Another 5 hour round trip to a race... but this time it was well worth it.
For round 3 we headed to Tyrone and Davagh Forest. It was my first time in that neck of the woods and I was mighty impressed with the scenery. Myself and Stuart left at 9 and pulled in about 11:30 - perfect to get signed on, setup and on the trail. I got back into my normal routine of showing up when the car-parks were already full so down the road a bit, shoved the Primera into a ditch and got unpacked.
I was cautiously optimistic when I saw a catering van in the car-park and when we got down tot he main start/finish I was well impressed as Carn Wheelers had laid on bouncy castles, and a couple of marquees with other bits and pieces. I got signed on with no hassles and picked up by chip before heading off pre-lap. The course was amazing. Lots of variation with single track, double track, rooty forest bits, narrow bridges and some kicker climbs thrown in too. The most fun was in the final kilometer where there was a narrow sandy sweepy trail that brought you back down to the river. It was a cracking course and poles apart from the last race in the Nagles.
For a change I started warming up 30 mins before the official start of the race. Its one thing I never do right and wanted to be ready to go from the whistle. Unfortunately the race start was held up for about 20 mins but I kept cycling about to keep warm.
I messed up the start line. I should have went to the front and then let the gridding happen, but I ended up down the back on the inside. This was a problem as shortly after the start there was a left turn onto a narrow bridge. So the whistle went and sure enough I ended up paddy last just after the bridge. We started climbing and I got myself back into the group. I was keen to push up further before the single track but the road was so narrow there was no chance. We took a left into the single track and again had to wait while everyone streamed in. Another lesson learnt - get into the singletrack first!
We came around for the first lap proper and I was already 30 seconds down on the leaders. Then I made my second and last mistake of the day. Coming over the finish line there was a sharp right turn up into a singletrack climb. As I came up to it I thought it could be cut and there was a chance to make up a few places. However when I got over the bank it dropped down into a ditch and I was stuck. Off the bike and running up the hill I was wondering how I get myself into this situations. Anyway, I was on a mission then and powered my way up the first section and managed to pass 3 or 4 of the S1 riders. Then it was full blast into the first lap proper. Until I got to the second section of single track where I was held up a bit by slower riders.
We exited the trail onto a long section of fireroad and I got a 1 or 2 more riders there. On the start of the 2nd lap I managed to pass Vinny and Dave from Team WORC and also passed James McCluskey (who shortly afterwards realised he was in a race :) and ended up in 4th place). I was feeling great during the mid-race and pushed on. I passed Ciaran from our club also but he looked like he was having back problems. Things were going fine until the start of the last lap, I was happy enough the way things were going on the 4th lap and slowed up a little (or so I felt). But when I looked back on the start of the last lap I saw riders coming up to me. First I thought I was being lapped but as they got closer it turned out to be Ciaran, Vinny and Dave! They had paced their way around the previous lap and were closing in on me. The 3 passed me about half way through the lap and all of a sudden the legs felt dead. But instead of trying to go balls out to get on their wheel I just upped the speed slightly and slowly worked my back.
In the last Kilometer Ciaran and Dave were out of sight, but Vinny was close, so I pushed hard enough to force him to up his pace, and as we came into the singletrack before the bridge Dave was also in sight. As he crossed the bridge he hit a wet patch and the bike went from under him. Vinny and I got by and I monstered the bike up the kickers onto the final piece of single track before the finish line, even managing to get into the biggest gear to see if I could make the last place up. Unfortunately it didn't happen and I came in 3 seconds behind Vinny.
Despite coming 9th out of 14 finishers I was happy - mainly cos' I managed to finish a race! But also that I got some close racing too. There was only 30ish seconds between me and 6th place and a podium was only 2.5 minutes away, so very happy with how it went and looking forward to the next race.
The KTM Myroon was running perfect today also. I've almost got the setup finished, just one more tweak and I'm happy. But I'm especially happy with the SID XX fork. I was never a huge fan of Rock shox forks, but once I got the SID dialed in I've found it amazing. The lockout was pretty handy too on the less technical sections.