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European MTB Marathon Championships, Ballyhoura, Ireland

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6th place at European MTB Marathon Championships, Ballyhoura, Ireland

It was all a bit last minute, but I raced the European MTB Marathon Championships in Ballyhoura, Ireland last weekend. What an amazing experience! The trails in Ballyhoura are world class and some of the best single track i have ever ridden.

My decision to race was left to the last possible minute due to a recurring calf injury, but by the Wednesday before the race I felt it had recovered enough to book the trip. I decided to drive and get the ferry from holyhead to Dublin and then drive down to Ballyhoura. It was a long but rewarding journey, with the A5 section through Snowdonia a highlight on a beautiful morning.

I arrived late afternoon on Thursday and booked in to my B&B. ZZZZZZZZ……. then up early on Friday for practice before the race on Saturday. The course was made up of a clover leaf design with a short start loop of about 6km, a long middle loop of approx 50km and a final swooping single track fest of approx 20km to finish. I didn’t want to tackle the whole 75km and 2000m of climbing the day before so opted to ride the first and last loops. WOW they were awesome fun and can’t really be described apart from a grin inducing roller coaster ride with some painful climbs thrown in.

The Elite race took place a day later on the Sunday with some big names in attendance. World Champions Christoph Sauser and Alban Lakata, Olympic MTB Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy and Brit superstar Sally Bigham. I headed out on practice just behind Mr Kulhavy, but I think he must have left something on the stove at home as he seemed in quite a hurry grin

So it was early to bed before the big day. Morning broke and the weather had held, the sunshine was very welcome as the rain has been somewhat biblical in proportions recently according to the locals. I set of early after a light breakfast, I find it hard to eat on race day but I needed to eat as it was going to be a long day. A couple of hours of faffing about and there I was on the start line. front row…. BANG and we’re off! I hit the first climb in second place but faded a little at the top, so entered the single track in 4th. I held this to the end of the start loop, back through the arena and out onto the long middle loop. There was a massive rocky climb to the high point on the course, but no time for sight seeing at the top as we blasted downhill on a long rocky decent the other side. I had chosen to take my full suspension Canyon Lux CF, this was perfect as this long middle loop was very rough and rocky, but the Lux just soaked it all up. By the time I came back through the arena for the last 20km loop I had dropped a couple of places to 6th. I wasn’t too disappointed as this race was far longer than I am used to and so keeping the power going later in the race was always going to hurt. I really enjoyed the final loop as I had a good gap on the riders behind and really let the bike flow.

I held my position to the end finishing exhausted in 6th place, but overjoyed with a great experience. The people and the organisation were flawless and I am really glad I made the decision to race.

Sally Bigham of Topeak Ergon race team finished 2nd in the elite female race - well done Sal! Christoph Sauser won the mens race with Kulhavy close on his tail

A great weekend of racing with my heroes and having fun on my Canyon.

Thanks to Canyon UK, Schwalbe, OSMO, Honey Stinger, Compressport, Z3r0d, Dorset Cereals, Maloja, Inov-8, Mavic and Countryside.

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