After wet and cold of Nove Mesto, it was onto Finale Ligure. Sun, sea and the MTB mecca of Europe. I was excited!

The course was a climbers dream, whilst I love climbing my weight has always punished me from being quick enough up the climbs. But I knew being able to keep the effort going all day would be important with 100km and 4,000m of climbing to contend with.

The course layout made practice very tricky and meant there would be big sections we would be riding completely blind. This is the real trick to great marathon racing, can your ride unseen technical terrain fast and clean? It had been baking hot all week in Finale, as we finished each day with a dip in the sea and watched as those around us sipped on Aperol Spritz whilst we had our protein shakes and sparkling water!

A neutralised start meant that we got the foot of the climb as a big group, but this quickly disintegrated as the pace was pushed from the front of the group. One of the big differences between male XCM racing and female XCM racing is that the pace is pushed until nearly everyone has cracked from behind, leaving only a select group very early on. This does mean that training as a female can be a bit different from the stochastic nature of men’s race, with more focus on sustained efforts. Then it was time to settle into my pace and race my own race. I loved the long sustained descents but as the day wore on the heat started to crack me. With a section of hike a bike in the midday sun, panic set in. I felt like I was cooking alive and then like a mirage appearing, the neutral technical zone appeared, they doused me with water, filled my bidons and on I went knowing there was just one ‘small’ climb and a big old descent home!

It really didn’t go perfectly; I had some issues with pedals which really slowed me down. And unbeknownst to me at the time, my front suspension was broken leaving me with only 30mm of travel! It was only when I got to the finish my team showed how little travel I had used. My body was so strong and capable it just accounted for how brutal the descending was on a broken bike!! Finishing 27th at the time felt fair but bittersweet because I knew I could have done better.

The impact of the forks meant that we should have been heading to European Champs but instead we rerouted home, to get the bike fixed and rest up before the big block of training leading into the Super World Championships in Glasgow.

Next time in our real races review it’s the big one – a home World Championship, what could go wrong!

If you’d like some help with your training to race MTB marathons, please drop me a message below

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