British MTB XC Series - Sean Flynn

Monday, 23rd June, 2014


We all know how much preparation is needed for a MTB race, aside from the training the preparation starts days before the race.  This is why I found myself spending hours on Thursday setting up my bike so that I was prepared for any conditions, setting up wheels with wet and dry weather tyres and deciding to warm up on rollers or turbo.  This preparation continued with getting all my kit ready and as usual I was constantly worried I would forget something.
 
Friday saw us with the big challenge of packing the car with the bike inside (we need a van!).  Me and my dad then faced the 3 hour drive to Scotch corner where we would stay the night before tackling the 5 hour drive the next day to Essex.

On Saturday we were up early to brave the long drive to Essex to practise the course.  It was a really nice place but the thing that struck me first was the vast amount of grass in front of me, not deep forest I am used to.  Due to the lovely weather I was able to ride in short sleeves and shorts, it was great!  The track was not very technical, with a large amount of thick, leg-sapping grass.  The sections in the forest were fun but still not very technical, there was only one or two sections which required a fair amount of concentration.  The highlight of the course must have been the BMX track at the end of the lap, a change to what is usually included in XC courses but great fun.  There was one bit in the woods where there was an array of big rocks which many people were struggling with but I managed to spot a line which allowed you to use a rock to propel yourself past most of the rocks and carry speed (spotted Grant Ferguson taking this line in practise).  After getting the course sussed I was looking forward to the race the next day.  I was aware that the clocks were going forward that night meaning we would get 1 hour less sleep, and with a race start of 9am this meant getting up incredibly early and I was dreading it…

Race day.  5:45 am (feels like 4:45 am!!!) wake up.  Breakfast was an array of food brought from home:  instant porridge, cereal, bananas, bread and nutella!  We left the hotel quickly and headed to the race.  When I got there I went for a short ride in one of the ‘more’ technical sections as I don’t like going into a race having done no technical riding on that day.  I realised that overnight frost that was melting caused a bit of mud in some sections but it was still ok for dry weather tyres.  I warmed up on the rollers well and felt good before heading over to the gridding pen where everyone tries to intimidate the opposition.  It was a great confidence boost to be gridded 2nd which is cool as it means I was 2nd best ranked rider as a first year juvenile in Britain last year.  The race would be 2 laps and my aim was top 5, if I could get a top 5 after the difficulties I had in the winter with illness I would be happy.  The start was very wide, fast and long, going straight into a short steep grass climb.  Even after this point, 30 seconds into the race, the race was breaking up due to the leg sapping grass.  One rider, Harry Birchill, was going really strong and disappeared up into the distance within the first half a lap, however the race between 2nd and 6th was quite close and a constant battle.  It stayed like this all through the first lap but then on the 2nd lap one guy got dropped and the other four of us were still battling for 2nd place with gaps forming and closing all the time.  I managed to use the technical sections to close down any gaps that were formed on the flat and climbs.  The battle went on and    in the end I finished 5th only 20 seconds off 2nd place and agonisingly close to the podium.  This meant I had reached my goal. I struggled on the long, bumpy grass section at the end, unable to put in that last burst of speed. After a quick recovery I was back in the car ready for the long drive home.

All in all it was a great experience with it being the first national MTB race where I have been amongst the leaders and it has made me really want to go to the next round of the series where I believe I am capable of reaching the podium, however the next round is in Cornwall so my parents aren’t so keen…






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