After a very successful 2016 season, I came into the winter motivated to build on my good youth results and convert this into the junior ranks. Having been selected for the Great Britain Cycling Team Junior Academy I was busy travelling all over the UK for intense training camps which were a new experience for me and have developed my riding greatly.
My first race of the new season came in early March with the Junior World MTB XC series in Milan, Italy. This was my first MTB race as a junior and my first trip abroad with the academy so I was really looking forward to it. This had been a big motivation throughout the hard winter months.
The race took place in Milan city centre on a really steep and unusual course. With the race being so near to the city centre, there was many spectators out to watch the racing. MTB is a big sport in this region of Italy so the fans were really interested and I even signed my first autograph! The course was really dry and dusty with some of the steepest climbs I had ever raced along with very little recovery time. It was one of the most physically demanding courses I had ever ridden. Being a first year junior, my gridding wasn’t great, starting mid pack. The start was very hectic with every rider taking risks to gain places. I worked hard to move up places in the first lap but then suffered on laps 2&3 not being able to move up any further, just holding around a top 20 spot. With 2 laps to go I dropped my chain loosing about 20 seconds and quite a few places. The racing is so tight that one mistake is enough to ruin your race. I pushed hard to regain time and put in a strong last lap which was good enough for 26th position.
Having not raced at this level before, I didn’t know how I would perform. Overall I was happy with the result given it being early in the season and my first experience of junior international racing. The time gaps are very small so a small improvement could result in a big jump up in the standings. My aim for the next round is to get a top 20 finish.
Following the race it was a rushed pack up to get to the airport. Most of the riders were heading back to the UK but I was lucky enough to be flying across to Girona to join the Scottish Cycling MTB squad on their training camp for 5 days.
We stayed in a small town called Crespia, surrounded by good roads, mountains and trails. We rode every day and did a mix of on and off road riding. The road riding was really good with nice roads and long climbs, although some of the efforts we did on the climbs were savage! The off-road riding was awesome to, with some of the best descending I had ever done. The trails ranged from wide fast open descents to tight loose rocky descents. On the final day we rode a crazy descent down El Mont which lasted about 30 minutes and was one of the most difficult trails I had ever ridden, with steep, rocky and loose terrain. It was a great way to end the camp.
I really enjoyed my first experience of a foreign training camp and took a lot from this. I can’t wait to do this again in the future!
Looking forward, I am going to try and build on this training abroad to carry better form into the upcoming important races. It will be good to race at the first national round in Pembrey, South Wales soon.
Just after that, in April, I have 2 Junior World series races to look forward to: Germany then Austria. Then it’s exam time! I hope I can get some good results!
Thanks to Braveheart for their support this year!