British National Series 1, Codham Park, Essex

With the focus of our 2014 race season being on the UCI World Cup Series we were pleased that the first round of the British National XC Series fell two weeks before the opening WC in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

It gave us an opportunity to include in our final preparations a fast high intensity race that is impossible to replicate in training. It was also a fantastic chance to catch up with our nutrition supplier and one of our key UK based sponsors Torq. The support that Matt and his team at Torq give to the UK XC scene is second to none. They are great guys to work with and it is a privilege for us to be able to act as ambassadors for the Torq brand around the world.

Codham Park in Essex is a well known venue for some of the southern riders but was a new course for us. The drag-race start on the virtually flat course quickly split the top twenty riders into three groups. As Hamish was nursing a niggling back injury, and given the rough flat seated power riding required on the course, he worked for me in the mid section of the race to get positioned on the back of the second group making up the top ten positions. With the absence of any climbs or technical sections even small gaps proved hard to close down, I came in to finish in 12th in a three way sprint while Hamish paced himself home on the final couple of laps. Dutch champion Michiel van der Heijden took the honours on the day.

As the World Cup and European courses that we will be racing on for the rest of the season will be more typical technical hilly XC courses it was interesting for us to be able to assess our speed on a fast flat course. It is easy, when training concentrates on climbing and descending skills, to lose some focus on the importance of flat speed for when these types of races occasionally pop up.

The bikes are now being prepped and packed for departure to Pietermaritzburg early next week. Cascades Bike Park is justifiably considered to be one of the most technically and physically demanding tracks in the World Cup series. It suits our styles of riding so it can’t come soon enough.