Steve James Reports from the Southern XC Series Round 3
So it’s been a pretty busy couple of weeks! Me and my dad made the trip out to South Africa for the first round of the UCI Cross Country World Cup. It’s an absolutely amazing country and the course was equally as impressive, with nearly 700ft of climbing in a 16 minute lap, it was a serious lap. With massive and technical rock gardens thrown in as well it was going to be a tough trip. However I hadn’t imagined just how tough! Unfortunately on my final practice lap before the race I made a mistake in the “Tree House” section of rocks and came off very badly, damaging my hip and left hand badly. Still having made the trip out there I was determined to try and race so stood on the start line with no expectations and just wanted to start! It’s always so tough to admit defeat but I just didn’t have the physical strength to hold onto the handlebars and on a course like that it was not safe to continue. After a small spill on the first lap due to the injuries I had to pull out and not risk further injury to myself or the bike, not with the rest of the season still to go!
The following weekend I was feeling a bit more recovered and made the shorter travel to Holland to race on Easter Monday. I’d raced there before and although it is not a course I excel on it’s perfect for a training race and always super fast! Very different to South Africa, with only 91ft of climbing in a 13minute lap this was going to be crazy fast. There was one technical section in the course, a mound built in the arena with a 2 line rock garden, so nothing was really going to slow the speed. I got a decent start and managed to ride a good race, suffering a little still from my crash I rode the best I could and came away with 16th Elite, which in a Dutch national with many Belgian riders I am pleased with. An average speed of 25kph is certainly not what I’m used to but I loved the race and always like racing in mainland Europe.
This weekend I decided to add a Southern XC, Crow Hill, into my training, they are longer races on hard courses so always provide a tough day out on fun courses. Nobody however could have foreseen how bad the course conditions were to become after just one night of rain! It was horrendously slippery and boggy with no grip to be found and no dry line for miles. Being honest I quite like racing in such conditions, why I have no idea but I do seem to relish in the mud! I made a move from Ade Lansley and Isaac Pucci at the beginning of the second lap, I felt good and wanted to push myself for as long as possible. I was certainly suffering on the last lap after an hour and a half of plugging through mud, it takes so much out of the legs constantly fighting the resistance! I had a good margin at the finish and some drained legs, perfect way to finish the race!
Stuart Bowers blew the masters race apart with a dominant display that saw him catch more than a few in the elite race. Kim Little (Merida UK)never got near Bowers but was good value in 2nd place.