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PCC at the British Cycling MTB Cross-Country Race

Funded by BraveHeart Cycling Fund, Peebles Cycling Club took a team of young riders to a British Cycling MTB Cross-Country race in Builth Wells. The team of riders was selected from those who regularly race the Scottish XC series, and the intention being to give them valuable experience of racing at a British race; for a lot of the riders it was their first British Race! 

Course practice was on the Saturday which they were happy with. However, overnight there was some heavy rain and a few changes to the course which wasn't great preparation but everyone got on with it and did awesome! Each of the riders wrote a blog on their experience, we thought we would share a few of their blogs that summarise the weekend.

Friday

Everyone met at the high school with hundreds of bags which we stuffed into the mini bus on Friday afternoon. Many of us had never done a British Cross Country race, so the prospect of travelling down to Wales for it together was pretty exciting. We waved our parents off and the journey began. Being together on the mini bus was a great way to pass the journey as it was good fun… and the boys were always in the back providing us with some (interesting) music from their speakers. Our first stop was at some services where we had dinner at a Marks and Spencer’s, we then carried on to Worcester where we stayed at a Premier Inn for the night. It was a nice place to stay and we all got a much appreciated lie in the next morning. Sharing a room with friends was also interesting as it let you get to know them a lot more.

Louisa Watt - 5th Junior Female

 

We left at 3pm from the High School for the first part of the journey was a 6 hour bus journey to Worcester. With the tunes playing at the back of, it felt a lot shorter than it was. After a few service station stops we arrived at our Premier Inn. Callum Thornley, Russell and I were sharing room number 27. Russell managed to get the double bed before me and Callum so we were stuck in the single beds. We turned the T.V. on before going to sleep.

Corran Carrick-Anderson – 3rd Juvenile Male

 

The trip kicked off with a testing 6 hour journey to Worcester inside a hot, stuffy mini van. But it was all good because at the back of the bus the tunes were blaring! We arrived at our luxurious Premier Inn whilst me, Corran Carrick-Anderson and Russell Brown went to our room, number 27. Before me and Corran could nick the double bed, Russell nabbed it. We then unsurprisingly switched on our TV then went to sleep.

Callum Thornley - 18th Juvenile Male

 

Saturday - Race Practise 

It took a couple of hours to get to the race venue at Builth Wells, things started getting exciting when we could see blue tape from the road on the hill side. Builth Wells is a really nice race venue as it is on a nice campsite, the race organisers had also put up lots of tepees and tents. The course itself was pretty dodgy, all of the descents were covered with roots and drenched with mud, so your tyres were slipping about everywhere. We practised a couple of laps and I began to feel comfortable with the course as I could ride the majority of it. After course practise Iain ran a session on starts, which was great to have fresh in our minds for the next morning. It was a short twenty minute drive to a little traditional Welsh town where we were staying. For dinner we went to a little pub close to the hotel, the meatballs were really tasty and great race prep for the next day.

