18 Jan. 2018

Holly Harris - Nerang race report

Mid last year I realised there was a possibility for me to be selected to represent Australia at this year’s Commonwealth Games, since then getting selected has been in the front of my mind. It has always been a pretty big dream of mine!Between then and now I feel like I have been on a roller coaster. I was in the form of my life heading over to Europe (to race world cups) and expecting big things, only to burn out as soon as I landed and receive some very ordinary results. It turns out Grafton to Inverell (A 228km Road race with 3383m of climbing) the day you hop onto a plane to race world cups isn't a great idea .... Who would have thought!?

Whilst in Europe I kept pushing, trying to out train a huge level of fatigue and putting a huge amount of stress onto my body. After returning to Aus I had a week off and commenced training for World Champs.

After this it has been an uphill battle trying to balance my fatigue. I still feel as though I can't put in the amount of training that I would like, although I am definitely on the improve. This has made it difficult for me to prepare the way I would have liked for the start of this XCO season, in particular this final selection race. I gave it my all and feel like I went in with reasonable form.

I made the journey to Queensland a week earlier to get acclimatised and race a club race so I could get my eye in.

Practicing the Commonwealth Games course was definitely a challenge. I found the descents relatively straight forward and fun... the climbs however were steep and technical. After some blood sweat and tears (I am not kidding about any of those things :') ) and about 400 attempts I felt like I could possibly ride the techy pinches and step ups.

After a fairly solid week of prep, the race seemed to come to quickly! The women’s race was at 10.30am which I thought would be a nice temperature... I cruised out to the course Saturday morning, sweat dripping off me already and it was only 9.30am. I got myself onto the start line with a clear race plan in mind, stay with the front girls without blowing up... Simple right? On the first lap we hit the techy climbs everyone was off and running, the high HR from the firewood climb made it too difficult to produce enough power to grind up them.

After what felt like a billion errors mounting and dismounting my bike I lost the front girls Samara Sheppard (Oceanic Champ) , Katherin Stirnrmann (XCE World Champ) and Bec McConnel (Aussie National Champ) but tried to keep them in sight as it was very easy to make mistakes and lose a significant amount of time on this course. By the second and third lap I had managed to work my way up to second, trying to hold a consistent but fast pace. I was loving the descents, it was my first time racing with my new Reverb dropper post, I could really throw my bike into the bermed up corners to make up some time!

I felt reasonable until the 5th lap where the 37+ degree heat started to take its toll on me. I started to get goose bumps and felt cold up the climbs .. I felt like I drank a substantial amount of water, but it turns out more hydration was needed! On the 5th lap I found Bec on my wheel, she attacked and I had absolutely no answer. I battled through the sixth lap to finish third which I am relatively happy with considering the competition.

I turned myself inside out and back to front for this race, I really wanted to prove I was ready for Commonwealth Games even though I am not in peak condition yet. Fingers crossed, it will not be long now until the team is announced!

After an emotional and physically demanding day one of racing motivation for day two was low, the body was really feeling the effects from the day before. 6 laps in the scorching heat takes its toll.

After a slow start and a small duel with Kate Fluker (Legend MTB rider from NZ) I dropped into third place, feeling like I had no punch. As the race continued I felt worse and worse, I decided that it could be just a bit of dehydration so I started to chug down as much fluid as I could.

Slowly I started to come back, I started to feel like I had more power, then as I got to the furthest point of the track from the tech zone I took a bad line over a rock and punctured ... I very carefully nursed my flat down to C. Rap Feltham from MTB Tech who swiftly changed wheels for me so I could finish my race. My mechanical cost me a spot on the podium but I was happy to finish the race without a DNF.

Even though my race on Sunday wasn't ideal I was thankful it didn't happen Saturday! Overall I felt as if I left everything out there on the weekend although I have so much room for improvement. I definitely learnt some good lessons and know what weaknesses I need to work on for the upcoming season!

As always I have a huge amount of people who I cannot not thank enough! My sponsors, friends and family make such a demanding sport possible so THANK-YOU! Looking forward to rounds 5 and 6 of the national series in Pemberton!

Cheers Holly

Photo- Russ Baker

Holly rides a MERIDA 96 team bike