Early Season Racing Update

Sean Flynn | Monday 22nd May, 2017

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The first round of the British MTB series was in Pembrey, South Wales. I was happy to start the series well with a 3rd place finish after riding a good race which gave me confidence for the coming races in Europe. I was also satisfied with this result as I knew the standard of the riders around me was high and a podium at this level was one of my pre-season objectives.

Just a couple of days after this I went to Germany with the GB MTB Academy for my second junior world series race, taking place in Bad Sackingen on the German-Swiss border. We arrived a few days before the race so we had plenty of time to practice the course and explore the local area in the nice weather. I liked the course as it had quite a few interesting sections and lots of short, hard climbs. On race day I was feeling good and really looking forward to the race, but with a grid position of 73 I knew it was going to be challenging to achieve my aim of a top 20 finish. Taking the advice of the more experienced riders and the coaches, I knew I had to fight for every position on the start but also stay relaxed and not waste energy trying to pass riders in places where it is very unlikely to actually work. With this in mind I rode a clever first lap managing to get to around 50th position but felt good enough to continue moving up. Now that the race was more spread out my main focus was just picking riders off one by one and trying to gain as many places as possible. I knew that I would need to pass close to 10 riders per lap to achieve my goal of top 20 so it was really encouraging to hear each lap that my position was improving. By the final lap I had reached the top 20 and managed to squeeze out my last bit of effort to achieve 17th position which I was really happy with. Even better, all 4 of the GB Junior academy riders were inside the top 20 which was really encouraging for the rounds to come.

Less than 2 weeks later, it was back out to Europe to race another round of the Junior World Series, this time taking place in the Tirol region of Austria. The landscape was incredible with towering mountains all around us and some spectacular views. The course was one of the best I had ever ridden with tough climbs and steep, rooty and rough descents that were really fun to ride. With my exams getting closer all the time it was important that I tried to do some revision to prepare myself for a busy exam period although admittedly I found this hard to focus on with the race in the back of my mind. On race day it was a very early start with the race beginning at 8.30 am meaning quite cold temperatures that we were not used to at this time of year. The race began with about 1km on the road before entering the full course, so in theory I would have plenty of time to move myself into a good position before the technical sections began. However unfortunately there was a crash soon after the start which I just avoided but had to come to a standstill meaning I lost any chance of moving up. On the first steep technical descent this was made worse as there was a massive hold up as people fought to get through a tight section leaving a large number of riders with nothing to do but stand and wait. I was waiting for about 1 minute but it felt like forever as I could see the lead riders winding down the descent into the distance. I then had the hard task of moving through the group to get the best possible position and, although I had lost a lot of time, there was still a lot of riders within catching distance so I was able to gain positions fast. Similar to the last race, I took energy from hearing from coaches that I was gaining lots of places. By the last lap I had the top 20 within my sights so I pushed as hard as I could and managed to finish up 22nd.   Despite a disappointing start I was pleased with my ride to have moved through so well to achieve a top 25. It was also motivating to see GB teammate Cam Orr getting a 2nd place and so close to the win.

The next big aim for me came at the Hadleigh International MTB Event which was also part of the Junior World Series. With the race taking place on Sunday and an exam on the Friday and on the Monday along with a fair bit of travel to fit in, I hadn’t been sure if I would even be able to take part in this event at all but I am very glad I did. It was a great opportunity to ride a top class event within the UK against a really strong field with the majority of the top ranked riders in attendance. I was able to get up to speed quickly in course practice as I was quite familiar with the course from in the past. After a pretty good start to the race I found myself in about 20th position but still with time to make up. On the first lap the pace was high and I pushed hard to gain positions. Once I had managed to get into about 15th position I found myself in a different situation to the previous races as I was no longer simply trying to catch and pass the riders in front, instead I was caught in small battles with the riders around me who were of similar speed. I enjoyed this part of the race and dealt with it well and by the final few laps I was in a battle for the top 10 spots. To finish the race in 10th position was great for me and a promising show of my development as I was much closer to the leaders of the race than in the last few races. To top off a great race, the top 10 contained 5 British riders, a clear sign of the strength of the British riders in this category.

Following this big block of international racing, round 3 of the British MTB series took place in Richmond, North Yorkshire. I was happy to continue my good form with a 3rd place finish in a really tough race.

After a very busy first part of the season, I am really excited to be offered the chance to represent GB on the road at a stage race in Germany as part of the UCI Junior Nations Cup. This will be a great experience for me and it is safe to say that I will be slightly out of my comfort zone having done no road races this year or any junior road races at all. I don’t know what to expect but I am really looking forward to this new challenge.

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