Saturday before the race was very relaxing I had decided to skip four hours of driving to Cascades and back to watch the elites and under 23 races, in order to relax and save my energy for my race on Sunday. This meant waking up at 5 o’clock on race day to do the two hour drive to Cascades luckily I was able to sleep almost the whole way to Cascades in the car.
I arrived to a surprisingly quiet Cascades, with people only coming later in the day to watch the downhill riders. However, the nervous started as I arrived and starting seeing where I would be racing for the next hour and a half. After sorting out water bottles and doing some last minute checks it was time to start warming up. With a nice tar hill close to Cascades I was able to do some sprints and get the legs nice and warm before heading down to the start line.
With people riding around by the start line you could feel everybody shaking with nerves. With the 13 man field made up of 11 South Africans it helped calm the nervous as I knew who I would be racing. However, never seeing the other two riders from Switzerland and France would add some excitement to the race.
The race started along the flat start straight but this did not help me as I still had a terrible start and was stone last after just 100 meters. I quickly composed myself and started to catch the pack of riders again. I entered the first, up hill, single track 2nd last and after the long straight towards the 2nd single track on the course I was able no move my way up to 9th. I was only able to catch one more rider on the last hill just before the second tech/feed zone. With the two of us together we had a battle for 8th for most on the first lap however, I was able to pull a small gap just before the end of the lap.
The gap seemed to stay the same then slowly started to open up for the next two laps. With marshals blowing whistles’ every time a rider went past them I was able to hear the gap between myself and closes riders opening up as the whistles’ started becoming softer. I had found myself sandwiched between two groups of two riders for most on the race where I was riding solo and was able to ride my own race, pacing myself up the hills.
The final lap I knew if I could maintain my pace I would finish an 8th as the gaps had opened up some more. With the junior women on course with us I would slowly make my way through their field as the final lap coming to its end. I would eventually see the finish line and with a few more peddle strokes I finished in 8th. I was very happy with my result as I had qualified in 12th leading up to the race.