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  • Tom Knight

Midlands XC - Round 5

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

This past weekend hosted the final round of the Midlands XC series, round 5. The venue for this event would be Dudmaston Wood, a National Trust woodland open to the public to ride and walk through. This venue has provided me with mixed fortunes over the past two years; in 2017 I crashed and dislocated my elbow but in 2018 I won. What will it bring me this year?

The course at Dudmaston is a rider favourite and one of mine too as the course profile is pretty flat and any elevation gained is done via short steep climbs which suit me. The rest of the course is made up of fast and flowy single track with minimal technicality.

Conditions on the day were dry and sandy, which was surprising given the recent downpour. I headed out on the course for a practice lap early afternoon. It remained pretty similar to previous years with only a few minor changes. Due to unforeseen circumstances the event was running behind schedule, so practice was shortened to only 30 minutes in order to make up time. This meant I only got one lap in, which was a little bit frustrating as I normally like to have at least two laps to allow me to play with my bike setup and build some speed on my chosen lines… but put the violins away, it was the same for everyone.

With the short practice out of the way, the run into the race was also a little shorter than usual. I had time for some lunch and then it was time to get on the rollers to warm up. The race was gridded this time, so despite missing the last round due to illness I was still ranked 4th overall in the series and had a front row position.

As the whistle blew I had a clean and immediate engagement and smashed the pedals, only to get a load of wheel spin. This threw me off balance over the front of the bike, I lost a good few meters whilst I readjusted but managed to get on the power and make these positions up as we headed into the first single track. I made a couple more overtakes as the course opened up and was sitting nicely in third position. The pace ramped up over the course of the lap and was pushing really hard to stay with the front two. I made a small mistake on one of the climbs taking the wrong line, bogging down and losing a position and some distance on the leaders. As I pushed hard to try and close the gap as we headed towards the end of lap one, I was pedalling at every opportunity and reaching my physical limit. The next thing I knew, I struck a pedal on a stump and got thrown over the bars hard.

I was stuck under the bike for short period of time as I struggled to clip out but eventually got up, dusted myself off and made sure the bars were straight before carrying on. I had lost a significant amount time in the crash and was pretty much last in my category when I got moving. As usual post a crash, it was taking me a while get back into the zone. However this time it just didn’t happen - I couldn’t focus and kept making a lot of mistakes, with a few more near misses on some of the more technical sections of the course. As I got passed by more riders I knew something wasn’t right so decided I should call it a day and retired.

This is something I have never done before; I usually pride myself on continuing after any setback. After all, championships are won on your bad days they say. But after a few days of reflection I think this was the right decision. I had never struggled so much to get back in the zone so something was different but I am now injury free , ready to train and prepare for when I next line up.

Speaking of racing, this race was meant to be my last mountain bike race of the season, ahead of a post-season wind down before heading into building for next year. However I’ve decided to race my mountain bike again this weekend in the hope we can end things on a more positive note before we start thinking about next season.

The weekend wasn’t a complete disaster; there were some positives to take away as always. My starts are improving as I was able to get up front despite the wheelspin off the line. I was also able to stick with the top pack with riders who have distanced me quite easily at previous races. highlighting that improvements are being made and the training is paying off. We now have a number of months over the off season to build on these ahead of next season. I can’t wait to see what next season brings!

Thanks to everyone for their support this season!

Cheers, Tom