Hopton Woods, the place of legends, well I remember the comments about how tough the climbs were, but that the descents made it worth it.
On any course this steep it’s always a game changer, going into it 8th in the series I knew it was going to be impossible to live up to that billing. Living on the edge of the fens we don’t do steep climbs, so a FNSS race on the Friday and several beers Camping out Sat night were preperation for failure of sorts.
I wasn’t going to waste my first ever front row gridding at a National class though, oh no! Even an uphill start which I hate didn’t stop me leading out past the start line and the feed zone to good effect. Then we turned the corner onto the wall of a climb, and fast twitch muscles don’t help there, I had to start breathing and the lungs were protesting.
It was no problem watching wave after wave of riders sweep by, what was a surprise was just how steep the second climb on the course felt under race conditions. Even with a 30 tooth ring fitted, it was painfully slow, a definite need for a granny ring, at the cadence I was grinding it was very inefficient.
On the descents after a bit of a first lap shake up I never really saw many riders, there was no sense of gaining on anyone even though I got into the swing of it more when warmed up. It became an enjoyable race and I even gained time on Pilch towards the end which surprised me as he’d skipped the FNSS race and been a good boy camping. We both realised here that we’re far away from Alien status, especially on dry fast uphill circuits.
16th place was better than I imagined during the race, but it’s dropped me out of the top 10 overall which is probably a fair true reflection of my ability. As the front end of this climb fest was packed with new high scoring riders this meant Pilch held onto 4th overall, good news there.