition. My first three weeks of recovery were hard, the pain was not the worst thing, but the fact I couldn’t do anything but rest up. By week four I was back on the road bike and having regular physio sessions.
September 1st I was on the start line for the Inter-services Road Race champs, I had been selected as 2ic road captain for the men’s support race. The race was in Lincolnshire based out of Cranwell. The course was very much flat but at the end of the lap was the only hill around for miles, a 19% killer! I had raced the RAF champs at the same course earlier in the year finishing 19th. The race was going okay I was riding near the front and we were closing down all the Army’s attacks, as we hit the climb the pressure the lungs were putting on the fractured ribs was so intense I instantly went out the back of the pack. You just can’t replicate racing in training, and I had not had this issue in training leading up to the race. I got over the climb and worked alongside another rider to get back in touch with the main pack but as we hit the hill for the second lap I lost touch and I had a very lonely last lap and ultimately finished in last place.
My recovery is on-going and I am still have some discomfort but my physio sessions have been great. In terms of soft tissue damaged I have made a remarkably speedy recovery, but it’s just time I need to heal the bone. This winter is going to be tough making sure I balance good training with proper recovery. I have no idea yet as to when I will be back on the MTB but I hope it is soon I want to try and catch the last of the dryish trails before winter sets in.