Tom Bell – Club La Santa UCI S2 MTB Race report

Polaris are delighted to announce our continued support of British MTB XCM National Champion Tom Bell for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. After a fantastic 2017 season, Tom is looking to kick on in 2018 and started his season with the 4 stage race in Lanzarote. Here is his race report…

After 3-4 weeks of good training in both Gran Canaria and Calpe, I decided to start my season off at the UCI S2 4-Stage MTB Race in Lanzarote.

Now in it’s 14th edition, the 4-day race is hosted by and based out of Club La Santa, a purpose-built sports resort located on the coast towards the north of the island.

It’s a well-organised event with an experienced staff behind it, and provides exactly the friendly, stress-free environment you want as a competitor.

Stage 1 started with a 41km route made up mostly of fire-road and short sections of single track.

Being a short and flat stage, it delivered ~1.5 hours of flat-out racing; the kind that quickly reminds you how hard elite-level MTB racing is.

Despite a good start and making the front group selection, the violent winds that characterised the entire stage meant that when I made a small mistake and let a bike length or two open up, I instantly found myself off the back and isolated.

Making a bit of a tactical error, I then worked too hard alone trying to regain contact with the group, ultimately finishing the stage at the back of the chasing group in 12th place.

Not ideal, but far from a terrible start on the stage which on paper suited me the least.

Stage 2 looked initially to be a longer version of the first day, but thankfully ended up being hillier and generally much more enjoyable to race.

Again, I was happy to stay at the front end of the race for most of the day, and came in for 11th place at the finish.

Whilst there was no less suffering compared to day 1, I did manage to save some energy for the upcoming stages and could tell that my body was starting to settle back into racing well.

The third stage was a 21KM uphill time trial, run in reverse order based on the standings after Stage 2.

Starting on the beach, the course of fire road and loose single track climbed ~800 meters up to a viewpoint at the very top of the island, taking in 2-3 short but technical descents along the way.

I paced my effort well using a newly-fitted 4iiii power meter, catching and passing Jonas Lindberg of Denmark and Catriel Soto of Argentina, who started 1 minute and 2 minutes ahead of me respectively.

When all was said and done, I finished in 6th place on the stage, putting good time into my closest rivals to move into 8th place on the overall standings.

With my legs arguably feeling fresher after Stage 3 than before it, I went into the final 81KM marathon stage with confidence and a clear goal of consolidating my position in the general classification.

The stage started fast, yet steadily enough to allow a large group of 25 or so riders to form and stay together by the first of three feed zones.

From here, this group gradually whittled down as the stage went on, with the biggest separation coming on a 4.5 mile climb out of Feed Zone 2, where I climbed well and got away with the leading group of 6-8 riders.

Whilst the chasing group ultimately bridged back after a long and gusty descent off of the top of the island, I tried to stay towards the front where possible, keeping out of trouble and avoiding missing any big moves from those closest to me in the overall.

Portugese national champion David Rosa and Germany’s Christian Pfaffle managed to escape in the last few miles, with Rosa taking the stage win, but I stayed with the main group of overall race leaders like Sergio Mantecon of Trek Factory Racing and previous overall winner Soren Nillsen to come in with an 8th place finish on the stage, just behind Mantecon.

Overall, I ended up riding a consistent race and finished 6th in the general classification. The result makes for a good start to the season in terms of my confidence, my conditioning and my UCI world ranking too.

From here, my next race will be another UCI S2 event in Portugal, which is a country I love to race in. For now though, it’s back to training and continuing to build my shape for the season ahead.

Finally, if you’re interested, you can follow all of my training on Strava and learn about how to train effectively as a cyclist by checking out my YouTube channel here.

Thanks for reading and ciao for now…