Mountain Trax Team
In October of last year I not only signed up to ride for the Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Cycling Team for 2015 but also moved down to Newport to train full time with Welsh Cycling. Both of these set me up well for this season and hopefully many to come. The aim of the winter was to prepare myself to take a big training load and still be able to perform when needed, an ability that is paramount for the pro’s of the MTB World as you can’t do all your training through the winter and then expect to hold it throughout the season. At first it was apparent it was going to take some time to get this working right for me, as was made evident in some of the early season XC races.
Although this big block of training did really help me in my first race of the season, the Andalucía Bike Race, a Southern Spain marathon stage race in February. This was a race of firsts for me, first proper marathon race, first MTB stage race and also my first pair’s race. Considering all this my target of racking up a few UCI points to help me on my way to racing at least one World Cup this year was achieved, we came away with 16 points, a good chunk of the way to the 20 needed to start a World Cup. It was also a great experience to race an event where you are competing directly against the best guys in the World, day in day out for 6 days. I raced this event with Ben Thomas, the team manager, and thankfully he knew exactly what we needed to do, as he’d race this event a couple of times before along with many other marathon and stage race events.
After Andalucía it was just over a month to the first round of the British XC Series, I was still training well but when I came away with 28th I was pretty disappointed! It was a stacked field with numerous foreigners points chasing, which made for a slightly more competitive field than normal but none the less I expected better of myself. The second round was just over a month away and I was hoping to better this result. The training was still going well but the racing legs weren’t quite showing themselves yet. A 23rd at the second round of the British XC Series was a slight improvement but nothing amazing, the one good point was in the last couple of laps I started to feel like I could see some form on the horizon. I was picking off more riders in my last couple of laps than I was in the first 5 or so put together. A sign I was starting to reap the benefits of my winter training finally.
After this not so lucrative start to the season, I sat down and made small changes to one or two things, input from people at Welsh Cycling along with Sport Wales helped massively with this. It wasn’t much but the results and form came on very quickly! The first race where I really felt like I had found my racing legs, it almost surprised me that I was feeling how I was, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Welsh Championships, the turning point of the season, I was able to comfortably race with the front guys in a very competitive field, leaving riders behind I had previously been battling out with for minor places earlier on in the season. I came away with my first Elite Welsh title, and a huge boost to my moral. I also now get to show off the National stripes for a full year, it may put a little bit more pressure on my shoulders to perform but I don’t see that as a bad thing.
Dylan Kerfoot-Robson, Mountain Trax
The following week was again another British XC, round 3 at Fforest fields, a place I have raced at many times before in the Welsh series and have always gone well. This combined with the recent found form meant a huge improvement on my previous results with an 8th overall! This was the sort of result I had been needing, it was a real big turnaround in my season, proving to me that what I had been doing for the last 6 months hadn’t been for nothing. Better still this 8th place secured me the final 4 points I needed to start a World Cup, so this now had to be planned and wouldn’t have been possible without Welsh Cycling’s help. The first 2 World Cups were out of the question as they were the following weekend. The decision was made to race the 3rd round of the World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, a track I had raced on the previous year as a Junior and done fairly well on. After the BMBS there was still about 4 or 5 weeks till Lenzerheide, the plan was simple, get a few good days rest and then start the hard work again for the second half of the season.
I took a couple of weekends off serious racing, one completely off and on the other I raced an Enduro, I thought I needed to experience one myself after all the recent hype about them, and I have to say they are real good fun! And definitely something I would do again if they fit in. Before long it was time for the 4th round of the British XC Series this time up in Glasgow. After my result at the previous round I was coming in with form and moral, but it wasn’t to be, after an amazing start getting into the top 3 off the line and held the top 4 places for the first ¾’s of the lap I punctured. Half a lap of running to the pits threw my hopes of backing up my result out the window. This was only my first of the season, in racing or training thanks to the amazing Schwalbe tyres, and this one was down to error on my part.
A fortnight later it was time for the World cup, a first as an Under 23. After earning my way onto the start line through collecting UCI points in the first half of the season I was happy just to take to the start. Although as soon as I got to the track I knew I wanted more, a good result is what I wanted, but the nature of International mountain bike racing meant that was never meant to be. None the less 71st in the World is okay but I was aiming for better and on a different day I reckon I could easily better that. The whole weekend was a huge valuable learning experience and a reminder of the level I need to get to, and it only inspired me to train even harder for the next opportunity.
Dylan Kerfoot-Robson, Mountain Trax
By this point the National XC Champs were only a couple of weeks away, a big target for the season. I came away with the 2nd place Silver medal. In only first year as an under 23 I was on the podium, 4 more years in this category to take the top step. It was also Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Cycling Teams most successful Championships with Mark coming away with 3rd in the Junior category. That puts the teams British Championship tally for 2016 to 1 title, 1 silver medal and 2 bronze medals!
And here we are, you’re up to date with my season so far. It was a slow start but now I’ve had some decent results I’m motivated for the rest of the season. The support of the team, Welsh Cycling and the sponsors such as Yellow Jersey has made a huge difference to my season, thank you to all involved.