To preface this I feel some things should be known:
1) Contrary to the speed that I ride I am actually an elite level mountain biker.
2) I worked pretty hard to get into elite and don't want to give it up.
3) To stay in elite you need to be ranked in the top 50 elites (out of about 60).
4) British Cycling take the points tally of your best 8 races.
With the above in mind and knowing that I missed the first half (more like two-thirds) of the season by being on the other side of the world, and being pathetically slow at races due in no small part to my (somewhat protracted) recovery from glandular fever and lack of meaningful training I have set the rest of my season up to include a series of points-hunting skirmishes. These will mostly include going to races where few people turn up to and trundling round at speeds that would usually see me out the back of the field, but due to the lack of entrants turns up some solid points scores. This is an activity I like to think of as points grubbing.
It's not big.
It's not clever.
And it's definitely not fast.
This points grubbing saw my father and I driving North the weekend before this for a weekend of 'racing'. As you will come to see it was racing only in name and not really in nature. Not to play down the fantastic events, but I was going to them for their lack of competition; for which I am somewhat ashamed, but I will not justify this further than I already have.
The first race was the final round of the Nutcracker series in Fremington. This was organised by the same people who ran this years National Champs event, which combined with the topography available ensured a good event. The laps were long (at about 30 minutes each) with a reasonable climb to start the lap with, followed by some exposed moorland meandering and a loose technical and in places reasonably steep descent before the final traverse back to the start of the lap. This moorland scenery gave for some stunning photographs from Joolze Dymond (some of the pick of the weekends work can be seen here: http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/mtb/article/mtb20110823--MTB--Nutcracker-Round-4-0) including a nice one of me coming into land from an opportunistic whip on the final lap.
Confirming my thoughts that competition would be sparse I ended up being the only Elite racer here, which left me only the Experts to compete with. I didn't feel like I could win the Elites without actually beating the experts, so after a poor start set about chasing down the two Masters riders who (with a lap less) had gone from the front. I never got in touch with the leader, but stayed with the second place Masters rider and generally enjoyed myself to comfortably beat the Expert riders.
The weather started to come in and Dad and I had to make the decision on accommodation for our night up North. In the end we decided to camp in Todmorden using Dad's little tent which provided the most comfortable camping I have ever enjoyed. Dinner in the local 'Spoons and we were well on our way. The following morning we were up bright and early to get to the next race just over the moors; Brownbacks round 4.
Here once again no Elite racers showed up, but my day was not as successful, tired legs and a puncture saw me trundle round with sport riders in front of me for 4th. However, I was glad to finish and glad of the points. The course for the Brownbacks races is one of my favourite, but it has not been kind to me the past two times I have raced there, ripping my tyre the first time and then this. I will have to go back when I have some legs.
This little skirmish saw me crawl up the rankings from 49th to 38th, which should see me safely in Elite for another year. However Dad has brought it to my attention that a certain Mr. Pybus is only a couple of places in front of me in the rankings with 7 races to his tally, so I have a new target. Beat Jon! As such there will be a few more races before the season is out and I can really concentrate on getting fully over this glandular fever and building more steadily back to fitness.
Not helping a steady build is my current injury. Having come off after 2 hours of the Torq 12:12 12 hour race last weekend I have been limping around the house wondering if I could have gone faster and pulled our mixed team up to 2nd or even 1st in the event. All being well I will be back on the road bike tomorrow to spin the stiffness out. Thankfully the injury is merely a flesh wound and as it felt fine throughout the final 10 hours of the event (better on the bike than off) then all being well there will be no complications.