Things went better this weekend...
It was looking good when I got time to do TWO practice laps. The theme to the course was 'baby head' rocks and bull dust, the plan therefore was to get the holeshot, ride smooth and maintain momentum.
Come race day I started from the back row, missed a pedal and was dead last and a few metres off the back as we looped our way around Buller Central on the bitumen. On reflection it couldn't have been a better way to start as I closed the gap to the bunch just as we hit a small rise, and used the extra speed I had to roll past everyone as we crested it. The holeshot was mine. Now all I had to do was ride smooth and maintain momentum...which went well for two and a half laps before I spied second place for the first time in the race a few switchback behind me on the climb.
The rest of that climb was a flashback to National Champs last weekend. Worrying about the other guy, riding off my line while checking on the other guy, losing time to the other guy. There's definitely something to be said for the mental side of racing as the difference this week was that I then forgot about the other guy and focused on this guy. Going back to riding smooth and maintaining momentum I nailed the decent, floated up the granny ring climb and got the bell lap.
It was easy to keep the focus on my riding from then on, 'the other guy' was nowhere to be seen as I zigzagged my way up the switchback climb. That focus was well spent aswell as my front derailleur managed to rotate around my frame. Big ring...tick, tick, tick...hmmm, hitting my crankarm...can't use that one. Granny ring...grind, grind, grind...not changing...can't use that one. With no big ring available and the gap reopened the final decent was a bit more cautious not wanting to flat or drop a chain. As I approached the final granny ring climb my right hamstring gave me an ultimatum, find the granny ring or I'm gonna cramp. I ignored and pushed the middle ring over the first section getting some strong reinforcements on that ultimatum from my hamstring. A slight levelling of the climb gave me opportunity for a desperate ankle flick towards the chain, or should I say precision ankle flick as the chain dropped to the granny ring, the threats of cramp disappeared and I set sail for home.
So I had a win, the results tell the numbers story. The podium was a reverse of the top three series placings which tightens it up nicely with one round remaining, and my final Expert race before graduating to the Elite ranks. If that podium were to repeat in a months time Sean would hold on to take out the series two points clear of me with Damien one point back in third.
As always there are some thanks to give out. Tim for capturing the podium shot, Jimmy for transport and being a very helpful practice lap buddy, DC for organising accomodation, Rollin' Cycles for having the solution to all things bike and finally the fatties for running the race and having the sense to place a neutral water station half way around the course in this record heat wave.