Datalynx Ltd and Parenesis Ltd have sponsored this series of grass roots Mountain Biking events for the past two times of running. The series focus on providing opportunities for riders of vastly different abilities and ages and with separate races being staged for women and men offering complete parity in prizes.
For me, I cycle for fun and to maintain fitness primarily so personal participation in competition is not my main motivation. I did start a cycle team, but that was a vehicle to get more women involved in the sport and at the same time promote the work of some UK charities; Prostate Cancer UK, Breast Cancer Awareness and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Support Association. I have known Mike Travers, the owner of Travers bikes and the organiser of this series of events for about 8 years now, and when he explained to me his concept of racing based on ability to encourage people who perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily take part in races, I felt it matched the aims of what I was trying to achieve with the team well. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions at the beginning of the series this year, and lack of availability of our team members due to other race commitments, there wasn’t anyone who could regularly help me promote the series by participation for every round. We did have two riders from our team take part in some rounds Sandra Mackay and Barry Macdonald and they are far better riders than me and very focussed on racing. So, I felt that I should put my body where my money and mouth were already, and decided to take part myself. This was extremely daunting for me, I have been training quite hard on an indoor trainer throughout Covid, mostly to stay fit both physically and mentally, but the last time I’d been out on a mountain bike was about 3 years ago (once only) and before that about 8 years ago and never competitively. I would rate my ability on a mountain bike as being very basic, I have/had no technical skills whatsoever. I am self-employed, so can’t afford to be injured and I am basically scared of crashing. Due to Covid, work has dried up for me so the former was less of a concern but I am still basically a ‘scaredy cat’.
The first round was fast approaching and my anxiety levels were sky rocketing, but I took part, got round and didn’t crash. The conditions were pretty much perfect though and it was a race that favoured fitness over technical ability. I placed third in my league and was somewhat dumbstruck. I enjoyed the friendly and supportive nature of the competitors, organisers and helpers of the event, it was totally different from the road cycling racing I’d experienced on the few races I’d done before. What was especially encouraging was the number of parents willing to take the kids to take part and support them in their races. The sponsorship monies that Datalynx and Parenesis gave, was used to give all the under 12s and under 9s free entry to each of the five rounds. What a fabulous way for young riders to experience a competitive event with electronic chip timing and with medals and prizes just like the professionals they’ve seen on TV. To hear them afterwards reliving every turn and pedal stroke was really heart-warming. This reaffirmed my belief, that the availability of any grass roots sport is essential to for the health and wellbeing of our future generations.
So, the series went on, and I took part in each and every one, I had deliberately paid for the whole series up front to give me fewer reasons not to take part. Before every round I felt feelings of anxiety about not wanting to get in other riders’ way, about crashing and about not being good enough, in hindsight I should probably bought shares in Imodium. After each hard hour and a bit of racing, I loved the esprit de corps and the virtual back slapping, and because of the way that Mike Travers had set the series up, it felt like there was something to play for every participant, in every one of the leagues. In reality, my skill level was my main limitation and as we experienced rounds with increasing difficulties and less than perfect weather conditions, that became very evident. I crashed albeit not badly in three rounds which was frustrating and embarrassing and added a bit to my feeling of not being good enough. However, as my rivals were quick to point out, I was new to the sport and they were crashing too, which made me feel a lot better. My lowest point was after round four where I felt I just didn’t have the knowledge or skill to tackle the technical parts and so I sought help. In between rounds four and five, I had two one-hour mountain bike skill lessons with Travers rider and British Cycling coach Kev Darragh, where we went right back to basics. The difference in my confidence in my ability between round four and five was dramatic. I felt better equipped to do some of the more challenging features of the course which by round five was longer and more technically difficult. Although I was happy to finish, I was already working out how I could improve for next year. Even more exciting than the feeling of finishing 5th in my league of about 20 riders, was the fact that there was free ice cream for all of the competitors and helpers and there were sprinkles and a chocolate flake!
It was a superb series of events and I would encourage you to come along next year. If you don’t fancy racing, come along and cheer, it is a lovely venue, a woods on private property, and the bluebells in the early rounds were wondrous, as was the sound of the woodpeckers getting lunch.
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