Cross Country Mountain Bike Racing 2016 – Round 4
EPIC was formed around 2003 when the need for a serious mountain bike racing club was recognised. Members regularly race at the highest levels in Irish and international mountain biking, as well as in road races such as the Gorey 3-day and the An Post Rás. For the 2106 season Vilicom has decided to lend a hand again with some sponsorship. Mountain Biking is a tough, physical sport and the Cross Country (XC) races tend to be run on a mix of rough forest paths, single track, trails and open mountain sections. The emphasis is on a combination of climbing, speed and endurance so the bikes tend to be both lightweight and efficient compared to other mountain bike disciplines.
Last year I competed in the Senior 3 category of the National Points Series (NPS) races but this year I moved up to Senior 2. The competitors are divided up by skill categories and each rider in points-categories competes to attain points over the series. The NPS this year consists of 6 race events at various locations in Ireland.
Round 4 of the 2016 National Points Series of races was hosted by the Mountain biking Association of Dublin (MAD) at Ticknock in Co. Dublin. MAD provided a map of the course and the names of each section can be seen.
Trails are usually given names so you can identify where you are. The aerials marked on the map are the cluster of communications towers that can be seen on the Dublin Mountains to the south of the city. Only four laps to do this time with just one major climb and one descent per lap. From the start, point 1 on the map, to about point 7 was all uphill but from then on it was singletrack downhill back to point 1.
There was very little rain in the weeks leading up to the race and that made the trails very dry and dusty. It was warm and sunny on the day so the conditions were perfect for racing. It was a frantic start with some jostling for position before getting stuck into the climb. It was a long pedal up so you need to settle down to your own pace. It’s a balance to get it right; fast enough to maintain position but not enough that there’s nothing left on the final lap.
I felt good coming up the climb and then I felt confident when the track turned downhill. I usually lose time on downhill sections but in this race I seemed to be catching up on the person ahead and leaving a gap behind me. I went through the feed zone and the start/finish and started on the second lap. I was still feeling strong on the climb up. The start of the descent on the ‘Upper Metro section in reverse’ was very rocky and very rough at speed and the chain came off. It also ripped the gear cable off the frame but I didn’t notice this at the time. I had to stop to put the chain back on but I had built up enough of a gap so didn’t lose my position. I was back on the bike but something was catching in the pedals. I stopped again and saw the gear cable was hanging off. I pulled the cable forward so all the slack was at the handlebars and hoped it would be enough to keep the cable out of the way.
Climbing up again on the third lap I found that I was gaining on someone. I put in a big burst on the rocky path to Metro to get ahead of him before the downhill section. It’s very difficult to pass on the single track so even if he is faster on the descents I can still stay ahead of him. I managed to pull away from him and then got stuck in to the final lap.
I gave everything now because I knew this was the last time I had to do this climb. One last check on loose gear cable before the final run down to the finish line. I was hoping for top 20 so I was happy with 17th.
Taking the chequered flag at the finish line.
Photography by Adrian Van Der Lee.
Additional photographs by Mary Pattison.