In Elite that is. It was February 2007 that I last lined up for a National Series Elite race. Since then I've happily lined up in Masters. This year however, XTERRA Worlds loom large, and to be remotely competitive I will need career best MTB form. That in mind I'd decided use the 2011 NZ MTB Elite XC Champs as an interim focus.
I fully intended to make a stealth attack on the boys... and not take an Elite licence until that race. But with a few different training plans on the horizon, I decided I had best test where I was at, so I know what to work on. I've got plenty of endurance at the moment, and am skinny as ever. But Elite level UCI format XC is a different kettle of fish. So I decided on Thursday that Sundays UCI Cat #2 race at Napier would be the comeback.
The first time in nearly 4 years that my bike has sporting an NZ "Elite" race number. Somewhat lower than it used to be. In golf its apparently a great achievement to shoot a round that matches your age. This was my version.... the race plate matching my age. That'll do for me. I used to have a habit of having race finishes that matched my number plate. With 20 starters in Napier, I was quietly confident of at least beating the number plate
3rd lap or so up the steep climb. Strangely it was climbing that had been my biggest worry pre-race with the last 4-5 weeks dedicated to 1/2 ironman training. Instead I was climbing pretty well and actually enjoyed this section of the track. It was the descents where I was pretty average (literally riding like a triathlete), and lacking any real brute strength and punch. No suprises there. And plenty to work on for National Champs
For first 3 laps I was in the mix. My descending cost me, as did strength. Then I wavered mentally on Lap 4... drifting out of contention. Still, I am stoked with a result like that on limited specific prep. Lots to work on in the next 6 weeks and many areas to improve. And lots of ideas for how to do it.
4 years ago at my "farewell" at Mt Vic I was 5th.... so not much changes. I've certainly got faster, but so have many others. Fellow veteran's Stu and Mikey also shared the podium with me that day. Dirk on the other hand was 2nd in the U17's back at Mt Vic, while Patrick Avery (whom I batled for 6th at Napier) was 4th. Great to see such progress from the young guys. Exciting for the future in NZ.