Took part in the Djouce trail challenge today. Its not a race as such, more an unveiling of Robin Seymour's latest trails around Djouce. As mentioned before I just wanted to give it a lash - pushing myself but not to the limit. I used the Cube as I would have been gutted if I smashed up the XTC in a non-race event. Plus the extra few kilos on the Reaction would be good for training.
There was a great turn out - over 130 riders of all levels out out for the day. The weather was mild and the trails almost dry - so in perfect condition. We started off up to xtc, then straight across to Benchcut, and then the drop down to the lowest point of the course before climbing on the fireroad back up to the exit of bench cut. Then it was a blast to Off Camber and around to the new section, which was great - technical climbing on very narrow trails, and this continued for a couple of Km's before the climb up ACK (or beside it as the tree felling has removed it). Then down the Longest Descent - which at times made me feel like I was snowboarding down a black run it was so steep and twisty - it was perfect. Then continued right down to the river before climbing back up to to Fox Glove Climb (the sting in the tail if there ever was one), then a little short climb before taking the new section back to the fireroad. It was about 17km's long.
The day started not so good - I had a crappy nights sleep so had to down a Red Bull to wake up some what. Before the race I got about 20 minutes in around XTC and Bench Cut to get the heart pumping. Then back down to the exit of XTC for the start. I was up on the front row because I was there first as opposed to feeling like I'd be duking it out with the Elites and Top end masters. So we were sent off and it was a 300-odd meter sprint to the start of the single track. I kinda screwed up here - totally wrong gear. And I did not have time to get into the right one before the start. Queue a few panicy seconds of shifting down/up. Once I got to the single track entrance I was about 16th-ish place.
We climbed to XTC and then into Off Camber. And that's where my problems started. I had a dodgy link in my chain. I knew it was there before the race, but did not think it would be a problem. But between the shifting and putting the power on and off, it kept coming off the middle ring. It happened about 3 times and each time meant pulling the bike off the trail and getting the chain back on. I think I lost about 2 minutes messing around in total.
But once out off there things settled down and I just got on with it. I never felt I was on the ragged edge during the race, but the climb up ACK was tough and it was the hardest part for me. The there was no where to get a breather in the first 45 mins of the course at all.
At this point the Red Bull started to wear off too! The concentration started to go and I had a few off the bike moments. Not having gotten a lot of off roading down did not help either. I caught up with a few riders and just kept pace with them. On singletrack on the way home I got stuck with some less technical riders which held me up a bit, but on the last fireroad climb to the finish I pulled out all the stops to catch the guys, and even managed to get in a sprint finish - which I lost :)
Over all, it was a great day. It was good to get that race feeling again, and to know there are a lot more trails up in Djouce just confirms that its the number one spot in Ireland to go Mountain biking.