For me, the XCO National Champs is THE race of the year. Nerves and excitement levels are high, everyone has their fitness peaking, and it’s always a tough and challenging course. In one word, FUN!
For the third and final year, the National Championships are in Bright. We can’t wait to find out who gets the honour next year.
This year I was coming into the event feeling good. I had a strong summer of riding, when school started up again I kept the volume and intensity up. In the weeks preceding the event I did a few races to test both my legs and form. It was a great boost to my confidence to get some good results, with 4th at the Rocky Trail AMB, and 2nd at the Willo Enduro. Despite all this I knew the calibre of the field at Nationals would be much faster, and the course would be a lot more challenging. To sum up, I was excited and feeling the fastest I’ve ever felt.
I don’t normally like putting a whole heap of thankyous into race reports, but this was a huge race for me and required massive amounts of commitment from a number of people. The first of these is my family. I was riding nearly every morning of the week, and most days going straight to school, working in the afternoon before coming home. It’s a lot to expect to have all of your kit cleaned, meals prepared and just a house to come home to. Mum drove me to the race, chauffeured me around Bright, cooked my meals and made sure my preparation was spot on. I can’t thank her and my family enough.
We arrived in Bright on Thursday afternoon. I had one chance to practise the track before my race at 1pm on Friday. I’d heard the course was similar to last year, but had a few new bits added and so was quite a bit harder. My first practise lap confirmed this. The first 2km were the same, however after that there was another steeper climb added, before a more technical descent. It was dusty like last year and it felt good to be back on the Bright trails. My other observations from the practise lap went like this:
- Really steep fire road climb after the first descent.
- Longer climb then last year, this also meant a longer descent.
- A few more technical spots on Buddha Hood that I’d have to watch out for.
The lap went well and I was feeling really good about everything, however my rear brake lever was pulling all the way into the handlebars and desperately needed a bleed. Now I carried a few tools with me, but I certainly didn’t have a bleed kit for a SRAM Guide brake. I knew there was a SRAM tent at the event centre, but I was sure that they were just there to support SRAM sponsored riders, which I am not. I didn’t stress too much because I knew there was no point worrying, I just realised I would have to suck it up and use a bit more of my front brake.
The worry left my mind and I focussed on dinner. My new coach James Downing has provided really solid input into my training, he is the main reason that I’ve seen such an improvement over last year. James set plan that really pushed me to my max and finished with a great taper, so I knew on race day I’d be giving 100%. When I signed up with James I wasn’t expecting my new coach to be providing me with restaurant suggestions and recommendations. I can say that James doesn’t just understand cycling, the Thai restaurant on the main street of Bright was perfect! JD’s call on the Thai Green Chicken Curry and coconut rice was oh so tasty.
I made sure to get an early night, but was woken about midnight by the sound of pouring rain. At least the track will be a bit less dusty I thought, and rolled back to sleep. However when I woke up 7 hours later it was still pouring…I could only begin to imagine how slippery the roots and short pinches around the track had gotten.
After my tried and tested porridge with honey for breakfast, we made our way to the track. The guys at the SRAM tent were awesome and had my brake working a treat in no time.
My race wasn’t until 1pm but my girlfriend Dana had just arrived into Bright and we were going to catch up with her and her family. At this point the rain was pouring even heavier but Dana and her little brother Jordan set off on a brave practise lap. I left the event centre to go and get warm. It was while we were on the way back to our cabin that I got a text from Dana’s mum, the race had been postponed until 4pm that day.
I’m going to skip through to the good bit now. We arrived back at the track at around 3pm. I knew that I had a 20 minute warm up to do and had to be at the start line about 10 minutes before the race. I fixed my number to my bike and jersey and jumped onto the trainer. Legs spinning I did a few short sprints.
“Could we please get all male U15 and U17 riders to the start line” I hear over the PA system. I make my way to the marshalling area and start to ride in circles, keeping my legs warm. As I open my gel planning an energy hit in about 10 minutes, about when we start the first climb. Next I hear “The U17 and U15 race has been delayed by 15 minutes.” I rolled out back onto the road to do a few more sprints. As I rolled back to the start line they had just started to call up riders. It’s always pretty special to hear the announcer call out “and from the ACT we have Sam Dyne!” I had number 31, so was placed towards the back of the field, but was keen to get a good start. Now I’m nervous, but a lot calmer then I was last year, everything has gone right in my prep and I know I’ve nothing to worry about. The ground is moist underneath my cleats and I press the power button on my Garmin. “The gun will go any time within the next 15 seconds”
To be Continued…