It was all about one man from the Green & Blacks. Just Mike Leaney and myself (And Sharon and the Boys) ventured down to Wales for a damp to dry teccy course including wooded single track, rock gardens, steep downhill runs, gap jumps, a 20 foot drop off that you couldn’t roll as it had a Boardwalk overhanging the top by half a foot and a relentless amount of tiny rocks throughout meaning that you couldn’t lose concentration for a second.
Luckily for us our coach Graham Whiting had been drilling into us that we need to keep improving our skills to meet the expectations of the course designers. No truer word said it seems.
Forget UCI racing this was better…
As usual the weekend was full of unexpected twists and turns to test the mental strength … the course was closed on several occasions due to nasty injuries on the unrollable 20 foot drop off, one of them being an Air Ambulance call out, practice periods were limited and race times delayed as a result... We both admitted to be extremely nervous pre-race… Sharon was left to calm us… thanks Sharon!
It was all excitement in the Grand Vets race. Pressure from the start as with all of Mike’s races due to the number and standard of men racing. Mike started well and was just behind the closest rival of all from Matlock in 4th place.
They both hit the rock garden within inches of each other and Mike pounced into an early lead after his rival took a nasty tumble on the rocky drop. It was all go from here with Matlock closing in again and the position changing over the next few laps. Mike was tiring mid way and Matlock seized the opportunity.
Sorry Mike I had to shout at you for looking behind. After grabbing water one lap and a gel the next Mike was starting to pull back again. Now about 40 metres between them on the last lap and coming into the finish area... just approaching the terrifying (Well for me as I daren’t even walk near it never mind ride it) drop off that you had to fly.
Only a few vets had attempted this in the whole race and Mike hadn’t either at this point. Matlock flew up the B Line leaving Mike to decide whether to risk the drop off. He took a quick turn up the ramp and launched off the top and came out in front of Matlock…. the race was back on… up the hill together, over the gap jump and then Matlock finally pulled away to come 4th over the line and Mike 5th.
One hell of a race to watch but very scary. As Sharon said for anyone to have a top 20 goal and then come 5th it is beyond belief. Not only that but over the whole series Mike was 7th which proves that it wasn’t just a lucky day but all the hard work, skill and dedication to training over the year that has paid off.
Well done Mike and it was a great race to watch. No time trialling there.
I took second place and was really pleased that I managed the gap jump on each lap …without damage to the bike …or me! For someone who likes both wheels ont ground not too bad.
It is worth noting that although the Nationals sound ultra-technical and demanding there are always B routes and anyone who rides the Nutcracker Series or most of the Mids XC Series would be more than capable of completing all of the B Lines at the Nationals.
Mike is now able to complete all A Lines set and it is fine tuning to gain more speed. I am still doing the odd B line and it was this very thing that contributed to me losing first place this weekend. However it does just show that you don’t have to be a super teccy rider to enjoy the whole National experience. I hope a few more are able to have a go at the Nationals next year.