The first round of the Leinster league happened on the 28th of March. The day was unusually Spring like (after all it is Ireland in mid spring) and myself and Gene packed up and set off for Bunclody. With the newly opened motorway it took just under an hour from Naas which was great as I had imagined the drive would be much longer. The course was located in the shadow of Mount Leinster in a very scenic part of the country. Racing795 were the host club and had organised good parking for the racers (something which not all clubs get right).
A group of us followed the sports race to get a pre-lap in. The course started off with almost 1km of fireroad climb which hit 10% in places. After that it was a drop in on the right into the first section of singletrack which was only a little muddy in places. It was flowy with some nice kickers and techie bits. But there was plenty of line options so a lot of time could be gained if you strung them together. After exiting the first singletrack there was a relatively gentle double track climb which gave great the riders views of the surrounding countryside (not that you'd be looking of course). We then dropped into the second singletrack which was a much steeper descent with plenty of rocks to roll over or around. You then exited this section and into a tricky rock garden you had to climb up before dropping into a swoopy trail. You climbed back out of that and down a rutted singletrack section before getting back out on the main fireroad and the start/finish line.
I'd done a couple of pre-laps and with about 10 minutes before the start myself and Oisin went for a final cycle up the hill. We got back to the start to find the various categories already lining up. Masters would go last so we were done the back. I started at the front of the masters line, but by the time we'd shuffled up to the start I somehow ended up on the 3rd ish row. I keep doing that in unseeded races, something to fix for future races. So the whistle blew and the race was on. I was expecting a sprint to the first section of single track but thought it would not start until closer to the entrance. But I was wrong, the first row of riders blasted away from start. I did not go after them as thought the would slow up - but they didn't. So I was already 10+ second behind them after the first kilometer! And in about 10th place maybe coming into the single track. I doubt I could have kept to the guys pace for the whole first climb anyway.
I did get a fairly clear run on the first singletrack section and kept things running pretty smooth. However, exiting the second section of singletrack and into the rock garden I walloped the nose of the saddle with my ass and it shifted down at a tough angle to sit on. So I got of and gave it a couple of punches with my fist, but would not move! I was only doing this for about 10 seconds when I decided I would just have to live with the angle. However about 20 yards later I hit the back of the saddle and it came back up too far - nose up! At this stage I didn't care too much and just kept pedaling.
After that the race got a bit boring in a way - with no other masters near by, I did not have the motivation to go that bit faster (although I probably did pass a few in my category), and spent the second half of the racing chasing down the faster vets and experts.
The only other drama was getting a branch in my nice shiny, carbon rear derailleur which restricted the amount of gears I had. I could live without the gears, but didn't fancy having to replace the derailleur so was happy to just pedal that bit slower on the climbs.
I ended the race in 5th place which is where I expected to be. I was less than 1 minute from 4th, but a whopping 3 minutes behind the winner, which is a lot on what was a short course. In hindsight maybe I should have buried meself in sprinting up to them on the first lap, but I'm not sure I'd keep it together in the singletrack that followed. Alfie, Oisin and Damo are the guys to watch this year in Masters. Those guys put in serious laps all the way through and I don't think I'll be getting anywhere near them. But if I keep plugging away 4th's and maybe 3rd's could be possible.
All in all, it was a great day out. Racing795 put on a super job and you could not fault anything. Really looking forward to heading down there again. Everyone enjoyed themselves, especially Morgan and Paul.
Last but not least, the Pronghorn performed flawlessly - and a lot better than its rider! It felt great on the climbs and even better on the descents which at times and in the latter stages of the race resembled a DH course. I might make some tweaks to it though. The main thing will be changing the bar - and get a riser instead of the flat one I have now. The bike is in getting a few components tighten up with James @ OC tuning and should be running even better when I get it back. I also have to mention that Oisin won Pronghorn racings first silverware of the season (and first ever!) by coming in 2nd on the day - fair play!
Next week is round 2 of the Leinster league in Bellurgan Park and promises to be a great day out. Cuchulainn Cycling Club are hosting the event and it will be run on a brand new course. More info here. Can't make it myself, but will be out the following week for round 1 of the NPS.