33 races done, 500 UCI points scored, 1 British Title Won.
Sat here now it feels like it was a long season, which left me both physically and mentally drained but on the other hand it doesn’t seem all that long ago I was sat at the top of a French mountain at the end of 2 week training camp itching to get on the plane to America to start racing another Cross season.
That 2 week training camp really set me up well for the first half of the season, I got off to a flying start in the U.S picking up the much needed UCI points and maybe more importantly I picked up the craft of being able to win a bike race again.
I managed to win 2 UCI races while there and also a mid- week night cross, my worst result was actually one of my best a 3rd place in the higher category C1 race at the final weekend in Gloucester bagged me a load of points for the return to Europe but in the process I raced with strong legs and confidence in high quality international field.
On returning to Europe it was a bit like back to reality for me and straight in at the deep end with the first round of the Superprestige series. In hindsight I actually did a pretty good ride here all things considered but at the time I was really disappointed with 22nd position.
I was always expecting to struggle with the first few races as jet lag and a bit of fatigue from the training I was doing to make to make sure I carried form further into the season this year held me back slightly. However by the Second round of the World Cup series in the Czech Republic I was starting to feel good and should have bagged myself a top 25 position but I lacked that killer instinct when I needed it.
[pullquote]A goal of mine most years is the Koppenberg Cross.[/pullquote]
A goal of mine most years is the Koppenberg Cross, it’s close to my house in Belgium and on the right day the course suits me down to the ground, ever since I first rode it 3 seasons ago now I have always thought I could do well here. It’s one of the toughest Crosses on the calendar and involves a good amount of climbing plus technical skills are needed for the infamous zigzag descent.
This season’s conditions were perfect for me, fast but a little slippy to make it a bit more technical on the descent. I had built it up in my head and was ready come race day. It was one of those days where it felt like I was playing a computer game; if I wanted to accelerate round someone I did it just felt easy.
I was in 12th moving forward with Bart Wellens who had suffered a bad start; I held his wheel all the way up the climb after 40mins of racing. Then on the descent I slid out on a corner and when it gripped again BAM. My tub had rolled, it’s the first time I have ever rolled a tub. I was more than gutted; it hurt so bad walking back to the van knowing I was pretty much guaranteed a top 12 at the legendary race.
I had to move on quickly and looked forward to my next goal which was the Koksijde round of the World Cup series. It was a dress rehearsal for the World Championships, same course same riders and hopefully a really good opportunity to get everything dialled in for the big day in late January.
It went really well and I got my best World Cup result of the year 22nd. I felt super strong and technically really good on the course. It meant I could go away to Spain for 2 weeks at the beginning of December in a positive mood knowing I was at a good level to move forward from for the final part of the season where my main goal of the season was, the British Championships.
[pullquote]I couldn’t have done any more training even if I had wanted to.[/pullquote]
The 2 weeks in Spain went really well and I couldn’t have done any more training even if I had wanted to. They were really tough roads, steep long climbs and perfect tarmac made the 5hr rides there hard but enjoyable.
I came straight back to racing in Belgium which is when my back issue’s first arose, I had obviously pushed my body hard in the training camp then on a super tough course at Namen just a few days later was just too much and my back packed up for the first time during the World Cup.
From this point on my season was always on a knife edge between having form and having a bad back. I struggled through the Christmas period of racing and got some speed into my legs and technical skills back up to speed just perfect for the British Champs.
The championship races are always a strange one, with so much pressure put on myself by no one else but myself in the past I have always got it wrong. Whether it be getting ill at the wrong time, organisers moving the race due to a bit of snow or simply getting it wrong on the day myself with tactics and managing nerves I had never even been on the senior podium.
According to some this made me an outsider, I found this pretty disrespectful and went about the race like any other this season to try and keep things as normal as possible.
I was so relaxed compared to previous years and managed to somehow get through the weekend in the right frame of mind and I finally got the senior title I had wanted for so long.
Having based my whole season from November onwards around the British Champs even the next day I found it hard to get motivated even with the new jersey on my shoulders at a race in Belgium.
This was the story of the rest of my season almost; having worked so hard for something for so long I was drained for the remainder of the season. I dug in to pull something out of the bag at the final round of the World cup and the final round of the Superprestige went well but apart from that there really wasn’t much to talk about apart from the UCI ruining my World Champs.
Fair enough I wasn’t having a great ride in 36th place but I was pulled on the 80% rule when I was 1min 30 off being at 80% while just off the back of a group of 6 I had been catching. It seems at some races in Belgium that the organisers don’t care about anyone outside of the top 10 but to be denied racing for a top 30 position at the World Champs due to maths error by a commisaire I was hacked off to say the least.
With the season now behind me I’m glad to be sat here with a free weekend. Getting up and not having to think about going out on my bike if I don’t want to is a nice feeling… I know this will not last as it never does last long as I will be itching to get out training hard again long before my scheduled break is up! I have so many things to work on for next season to make that next step forward towards being a regular top10-15 rider but I can’t wait for the challenge.
I will go into next season a refreshed rider and will wear the National Champs jersey with pride at every race.
‘Till next time,
I’d like to say a massive thank you for their support this season to:
- Hargroves Cycles
- MD Flooring
- Warwick Martel