9 Seconds From Victory

TORQ-fuelled Sally Bigham gives us an account of her experiences at the European Marathon Champs last weekend. Frustratingly she finished 9 seconds off the win in 6th place in a very closely contested race.

The Euros were held in Singen, Germany, over an 80km course with just under 1600m of climbing. As a climber, this wasn’t really a great course for me, but being punctuated with lots of power climbs means that played a little more to my strengths. Together with Sabine Spitz, Gunn Rita Dahle Flesja, Jolanda Neff, and Esther Suss, I was regarded as one of the race favourites. The weather forecast predicted blustery winds on race day, so it was even more clear it would be a tactical race with riders staying together for shelter rather than braving the elements alone.

I wanted to try to split the group up, so I frequently went to the front and set the pace on the climbs. However, there was a distinct reluctance of the leading women to work together meaning any breaks that formed were soon caught. A couple of times the leading group was reduced to Spitz, Suss, Neff and me, but all the soft pedalling and unwillingness to work together allowed the group to grow again. In the last 5km to the finish we were a group of 6 and it was clear it would end with a group sprint. On the last descent, a lapped amateur rider crashed in front of me and I lost the group. I was able to regain contact but from then onwards I was on the back foot. I finished 9 seconds behind the winner, Spitz, in 6th position. A frustrating result, but I’m pleased with my performance and my form – especially after less than optimal training over the last several weeks because of illnesses.

My next race is the National XCO race at Builth Wells on Sunday. Time for some XCO speed training 馃檪