Yolande Speedy – Mazda MTN National XC Cup no. 3 (National XC Championships)
The designers of the future World Cup XC course had gone all out to make it “World Class” with really steep technical climbs and tricky descents. I really enjoyed the course, felt confident on it and was very excited for the race ahead.
The race started with a 1km lollipop start loop, I started out hard to get in the lead going up the first steep climb aptly named "the wall".
In good conditions I was able to ride it but with the rain the course had turned into a slight mud bath eliminating all chances of gaining traction. I quickly jumped off my bike and started to run up the climb. I reached the top just behind Amy and sat behind her down the following muddy downhill single track.
The first lap ended up being more of a running race, our bikes quickly collecting heaps of sticky mud making it difficult to even push them along! One thing I am very grateful for is that my Gary Fisher has excellent mud clearance!
Heading down the last downhill section I lost my front wheel (fortunately having a soft landing in the mud), but my chain dislodged in the process and I thought I could get it to pop back on when I started pedaling again. This was not the case and to my dismay I looked down to see that it had broken! I had a chain tool with me but as everything was so covered in mud and it was only about a kilometer to the finish and tech zone I thought it better to run and quickly popped the chain into my back pocket.
Finally reaching the tech zone I was in for another shock, the chain had fallen out of my pocket! My IMC Reaction Racing Team support fortunately had a spare but had to run back to the Team Vehicle to fetch this unanticipated life saver.
Soon I was off on my 2nd lap, now lying in 6th place and just over 11 minutes behind Amy.
The course was starting to dry up a bit and contain more rideable sections.
I caught back up to 2nd place halfway through the 2nd lap and pushed hard to try and minimize the gap between myself and Amy. I felt really strong on the course and made up some time clocking the fastest lap time in the Elite ladies field on my last lap but this was only good enough for second place on the day.
I finished just under 5minutes behind Amy who had a great race and well deserved win in the muddy conditions, Sara finishing in 3rd place.
Admittedly I was disappointed, especially as this was SA Champs and UCI points were up for grabs, but at least this was great mud practice which may just come in handy when I compete in the World Cup XC races in Europe in April and May!!
Thanks to my sponsors IMC, Activeworx, Gary Fisher, Giro, Rudy Project and Shwalbe and my coach Dr Carol Austin for ensuring that I arrive at the race start 100% race ready, sorry I couldn't bring home the jersey!
Thanks too to all the folks who came out to encourage us all from the sidelines when it was so miserable and all anyone really wanted to do was get warm and dry. You guys are Champions!