Mud, Sweat and Gears XC

Ben Thomas recently took to the line at the Eastern XC (Elite Cat) for the last round of the Mud Sweat and Gears Series and here’s his race report…

Following the Kielder 100 (Ed. which Ben won!) and after some rest, I spent a week training in France. Before returning to England however, I picked up a bug and felt pretty awful on Tuesday. This spoilt the day, which should have been a good relaxing time in Nice. After flying home I still felt ill for a few days and had developed a head cold. I had planned to be riding the Chain Reaction Cycles Marathon weekend in Ruthin, North Wales, but hadn’t recovered so decided to rest and see how I felt by Sunday with the plan to possibly attend and final round of the Eastern XC series.

After some rest on Saturday I was feeling much better and decided I would race, hoping there wouldn’t be much competition and I could just ride around! On arrival however, several top elite riders had thought this would be a good tester before next week’s final national, so I had my work cut out. It was also a good opportunity to preview a new course that will be used in next years national XC series. Off the start a lead group formed including 3 top elite riders and myself. For the first half of the race I didn’t feel fantastic and my throat still felt tight, however as the race continued the pace felt pretty steady. I followed wheels for the first 5 laps before being forced to the front where I rode for the last 2 laps; I didn’t force the pace and tried to bluff on the climbs.

On the last lap, the group had reduced to just myself and Steve James. I decided I’d either wait for Steve to attack and then hopefully counter attack to get a gap or attack on the very last climb, half a minute from the finish line, risky perhaps but I hoped I’d be strong enough to pull it off. In the end we both had the same idea and attacked hard on the final climb, Stephen was really strong, but I just had enough energy to kick for a second time and edged out a small gap into the arena. The circuit will make for a really tough national race next year and I look forward to racing there again. A great result and my third consecutive win.

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