Over the last 4 weeks I’ve raced in 4 different countries with 3 rounds of the UCI World Marathon Series and a 3 day stage race. First up was the Tiliment Bike Marathon round of the UCI World Marathon Series in Italy. I had a great start riding top 5 for first 20km with current and previous World Champion’s. Then a pretty terrible half an hour dropped me down into the 20’s. I just couldn’t turn over a low cadence on this one long bumpy steep offroad climb at pace like the other top riders. Once back on smoother fireroad or tarmac climbs I was climbing really quickly and could make up places. Not bad for someone who’s biggest climb at home is 4 minutes and the main climb at Tiliment took us up 1000 meters into the snow! The descent off the mountain was pretty nuts but I had so much fun on the Turner Czar. I ended up racing the last half of the race with my Algarve Bike Race partner Uwe Hochenwarter which was a great fun. I finished 20th, a solid result as nearly all of thetop riders were in attendance. The result was enough to confirm my place on Team GB for the World Champs in June.
After just a few days back at home in the UK we were making the early morning journey down to Belgium in the Vauxhall Vivaro team van. The next round of the UCI World Marathon Series was Roc d’Ardenne. Saturday course practice was so much fun and reminded me why I enjoy visiting the Ardennes. I remember the 2014 event as a fast frantic sprint through the beautiful Ardennes, this year was a complete mud bath after it rained all night Saturday, it turned the race into a war of attrition. I had a few crashes and at some points lost my USN gels. It’s amazing how quickly your body can get angry when you don’t feed it in a race situation. 10km from the end the lights went out. Disappointing but it just made me event more motivated for the next races.
The following week I was excited to visit somewhere new – the historic medieval city of Meda in north east Portugal. This was the second year the Meda 100 Marathon had hosted a round of the UCI World Marathon Series. Visiting Meda was like going back in time by about a hundred years, we stayed out in a small village which apparently had 20 residents, we saw 2 all weekend. The streets were cobbled and no one seemed to have cars. The people we did see were working the land with horses. It was a fascinating weekend and a great places to visit if you wanted a relaxing weekend. We were there to race though and I had the number board 2 for this race; all my hard work is improving my World Ranking.
However a puncture 5km’s into the race wasn’t the start I was hoping for. 2 stops for co2 bomb fill ups and 2 stops in the tech zone to use the track pump made the race quite the adventure! The body felt amazing out there though and I actually quite enjoyed the challenge of racing my way back through the ranks. I could have quite easily thrown in the towel after 5km but I pulled myself all the way up to 8th place by the finish line.
That was a hard 3 weeks and I was following it up with a tough stage race, the Belgium MTB Challenge in the Ardennes, a 3 day UCI category 1 event. This race packs many punches, one after the other with steep climb after steep climb, you use the biggest sprocket on your Sram XX1 cassette a lot! The climbs are split by steep rough descents giving little to no respite. All the travelling and racing caught up with me after Meda 100, I got ill and didn’t recover in time for stage 1 of BeMC. I lost a big chunk of time on Friday which left me miles off my target result. Stage 2 and 3 went much better finishing 11th on both days which put me 14th overall on the general classification. Another solid result against some top rider, some good UCI points and 3 big days of training.
An incredible 4 weeks of racing and travel. I visited some amazing places but now look forward to having a few days rest before the training resumes for European and World Championships in June.