It feels good just writing the words, National Champion.
I left you at the end of my last blog sat on the sofa watching the Superprestige race in Diegem unable to race due to a back injury.
I am so glad I did that now, taking things easy then really helped make the difference come national champs day, not a hint of injury was in my mind on the start line and I raced pain-free (sort of, my legs were still screaming come the last lap).
After the day of rest on the sofa I was able to get straight back into training the next day with just over an hour sat behind the moped, it felt so good to be out training hard with no real discomfort from my back.
I rode the World Cup on Boxing Day but my legs were not really there and I ended up a disappointing 40th.
Still I was only just over four: minutes: down on the winner which is a respectable time gap.
I trained hard off the back of this race into the next one, which was a lower key event in Bredene I was really hoping for a much better ride here but once again I finished feeling as though I was lacking something.
With not much time between then and the National Champs, in fact only 10 days I put my head down and went about changing what was in my legs!
This involved going out in the rain and wind and hurting myself a lot, these sort of intervals are never nice practically sprinting for as long as you can then when every part of your body is kicking and screaming telling you to stop you kick again.
On one occasion I got to the end of one interval and I had to literally stop and throw up. These are the days that no one see’s but where races are really won.
I only planned a flying visit back to the UK for the Nationals so that everything was as normal as possible in my routine.
I travelled back the Friday before with my Girlfriend and we stayed in a little cottage just outside of Ipswich with mechanic Stefan and his wife Helen Wyman (7 times National women’s champ).
Saturday morning was spent doing a TV interview; it was a new and really cool experience for me to do this. In a weird kind of way it took my mind of the race as the questions were more about my love of the sport and what is cyclocross rather than all about the race the next day.
I finished the interview sweating more than I had in training for a good few days! Hopefully the filming done at the National Champs will really help with the future of the sport getting more televised publicity in the UK and I was glad to do my bit.
The afternoon was spent riding the course and getting tub and bike setup perfect for race day. I really liked the course and thought the organisers had done a cracking job with what they had to use at the venue.
It wasn’t the toughest course I had ridden but felt like it had enough to break things up and produce a worthy winner.
The night before the race is always a funny one, nervous and excited for the next day’s race means you never sleep that well but usually better than I did.
A lot of the night was spent in the bathroom, I’ll spare you the details but I was thinking my race was over before it had even begun.
The next morning I felt awful and got on with breakfast as best I could. I tried to keep everything normal but it clearly wasn’t.
As the morning went on and I got into my race day routine, I started to feel better, got some good laps in on the course to. I didn’t feel as good as the previous day but I had a job to do and got on with it.
In previous years I have been way too nervous come National Champs day so really tried to relax and enjoy the day.
Pretty much everyone who knew how much this meant to me was there, my first ever coach Richard Wood who took me to every race between the age of 13 and 17 and who really introduced me to and allowed me to start out racing at the National level was there along with the majority of my family and close friends.
They all need a massive thank you for making things as normal as possible on the day and treating me like they always do. My nephew was on his brand new Specialized hotwalk being pushed around in a Hargroves top and helped keep the mood light.
Bikes were prepped as usual by Stef and the guy who usually takes my jacket at the start had travelled from Belgium with his wife to watch the race!! My Girlfriend ran around getting things for me and generally helping out which was a big help as very often the smallest thing can annoy me before big races.
There isn’t too much to say about the race, you can read my race report on my website for this but it went according to plan and most importantly I won!
As you can tell from reports on various websites it meant the world to me to finally win the National title. However I didn’t have long to celebrate, a little while after the race talking with everyone and thanking so many people before a quick drive back to Belgium for the Otegem race the following day.
My head and heart wasn’t really in the right place for it as you can imagine but I tried to get on with the race as best I could and rode round finishing in the early 20’s and collecting my start money.
It’s never a nice feeling not doing your best in a race especially as it was my first outing in the National Champs jersey (the original podium version) but I can forgive myself given the circumstances.
Two days later my Skinsuit turned up from Hargroves cycles and Kalas, it looks so cool and pretty classy if you ask me.
The rest of my kit was taken to the World cup the following Saturday, not a bad turn around on a full set of kit if you ask me!
I don’t often use my blog as a thank you to sponsors but on this occasion I have to,: Pete Hargroves (Hargroves cycles) who has backed me for the last 4-5years, Specialized Crux frames, Shimano components, Pro bars and stems, Kalas kit, Dugust and Specialized tubs, Specialized shoes and helmets, Prendas Accessories, Trant, Next, Elliots, and MD Flooring for backing the team this season.
Next up will be my blog regarding the lead up to and including the World Championships in Koksijde, Belgium at the end of this month.