Sherwood Pines in the south of England was the first and next up after Sherwood Pines was the first round of the Scottish NPS Series, as Matti reports…
"The past few weeks has seen the mountain bike season kick off and as a first year elite I wasn't expecting an easy break into it. After a nice win in the Ulster XMTB Winter League my first proper mountain bike race was the first round of the British NPS held in Sherwood Pines. Not exactly an easy start to the world of elite racing but you may as well jump in at the deep end…
The race was five laps of the fast – almost cyclocross-style – course that is typical of Sherwood. The start was nothing like I have ever done before; 80 riders all trying to get the best possible position at the start. My start was surprisingly good and I managed to get into the top 15-20 riders, but unfortunately this was as close to the front as I got the whole race. The first singletrack was a complete gridlock, with riders getting off and running! Doing this myself I dropped my chain and then by the time I got going I was well back, but I got on with it, except I got on with it too fast and by the end of the second lap I was suffering!
For the next three laps I started going backwards and the added heat didn't help. I was finishing bottles every lap which is something I don't usually do! On the last lap I started cramping but got to the finish in nothing short of a terrible 55th place. Although it was a bad result I wasn't disappointed and enjoyed the race.
Scottish NPS at Kirroughtree
My next race was the first Scottish NPS round held at the 7stanes trails at Kirroughtree. I have always liked this course with its mix of manmade and natural trails. However the trails are definitely getting rough from the first time I rode here three years ago, which meant the course was very stop-start but racing isn't meant to be easy.
Following the previous weekend in Sherwood I was definitely looking for a better result! After a good warm up I hit the start hard leading up the first climb. With a much smaller field than Sherwood there were no such gridlocks and I was second into the first singletrack. With a short race of only four laps the pace was fast and I dropped back coming through the first lap in fifth place. But disaster! A quarter way into the second lap I got a puncture and had to ride the rest of the lap on a flat wheel. I got back to the pits, got another wheel and got back out there. But then again disaster – another puncture, but luckily this wasn't too far from the pits but I had no wheels left as it was the back wheel again! So there I was sitting in a ditch realising I wasn't going to finish which at this point was all I wanted to do – until I got offered a wheel and I grabbed it, jumped on and finished the race albeit in a low eighth place.
So not a lot of luck for my first races of the year but I enjoyed them all the same. Roll on the next one."