NPS Round 1 - BelurganI did not want to be at this race. I picked up my new bike and goodies on the Tuesday but with work and other stuff only managed a cycle out on green in font of my house before the race day. On top of that I felt tired and run down and SLOW. I'd not managed to get out to do proper high intensity training and while I felt like I could get around the 5 laps at a steady pace, I'd not be setting any land speed records. All these things were weighing on me as I headed up with Gene and I was probably doomed from the start.
We arrived up and after getting signed on did a lap of the course. It was mostly the same single track that was used in the Bull Raid, but with a load of work done to weather-proof them and fair play to the Cuchulainn lads for the huge effort put in. There were some technical pieces added - the big ones being the drop which I did not manage to try before the race and the gap jump. Given my state neither were very appealing to me and I planned to avoid at any opportunity. Yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be a mountain biker, and the drop was handy but without trying them first I did not fancy my chances.
The race started with a long section in the field which allowed for the S1 group to break up before hitting the singletrack climb. Again I did got get a proper warm up in and once the race started I was struggling to keep up. I got into the singletrack and things settled down. I started to increase the pace and began to catch up with some of the S1 riders, however not taking the drops/jump lost me huge amounts of time and I struggled to catch up. This was really annoying me and took the fun out of the race totally.
After the first lap I felt warmed up properly and got into a good rhythm on the singletrack, however I slapped a tree stump with the front wheel which forced it one way and the bar another and that was the final straw for me. I'd not even managed to check all the bolts were tightened enough! I re-aligned everything as best I could and tootled off back to the start/finish area for a DNF. Now if I had the race head on I'd have just got back, grabbed an allen key and did a quick tightening up of everything before heading out and finishing the race, but I just needed any excuse to throw in the towel - the shame!
There is really not much to be said after that. It was a terrible race for me - mainly because of the attitude I had going into it and the lack of time I put into getting me and the bike setup. Only myself to blame, I made a conscious effort to get more hard riding in (on and off road) and get the bike fully prepped to for the next race.
NPS Round 2 - The Nagles
I seriously considered not doing this race as I had just traveled back from a Mayo after a weeks holidays and a 2.5 hour drive to Cork was not appealing. But I decided to go as wanted to get a to finish a race.... full stop - I did not care where I came, I just wanted to finish! There were various threads on MTB forums discussing the quality of the course and it sounded a bit extreme for XC. I was having a few problems getting my tyres setup for tubeless and in the end stuck a trusty Crossmark on the front. I had considered sticking one on the back also, but it was getting late on Saturday night and I needed sleep so decided to take a chance on it....
So Gene and I packed up and headed off at 9am down to Fermoy. We did'nt get lost and also managed to get the last parking spot close to the sign-in area so I thought things were on the up.
That was until we got on the course. The layout was a bit nutty with the start line down near the car park (OK), the finish line further up (fair enough), but the technical zone another 5 min cycle down a fireroad, which did not make sense to me. The loop itself was just a couple of fireroads linked together with rocky fireroads and a little bit of rocky singletrack.
The location of the technical zone messed me up a bit on the warm up as by the time I got back to the start line from dropping the bottles up they were calling us for the start! I was on the second row and once the whistle went I once again struggled to get up to speed due to the lack of a warm up, but despite this I managed to get into 5th or so before the left turn and up the hill. A few more guys passed me and actually got a little held up for the second half of the climb but I just wanted to get the first lap done without losing too much time so did not want to get off the decent line.
Things went OK for the first lap, but the final descent was nuts - you needed a long travel bike to go down it at any speed, and I was dreading the thoughts of doing that 4 more times. Oscar, who races S2 passed me on the descent, so I was not sure if he put in a savage fast lap or I was pig slow. Anyway, I was not too pushed as finishing the race was the plan.
I caught up with Oscar pretty quickly and half way up the first climb I spotted 2 WORC riders about 30 meters ahead. Now with my traditional first lap warm up out of the way I was feeling pretty damn good and put in an effort to bridge across to them before the Kern and first descent. Just as they were dropping down I tagged on and managed to hold the wheel on the descent so I knew it was only a matter of time before I passed them and worked my way onto the next rider. Well, that would have been the plan had I not punctured. I pulled the bike off the course and gave the rear a blast of air. It seemed to take so happy days. I set off like a man possessed... That got me about another 300 meters when I felt the rim hitting the rocks again. I got off again and upon closer inspection I had a nasty cut in the side wall, so race over. Needless to say I was beginning to regret not sticking on the other Crossmark...
Max also punctured at the same location and we started back in the rough direction of the start finish line. Along the way we collected Richie Felle and a Racing 795 rider. A friendly Marshall eventually found a more direct trail for us to get back to the start line (which by the way would have been a much better route for the race loop!!!)
I was disappointed that I did not finish the race as I was feeling better than I did in Belurgan (legs and head!) Can't totally blame MBCC - I'm sure if I put the Crossmark on the rear I'd have made it around and had a (semi) decent finish - mainly down to the DNF's :) . It was more annoying in terms of the cost of getting down to Cork, having to get new tyres and a whole day away from the family for 30 minutes of racing, but its done now.
Its another long haul for the next race, but I'm going to head up. It'll be a hard couple of weeks on the bikes but I know if I get to a finish line I'd expect it to be in the top 10.