XC development squad rider and Enduro racer Leah Maunsell checks in from NPS 5 in Slade Valley last weekend.
On Thursday my Dad and I headed back down to Kinsale to Weldon Bicycle Suspension to collect my fully serviced Rockshox Sid fork. I brought it out for a test ride in Ballyhoura that evening to make sure it was set up right for me and to check that everything on the bike like gears etc. were working. The fork was working sweet thanks to Mylie and ready for a hard test on Sunday.
But before Sunday came around I took part in the team relay on Saturday on the race track in Slade Valley. I pre rode the course with my Dad riding half with the 26in and half with the 29in wheels. I thought the 26in was better suited to the course because I felt more comfortable with the tight bends and sharp climbs. For this race I wore my new Dare2b jersey and lycra shorts. They were ideal for the sunny weather, nice and light.
I was on a team with David Conroy and John Smithers both of which are U16 and on the XC Youth Development Squad with me. We entered our team ‘The Smithers Express’ in the Mixed Category. The relay consisted of three people each doing one flat out lap with the combined time being our total time. David went off first with a great sprint off the line and got into the single track first. He had a great lap time and put me in a prime position heading out on our second lap. I had a good strong start up the first hill and along the first few sections of single track. I didn’t have as good of a time in the rooty uphill section as I was just trying to get to know the lines and remember to stay high which took me a bit of time. The roots were so dry I was able to ride high along the top of all of the roots without even thinking about sliding back down. I got out of it clean enough but just didn’t carry as much speed as I would have liked through it. My chain also dropped into the ‘granny’ ring by itself which was quite frustrating in a race. I pushed on for the rest of the lap trying to put the bike on the faster lines. I finished out the lap strong and tagged John to set him out for our final lap with a bit of a lead. John rode a good strong lap and opened up an even bigger gap on the second team. We finished up with a 4:26 minute lead. We as ‘The Smithers Express’ were happy with our win in the Mixed Category and we had great fun while doing it! Roll on the real deal tomorrow!
My Dad and I headed back out on the track after having our lunch. We got a guided tour with local IMBRC member Adam McGarr who showed us down a few extra sections which were not included in the race course and also the race course itself. I took my time and looked very carefully at all of the lines. The track was very rooty which made it quite rough in places. But I love roots! I enjoy climbing roots and descending off roots so this track was suited to me and hopefully was going to be my highlight race of the year. Feeling a lot more confident on the track now we headed back to the City West Hotel in Saggart. We left our bikes at the McGarr’s house to save us from having to bring them around with us. Thanks for that Leo and Cora.
On Sunday, we got up and at it early and got to Slade Valley in plenty of time. I got my gears sorted by Bikeaddiction.ie, our team mechanics, and got out for a short pre-ride to check they were working great, which they were thanks to JP and Dave. I began my warm up at 11.40 spinning up and down the fireroad. I was feeling great at the start and rearing to go. I began at the back of the pack with all of the other girls. I got a good start up the fireroad and was 6th heading up the kicker climb. I pushed on up here and was 4th entering the downhill. I was held up going down here and I could see John and Jack getting away but there was nowhere to pass so I couldn’t do anything only use the time to recover. I recovered well and sprinted past Craig on the flat. I was now in 3rd trying to gain on Jack. I pushed as hard as I could in every single track section and sprinted up every kicker climb not settling for 3rd place. I kept going strong until I caught up and passed Jack who had slipped off ahead of me. I pinned all of the lines on the rooty climb and held my 2nd position. I could see Jack behind me on the climb so when I got to the downhill section towards the end I hammered down it using it to my advantage. This worked well for me and I finished as 2nd U14 overall only 45 seconds behind John Buller.
I was absolutely delighted with 2nd overall. It was my goal all year to split the top three of the boys and I did it on my favourite course so far this year. The conditions were also extremely tough to race in as the temperature was at least 23º c and the trails were just covered in dust! Roll on round 6 in G-ride.