I was persuaded at the last minute by my new training partner and font of all mountain bike related knowledge, Thomas Dietsch, to do the VTT Remiremont just over an hour away in Lorraine from my current base in the Alsace region of France.
After debating the decision for 24 hours I decided that someone who has a Senior French National XC title, World Cup XC podiums and too many honours in Marathon to list to his palmares that it was sound advice. So the afternoon before the race I pulled the trigger to go and set my goals and objectives.
Coming at the end of a training period for the upcoming World Cup rounds in Nové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic, and Albstadt, Germany, the race would provide the perfect way to get in some high intensity training in a race environment.
Arriving on the day of the race I treated it as another training day. With races on the course all morning there was no opportunity for a course practice other than just before the race warming up with a lap of the track. Unfortunately an hour before race start the clouds rolled in from the mountains and the rain came down hard.
Not wanting to get cold and wet before the start gun I gave the warm up lap of the track a miss and sat it out in the van until the last minute to ride to the start line. Usually being very disciplined with my race preparation and warm up this was a first for me.
Gridded on the second row I made a good start and slipped in to fourth as the track turned to a singletrack downhill for the first time. The rain, which was still coming down in plentiful supply, had caused more damage to the surface than I thought. It was a mud bath and extremely slippery especially given the number of roots that crisscrossed the course.
On the first two laps as I learnt the course I lost some time to the two front runners. It is a different and difficult skill racing a course blind. Usually you’ve spent at least one day learning the lines and thinking about what sections to attack, where to drink and how it all links together. However by lap 3 of 6 I had my head around it and started to ride smoothly on the downhills and knew how hard to push on the climbs.
By the last lap I had reeled in the guy ahead and was sat in second. Unfortunately the leader had gained a little too much ground early on, and despite being agonisingly close by the end, I came in to take second place. It was great to be back on the podium.
Treating the race as a part of my training programme I wore my heart-rate monitor during the race, something I rarely do, so collected some very useful data for fine tuning my training and recovery before the World Cups. Looking at the data it is really astonishing how hard you are able to push your body in a race, something that really isn’t possible to replicate in a standard training session.
It was a great run out and worked out almost perfectly in the end. Thank you Thomas for the advice, you were right!