Izzy Flint at the MTBA National Championships in Bright
The 6 weeks between Oceania’s and Nationals seemed to roll around relatively quickly, but it was also enough time to continue building form with the hope of delivering an optimal performance come race day. I’m not going to lie, after coming in super fresh to Oceania’s and taking the win which was a massive surprise and confidence boost, going into this week of racing I felt like I had a big target on my back. I’m a believer that success breeds confidence and that in turn confidence breads more success. With this in mind, it made this target feel a little more manageable. I went into Nationals with some goals, but I was mainly focussed on the process. If the process is right, the rest will be what it’s meant to be.
Bright, Victoria, is a beautiful place, with everything a little town could want as well as an impressive range of trails. It’s the kind of place where you could spend days just exploring. After spending a couple of days getting to know the course, I was pleasantly surprised with how well it suited me. It had two main climbs, tight technical descents and fresh single track which made it a pretty punchy course that was sure to make a good race.
Friday rolled around and it was time for the Short Course (XCC). Joys of a 4pm race start meant that a sleep in, a gentle roll in the morning and a coffee stop happened first. After discussing race tactics in our house the night before, I went in with a bit of a plan but really was just going to see how it panned out. I was actually a little nervous going in but just tried to remain as chilled as possible. Being such a short, twisty course with about two and a half minutes laps meant there wasn’t going to be much opportunity to open up gaps, so I sat in 2nd wheel for most of the race, covering any moves that went but never really forcing the pace. Coming across the line with 2 laps to go, I started to feel good and knew that if I wanted to open up a gap, it had to be now. After opening up a 4 second gap on the second last lap all I had to do was sustain the pace. Coming across the finish line to take a 7 second win was the perfect way to start my weekend!
XCC Race stats:
Race time: 23mins
Avg HR: 196 BPM
Max HR: 207 BPM
After a recovery day on Saturday, Sunday rolled round and again I was a little nervous, but someone once told me that “nerves just remind you that the race means something to you”. So, I tolerated the nerves and acknowledged that this race was special to me and followed by usual pre-race routine of eating well, not overthinking and surrounding myself with wicked people.
XC race starts are intense! Everyone is fighting full gas for first wheel into the single track. It’s on from the gun! My race plan was pretty similar to my XCC plan. To start hard, sit in and then attack on the last lap. The gun went and I had a pretty normal start by my standards. I hit the fire road first but very quickly slid back into about 6th wheel… not ideal and certainly not a part of my plan. We all heard about Tas Nankervis’ E-bike motor not working for his start, well I felt rather the same except I was the motor that wasn’t working, I just had no power! Thankfully over the next 10 minutes the missing power returned to my legs and I was able to bridge across to the leaders. PHEW! After picking through the wheels for the remainder of the lap I found myself in second wheel behind Holly Lubke, now this was more ideal. Holly and I rode away from the other girls over the next 3 laps until we had a solid gap. From here it became a race of tactics; we both have different strengths and were keen to ride to them. I had known from the start that I wanted to attack on the top of the first climb leading into the main descent and thankfully I was in position on the last lap where I had the legs to do that. From this point I felt like the race became more of a fun ride and I was loving being on my bike…. Mind you sitting on an average heart rate of 191 BPM for 1h15m isn’t what everyone would call fun! For me pushing myself deep into the red zone is what I find so addictive and rewarding about XC racing! Everyone thinks they have a limit… But the only real limit is ourselves. As I came around the final corner on my MERIDA Big Nine (that was the perfect partner for this punchy course) it hit me that I was about to win the National title and although my salute didn’t really show it, there was a beaming smile hidden under my helmet and a huge sense of relief. 2019 was an incredibly tough year and there were times when I doubted myself and questioned if I would ever be confident enough to get back on my bike, let alone to be able to race competitively. And yet here I was….I was absolutely stoked! If there was ever a time to believe that everything happens for a reason, it would be now!
XCO Race stats:
Race time: 1h16mins.
Avg HR: 191 BPM
Max HR: 205 BPM
Weapon of choice: MERIDA Big Nine size M. ABSOLUTELY love my Hardtail.
Running gear: Shimano M9100 XTR
Tyres: Mitas Scylla 2.45 front, Scylla 2.25 rear.
Suspension: Fox factory 32
After a quick celebration I spent the rest of the afternoon with a wicked crew of girls hiking up the trail to watch the boys’ race. Turns out sticks on metal barricades make a one hell of noise and we became the best hecklers on course! Funny how that confidence and success thing works both on and off the bike!
Sunday night, we celebrated at the local brewery. It was bittersweet as we knew it would be some time before we’d all come together again due to all race cancelations. Who knows what comes next from here?
We were all thankful to have this last lot of racing. We don’t know how long it’s going to last or what the rest of the season will look like. But sharing moments like these with friends and loved ones when we are facing such challenging times is really special.
For now, a little bit of time off; dust off the old running shoes, focus on strength work and keeping healthy and sane while in isolation for 14 days! When things return to be a little more normal, I’ll work on building base fitness to hopefully race in the second half of the year! Focussing on the future but also remembering to step back and look at things in the bigger picture. Life as we know it is changing ………but we will race our bikes again!
Stay safe and healthy.
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Photos: Matt Rosu and AMB Magazine.