The last 3 weeks have been flat out, with a 10-day trip to Portugal on coaching duties for the UCI World Cycling Centre, as well as competing in the Lousada International XCO. I was then racing closer to home at round 3 of the British Cycling National Cross Country Series at Lochore Meadows in Fife.
First up, Conor Campbell and I were asked to deliver an Olympic Cross Country training camp for the UCI WCC. This camp was to help athletes from smaller European nations prepare for the UEC Junior and U23 European Championships taking place in Anadia, Portugal, this year. The mountain bike races will be held alongside the Junior and U23 Road and Track Championships at the WCC Satalite Centre in Anadia. Conor and I delivered a 7-day training camp for 19 riders from 7 nations, where we covered technical, tactical and physical training sessions, as well as some workshops in the classroom too. It was an amazing week in the sun riding on an amazing XCO course.
When I knew I would be working in Portugal, I checked the UCI calendar for any racing opportunities. I'd never raced in Portugal and I was happy to find that there was a UCI XCO race taking place close to Porto, which was an opportunity not to be missed.
The race was in the town of Lousada, and the course was steep, rocky and dusty with some fun downhills. I didn't make any significant changes to my Blur set-up. One thing I have done recently is I added a volume spacer to the fork and dropped the pressure by 5 psi. I'm still not 100% content with my tyre and suspension settings and plan to experiment with another spacer in the fork and the shock.
The race itself went well. I had a good start from the second row and was fighting for a top 10 position for the whole race. I had a small crash on the fourth lap but recovered well to secure 10th place on the final half lap, scoring another UCI point and an international top 10. You can watch the Livestream of the race back here.
Once I was back home in Scotland I was set to race in Round 3 of the British XC Series, hosted in Lochore Meadows in Fife, less than 10 miles away from Dunfermline where I grew up. The British XC Series is a big focus of mine for the first half of the year, and it was a great opportunity to race in front of my family and friends. Additionally, a number of riders were competing at the second round of the UCI MTB XCO World Cup in Albstadt, so there was a great chance of a good result too.
I was seeded 6th and had my first front-row start of the year. I was expecting the race to be fast and tactical, and French visitor Anthony Zaragoza led out fast before Jason Bouttell strung the race out on the fast downhill on lap 1. I was able to follow and with Rory Mcguire and Joe Beckingsale to form the group that would lead for the remainder of the race.
On lap 3 Rory McGuire attacked the fast downhill again and then kept pushing full gas on the flat after. I tried to follow but couldn't match him. Jason and I chased for the next 3 laps but we were unable to close the gap. I was really happy to win the fight for second and score my first podium of the year, my first UCI podium since 2013 and my best ever finish in a British Mountain Bike Series race. You can check out my race on Strava.
For the next month, my focus shifts back to training with a block of endurance bike work and strength in the gym, and then I plan to race in the fourth round of the British Cycling XC MTB Series at Cannock Chase. In June I'll begin to mix up some disciplines, with some fun projects planned too.
'til next time,