National CX RD 5 – Adelaide

After another early arrival at the event site to set up the Focus tents and flags, I found myself helping set up and marking out the course. This was a good thing as it was very cold and gave me a good insight into every little bump and undulation  around the course. After about an hour’s work it was ready to go and I headed for the comfort of the Focus setup and started to relax and watch the early riders start their practice and warm ups

2:00PM – Time had flown and I had  a very long and thorough warm up this time using a lemond trainer that Team Mate Mark had spare at his house. Soon enough, I was on the start line with some 70 odd riders lined up behind me .  I looked around and realized that a lot of the riders next to me and also behind me were very well respected riders in their own right and I knew it was going to be one mighty tough race.

The gun went off and I got a great clip in and was off. I was pretty much at the front going toe to  toe with Chris Jongewaard around the first sweeping right hander and into what would be the finishing straight. My legs felt great and I didn’t want to get swamped by riders trying to move up so I put in an attack immediately leading into the first narrow section of the race course. this  goes  into a technical climb and a descent called the roller coaster. I managed to get a small gap of a few meters that I managed to stretch out to about 15 meters a little further on. I started to get a rush of adrenaline seeing everyone lined out just trying to catch up to any gap in front of them but lucky for me I got a clear track for the first lap. Soon enough, the small gap I had, was pulled in and a lead group had formed as I moved straight into second lap  not letting anyone else other than Chris J in front.

2:10PM – A large group was forming with a slight easing of the pace along the wide open straights allowing those who had a slower start to make up valuable ground. After about a lap or so at this pace it was quickly brought back up in speed as riders recovered and started to attack trying to reduce the size of the group. Unfortunately when you feel like you have recovered in a CX race chances are everyone else has as well and as soon as you attack they will just ride straight back up to your wheel (at least for the first half of the race while everyone I still somewhat fresh)

2:25PM – The constant changes of the lead made for different paces being set every lap with gaps starting to form when exiting the technical sections I knew it was starting to get a little bit harder for some riders. I sat in and tried to save every bit of energy I could by not pedaling or just trying to carry more momentum into certain sections. This would later come in handy when the attacks started to come later in the race.

2:35PM – No one from the front group of 8 or so riders had been dropped yet and as we moved onto the open fire road section, former national champion Alan Lacone attacked getting a small gap as the other riders tried to respond. The group started to stretch and riders were dropping the wheels in front and I knew that I had to try and get around the two riders in front as they were leaving a bigger gap that wasn’t coming back at all. A lap passed and the group was pretty much nonexistent and almost in the exact same spot where he attacked was Alan on the side of the track trying to fix some sort of mechanical issue.

After this as soon as I could I  passed  fellow riders as we moved into the more technical part of the course. I tried to hold my speed through the steep climbs and descents and into the rollers and barriers where just after was some off camber muddy corners. I was on the front of the group of three and tried riding the section faster than I normally would looking for the green grass as I knew that was where I would get traction. It worked. I got a gap as the riders behind slipped on the darker grass and mud. This was all I needed to get a small gap and start putting some distance in between myself and them.

2:40PM – I was sitting in, as far as I knew, in  the top 5 and could see a rider just up ahead only about 10 seconds in front. I came through the start finish getting told that I was in fourth and started to try even harder to catch the rider ahead. I was feeling quite good and strong through the most part of the race and I seemed to be making up ground on the rider ahead.

2:50PM – Another lap had passed and I was within a couple of second of getting onto 3rd places wheel. Even a simple mistake from him and I would have been right there but that was not to happen and he had looked back in  the finishing straight and saw me coming and turned on the after burners to put more of a gap  into me. This was pretty much the final straw for me not having much of a fight left in the tank to make up such a gap in only two short laps. I just rode a consistent pace trying not to make any mistakes and whilst not letting the riders behind myself catch up.

In the end I finished with 4th place in RD 5 of the Elite Men CX series race and was quite happy with the result as I have some big races yet still to come. Thank you goes out to Mark and Anna Chadwick for their hospitality, The Focus Boys, Two Wheel Industries for the AGU Body Products and My Parents.

Australian MTB Team Application - Christopher Aitken