Louisa Watt - 5th Junior Female

On Saturday morning I woke up at 7:37 after a restless sleep. We turned the T.V. on again before getting changed and going to breakfast. According to Emily, we were 7 minutes late and the last to breakfast. Having sore braces, I struggled eating but I ate as much as I could. Most of us tried to have a healthy breakfast after our talk with Ruth McKean on the Monday before. After collecting our bags from our rooms we left for another 2 hour journey to the course. We finally arrived and unpacked the lorry. We signed on and started the course. We were not trying to wait at places for too long as we needed to get 2 laps in before the sport race started. The course started with a road climb up into a short grassy downhill back into the start/finish area. It then went up a steep hill for quite a while before we hit the first proper descent. It was a little slippy from the rain. It had 180° switchbacks before arriving at the first A/B line. It was a steep slippy corner into a small drop, another corner and a chute out of it. It looked a bit dodgy but I did it first time and it wasn't too bad. It was then a flat fire road for a while and then into a long climb up. It was quite tough but good. We then got to a nice descent. The line choices were either high or low around roots. Then it went into a tight corner around a tree. It then went into a fast descent before turning up into a single track. It was up and down with slippy roots all the way along it. After that, there was another A/B line. This one was slightly easier than the one before. It was a bomb hole, into a corner, into a rock drop. Yet again I managed it first time. Then it was a fast fire road into another flat single track. Then a double arrow downhill but then just flat again. It was similar all the way until near the finish. It then went up another fire road for a few corners and down the final single track before reaching a grass path that would take us all the way to the finish. We immediately set off for another lap which was the same apart from the first A/B line had been changed. The A line had cut the hard corner which made it a lot easier. After practice finished we had a shower and went to our second hotel. We had tea, bought our lunch for the next day and then went to our bedroom. We had a meeting at 9:15 to discuss the race plans for the next day in the lounge so we all went down there. We found out that the course would change for our race which was surprising. The first lap would just cut out the end section after the second A/B line but the rest of the laps would also cut the start loop out as well. We also found out we were doing 3 laps which I was pleased to hear but also meant it was probably going to be the longest race I had done. Then we discussed our plan before heading to bed. We turned the T.V. on for a while before going to sleep.

Corran Carrick-Anderson - 3rd Juvenile Male

 

The next day was practice day. We woke up at an early 8:00 to a loud, rather sudden alarm. We were supposed to meet for breakfast at 8:15 but as expected we arrived 7 minutes and 38 seconds late according to Emily Carrick-Anderson's watch. With Ruth McKean’s recent talk on nutrition in mind we had a more healthy breakfast than usual consisting of fruit salad and cereal. We then proceeded to drive 2hrs to Builth Wells race course. We arrived and sadly it was raining. But being Scottish we obviously pulled through. Me and all the PCCers rode our bikes for the 1st time that weekend to the sign on tent. We got our numbers and began our race course practice. The course had lots of extremely steep slippery ascents and the descents were no different with added rocks, roots, ruts and consistent mud. The course started with a fire road leading into several 180° switch backs. The 1st descent started with a rock garden leading into a steep, technical and slippery section followed by a section with an A/B line choice. I attempted the A line with confidence, rode it perfectly then all it took was one root for me to hit the deck hard. I jumped up and confirmed I was bruised, not broken. The A/B line led into yet another very steep and lengthy ascent. After the climb the second and my favourite descent began. There was a high and a low line on the unforgiving off camber roots. I opted for the high, faster line and it worked a treat. The descent then took a 180° switchback and down the slippiest section of the whole course. Basically a mud bath followed by a very enjoyable ascent that traversed a hill consisting of some awesome roots and ruts seemingly designed to make you fall! There was then a really fun drop off that Russell decked himself on! The course then had a fire road section that you could go up to 45kmph on! The trail then had a tough but short enough to sprint climb followed by yet another awesome descent. The descent traversed across then cut straight down the hill the descent then had a series of flowing turns. The course then cut all the way back across to near the event village. Then we climbed up another hill then that was the lap finished, finally! Once we got back to our 2 awesome PCC tents me, Calum Johnson and Jonte Willins went to a rather pathetic 10cm hose and attempted to wash our bikes. After that we had a quick shower and hopped back in our van and took a 20 minute drive to our hotel. When we arrived we firstly went to the supermarket to buy our lunch for after our race the next day. Me and Corran started wandering towards the shop and ended up getting lost but thanks to Lucy Grant we were found and shown the way to the supermarket. We then went back up to the hotel to then be told that the course had been changed due to a dreadful weather forecast.

Crawford Carrick-Anderson took a very useful video of the new section which thankfully was only a fire road. A large section of the course had been cut out shortening the lap down to around 23 minutes. Unfortunately one of my favourite descents had been taken out of the course but nevertheless the race must go on. We then took a short walk to a lovely restaurant and had our dinner. I had smoked salmon and pizza! After having tea we went back to our rooms and prepared our kit for the race. Whilst we were doing that me, Corran and Russell spent a good 10 minutes attempting to launch items of our stuff into the bin! It sounds a bit odd but at the time it was sooooo fun. Once we were into bed trying to get to sleep we figured we were way to hot despite both windows being open. But luckily Katy Carrick-Anderson had a solution. She walked into our room, picked up at towel, soaked it in the bath and to my surprise she lay it on our backs and tummies! It was the coldest thing ever but sooo refreshing!

