It was great to be back racing at the British Cycling National MTB XC Series at Parkwood Off Road Centre in Tong, Yorkshire. I lined up in a stacked field including 2019 Junior XCO World Champion Charlie Aldridge, U23 Cyclocross World Cup winner Cameron Mason and World Tour Pro Lewis Askey.
The venue is regularly used for motorbike trials and motorbike enduro and the race course was made up of a number of short, steep climbs and descents. Deep mud, roots and rocks were regular features on the 6 laps of the 3.5km course. I was the 11th seed in the race based on the UCI World ranking which gave me a second row start.
I made a small mistake at the start when I missed clipping into my pedal off the line. I tried to stay calm and recovered well to make the top 20 into the first downhill section after a full gas effort. The field began to break into groups by the end of the first lap and I was racing in a group of 6 riders including 2016 Team GB Olympian Grant Ferguson. We remained together for the majority of the race as the group dropped from 6 riders to 3 by the final lap.
As we approached the final climb I committed and made a big effort to move to the front of the group. I managed to make a small gap that I held until the finish, holding on to 11th place, 22 seconds outside the top 10.
Going into the race I had hoped to fight for the top 10 and score more precious UCI points, so to be so close was a bitter-sweet. I'm happy with how I raced, and I managed to empty the tank. The intensity of the racing was really high, I hope with some more racing and training I can close the gap to the front riders as the season progresses.
I have another chance this weekend at Round 2 at Newcastleton in Scotland, before I head to Portugal to deliver a training camp for the UEC at the UCI WCC Satellite Centre in Anadia with my fellow Wardell Cycle Coaching coach, Conor Campbell.