The third stage of the race, on paper, looked the easiest. A mere 41 miles and 7,500ft of climbing! But with 2 days already in the legs and the weather turning for the worse, it was going to be anything but easy.
We stood on the start line, in the rain, slightly disappointed that the glorious weather couldn’t have stretched for one more day. It hadn’t rained much, but just enough for the trails to become sticky and the downhills treacherous.
The organisers took pity on us all and set us off a few minutes early. No surprise that the speed was once again high and everyone pushed hard up the first climb. My legs responded well considering and I was hoping this would be a good day, possibly gaining back some of the time I lost on stage 2. However, half way up the first climb, the pain in my lower back started to flare up. I had kept this at bay during stage 2 but the stretches and recovery I did overnight, were not enough to combat 3 days of high stress. It was going to be a long day.
I started to slow as I couldn’t put any meaningful power through the pedals. I have been in this situation many times before, due to the aftermath of a crushed vertebrae I sustained over twenty years ago. The only way to ease the pain would be to stop riding. As that was not going to happen, I pushed on and suffered.
The rain slowly eased over the duration of the race, making the conditions bearable. However the trails in places were very slippy and some of the downhills frightening. You just had to hang on and put faith in your bike handling skills.
The route involved 2 laps of the same circuit. This meant you had to ascend the famous Wall of Borzee, twice. Most people dreaded this due to its steepness, but I knew in these conditions it would be a walk meaning I could stretch the back and ease the pain.
The miles ticked by and I finally settled into a comfortable pace with a group of other riders. I had memorised the profile of the last section of the race and ticked off the climbs as I passed over the crest of each one. Riding into the finish was a relief and also very satisfying. Three stages, all different, each with their own story and experiences, totaling 150 miles and 26,000ft of climbing.
My final position was 21st Vet and 66th overall in the open category. My bad last day had only lost me 3 places.
I’m already thinking how I can be faster for next year!