Callum Thornley - 18th Juvenile Male

Sunday - Race Day!

A 6.30 am start was pretty tough! When we arrived at Builth Wells Lucy and I did as much as we could to help the younger racers prepare for their 9am race. There had been a huge shower of rain overnight so we all knew that the course was going to be very slippy. There were many crashes in the younger races and lots of DNF’s which made me pretty nervous. By 1pm I felt more than ready for my race since I had been up since 6.30 am. Being told that I was doing 3 laps instead of 2 on the start line was a bit of a shock 15 seconds before the race started. I have to say that it was the toughest race I have ever done. With extremely steep and tough climbs followed by technical and slippery descents there was little time to recover. As the race went on I became more and more tired, by the end I was counting down the minutes until I reached the finish line. The race ended up being 2 hours long; I was absolutely wrecked by the end but very happy to finish in 5th place- my best result yet! I was buzzing on the journey home but also extremely tired, we managed to make it home in just over 6 hours. With a stop at a Subway for tea we all knew that it wasn’t the best ‘athletes nutrition’ but we didn’t care because we had all earned it.

Louisa Watt - 5th Junior Female

 

It was race day!! We woke up at 6:25 to Hymn for the Weekend by Coldplay which got us hyped for the day. We ate our porridge pots and got everything ready before meeting at 7 in the lounge. We left shortly after at 7:15. We arrived 20 minutes later at 7:35 and started to unpack the gazebos, rollers and bikes. I was starting my warm up at 8:15 so I had a while to wait. Eventually I started my rollers under the gazebo and started my prep for the big race. I did 20 minutes of varied paces before hopping off and doing three sprints before heading to the line to be gridded. I was gridded 11th after my two 6ths and the other race that I didn't do. I was in the second row behind the series leader: Freddie Birchill. With 15 seconds to go I started my Garmin and the whistle went. I went in behind Rory McGuire along the first fire road. He was slipping about until he had a massive crash which I had to swerve so I didn’t hit his head! That made me fall slightly off the leading bunch but fortunately I managed to catch them back up before the short grassy descent. The boy in front of me almost had a bad crash but he managed to stay on his bike. We went past the start/finish barrier and up into the steep climb. I was about 8th but still in the leading bunch. I was running 1x9 gearing but it didn’t really bother me on the first lap. Freddy Birchill, who had had a mechanical earlier on went passed me and everyone else to the front of the group. This picked the pace up slightly. We went into the first proper descent and I just saw Freddy fall down the side of the corner. That finished his race for the day. It was very slippy after the rain and people were going all over the place. I went into the first A/B line and managed to get down that cleanly with my foot out. Quite a few people slipped out here. I went into the long climb and Jamie overtook me meaning I had overtaken him on the descent. I got onto his wheel and followed up the hill until he dropped me just before the top. I was onto the slightly off camber section and I was getting stuck behind people but I couldn’t pass as it was too tight. I got down it and onto the slightly uphill single track which everyone had to run most of because of the mud and roots. After finishing the long run I was into the second A/B line which was quite easy and then into the fire road all the way to the start/finish. I was behind Oliver Allen who I found was a similar pace to me so I stuck with him. We cut the start loop this time and went over a small bridge before the steep climb again. It was hard to keep up but I just managed to. I got stuck behind him on the descent but he crashed on the A/B line so I overtook him. He caught me back up on the long climb and unfortunately got a small gap on me at the top and was in front for the next downhill. I caught him back up and could not overtake him all the way down. We ran the same bit again all the way to the second A/B line. Then we were with each other going through the start/finish for the final lap. The climb this was so hard I had to run a bit of it. Being dropped slightly by that I had to catch back up on the descent. On the A/B line the boy in front crashed and got tangled in a tree. I managed to get down it again and started the long climb I went as fast as I could all the up wanting to get a clear run down. I just got caught behind someone but on one of the lines they took the low line so I took the high and I just got past him. I had a fast clear run all the way down and then into the single track run. I got to the last A/B line and then sprinted all the way along the last fire road. I went into the finishing straight and crossed the line. I had no idea what position I was until someone told me I was 3rd! I was so chuffed! I thought I was about 6th again or something. This meant I had to go onto my first ever British podium! It felt really good going on to the podium and being with some of the best juveniles in Britain! I got a trophy and two tires from Schwalbe. It had been a good race and I was really happy about how everything went. Just the 8 hour journey home!

Corran Carrick-Anderson - 3rd Juvenile Male

 

We woke up at 6:25 to Corran’s uplifting alarm. The song was "hymn for the weekend." We quickly got our awesome PCC kit on and began eating our 'delicious' porridge pots. At 7:10 we were on the bus leaving to go to the race. For the first time that weekend I felt terribly sick on the bus but I was fine. We arrived at the race at 7:30 and unpacked our bikes. At 8:05 I began my intense warm up on the rollers. With added encouragement from our enthusiastic coaches I began to get pumped for it. After doing a series of sprints I got ready to go to the start line. On the start line I was gridded 3rd last given this was my 1st ever British Series Race. The start was very intense with all 50 riders sprinting to the first corner, unfortunately there was a crash. I managed to hop over a back wheel and get around it. I began cycling up the first set of horrific climbs and got the first short descent. As soon as I got in the descent I looked ahead and saw that Calum Johnson had hit the deck, then suddenly Jonte Willins fell on top of him then out of nowhere I got caught in a rut and fell on top of them. It was carnage and I was in a lot of pain, I got up to my feet and realized my hand was hurting a lot, although I was fine. The 3 of us were all now in last! 50th! From then on the course kept on being tough but my mind-set had now changed to, let's just try and finish. Whereas before it was let's try and get as high placing as possible! I was convinced I was in the high 30s/early 40s but after an hour and 15 mins of racing I ended up in 18th (provisional standing). I was just glad to finish! I then went for a shower got all cleaned up then finally cleaned my bike. We all then went to cheer on Lucy Grant, our female elite 5th place! After all that we hopped on the bus and endured another 6 hour bus journey but it wasn't all bad, the tunes were blaring at the back of the bus! We got home back to Peebles at 11:30 and unpacked all our bikes bags and rollers. We then went back to our homes and had a well reversed rest. I would like to say a huge thank you to PCC who organized this awesome trip which was amazing. Thank you to all the adult helpers who kept us all safe and happy! Finally thanks to the Braveheart Fund and Sealskinz for supplying us with our iconic PCC race kit!!!

Callum Thornley - 18th Juvenile Male

 

Overall
Overall I would say that the PCC trip to Builth Wells was a great experience. Travelling together was a lot of fun and led to a great team spirit. All members of the team were extremely supportive and helpful to each other so I feel that together PCC are stronger. The race was extremely tough but it’s an experience that I will always remember. I also feel that being away from home and being responsible for yourself and all of your own kit is beneficial as it helps you to be more independent and capable. I would like to say a massive thank you to the PCC coaches and helpers on the trip: Pete Johnson, Ian Grant, Crawford Carrick-Anderson, Roy Richardson, Katy Carrick-Anderson and Lucy Grant who made it an excellent trip. Also PCC, the Braveheart Fund and Sealskinz!

Louisa Watt - 5th Junior Female


Results

Their results were as follows:

U12 
Emily C-A 3rd

Junior Female
Louisa Watt 5th

Juvenile Female
Elena McGorum 5th
Emily Wilkinson 10th

Juvenile Male
Corran C-A 3rd
Calum Johnson 12th
Jonte Willins 16th
Callum Thornley 18th
Russell Brown 22nd
Thomas Richardson 36th

Youth Female 
Anna McGorum 5th
(Sadly Megan W was a DNF due to a heavy crash, but she's ok)

Elite Women 
Lucy Grant 4th

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