• Holly Harris

XCM National Champs 2018

What a busy few months!! The last few months have been an absolute roller coaster for me. I have been struggling with a bit of burnout after XCO National Champs.

If you ask pretty much any top level cyclist in Australia you will probably hear stories of impressive life balancing acts, that involve working full time, family, study plus trying to train and recover like a full time cyclist. Sometimes this gets all a bit much, and some serious RnR is required butt some of us just have a racing addiction which is hard to take a break from even though you know better.

After XCO National Champs at the start of the year, I set my sights on XCM National champs .. dreaming of Green and Gold! So I pushed through the burnt out feeling with a fire in my belly and

worked hard in the lead up for XCM Champs. I switched up my training, implementing some new techniques and was hitting some unchartered territory with my form!

I managed to push my body through the fatigue and make it to the start line in Townsville with some of the best form I have felt! Although it was not without tears and high stress levels the few weeks prior (sorry to the Fam about that one).

After checking out the Douglas Mountain Bike trails, I had a smile from ear to ear - if I was going to sit on my bike for 4hrs + it might as well be on some epic trails! Although the trails where absolutely mint, I knew it was going to be a tough day on the bike, with a large amount of climbing and some risky rock sections!

Photo: Dave Acree

Sunday morning was an early race start of 7.30am to beat the harsh Townsville heat. There was a strong field of elite women with some experienced marathon riders such as Anna B,

Imogen Smith, Karen Hill, Tory Thomas and the list goes on!

The start was quite intense as far as marathons go, with Anna and Tory charging into the single track first. After a small climb sitting on Tory’s wheel, I decided it was time to head to the front and stretch my legs on the climb and test the waters a little. I managed to pull away creating a nice little gap which is always good to settle the head.

I decided to play it safe going out on my second lap and use it to recover, so I would have some punch left for the last two, knowing that the depth in my legs wouldn’t be as good as Anna’s and Tory’s. As I rolled into the third lap I felt strong and ready to punch out a burner, Dave Penhaligan cruised past me early in the lap which helped me snap out of no mans land and back into race mode! I pushed hard for then entire lap and felt as if I had increased my lead quite significantly until I heard a loud bang… then every XC racers worst nightmare.. the feeling of sealant spaying up the back of my leg. My heart sunk. I knew I would have to change my flat fast as I wasn’t sure how much of a time gap I had, so I ripped out my wheel whacked in a tube and as I put my canister on the valve another gut wrenching explosion. The o-ring blew out of my Co2 nozzle along with all the air out of my canister. In desperation I pleaded with another racer from the masters category that I had passed moments before and she very kindly leant me her Co2 nozzle (which I gave to some of the Townsville volunteers lovely lady, sorry I could not return it in person!). I then used my last canister and got my tyre up (at this stage Anna and Tory bombed past tight on each others wheel) as my tyre beaded I went to unscrew the Co2 and my valve core came out, along with the last of my precious air from my last canister. Unsure of what to do next, I looked at my beautiful Rise 60 rim kissed it and rim bashed the beautiful thing down a rocky 3km descent. I peddled as fast as I could on my deflated tyre into the tech zone, where a calm and collected Chris Feltham and Mick Wooster changed my wheel, hydrated me and got me on my merry way before I could even think about what was happening. I heard some encouraging shouts from the feed zone and then had a surge of determination I sprinted out for my last lap trying to make up as much lost time as I possibly could. I also had to do everything in my power to stop my biggest competitor - Dad, from catching me.

Rim Bashin - Photo: Marcus Monteith

I gave everything I had, If I was going down, I was going down fighting! I started my last lap Seven minutes down on Anna and Tory and managed to claw back 5minutes after being spurred on by the Townsville volunteers on course.

Pain Face - Photo: Dave Acree

Even though I didn’t receive the result I was chasing, I am so happy with my ride and I am incredibly thankful for the amazing support network I have that helps me gets through the hard times! I cannot thank Chris and Mick enough for being so swift in the feed and tech zone! I also was very lucky to stay with Mick, Davo, Tas and Riley who kept the weekend so fun and relaxed!

A massive congratulations to Anna Beck on taking home the green and gold, a very deserving win and I am sure you will wear the colours in style !!

Photo: AMB - Mike Blewitt

I am so humbled by all the messages and words of encouragement, from everyone! You know you are in an amazing sport when everyone is so supportive of each other. I am overwhelmed with the cheers, kind words, messages or just quick chats whilst crossing paths on the trails - whether it’s from the amazing women I am racing, volunteers, spectators, other racers from other categories or the incredible staff from MTBA. I am so lucky to be involved with such an awesome bunch of people!

Photo: Tas Nan the Man

Now it’s time to get home get some work done and repack for a quick trip to China on Thursday where I will be racing in the Panorama Guizhou International Women’s Road Cycling Race… which will be a little different to Townsville I imagine! Then I will gear up for my first ever Port to Port which I am very excited for!

Then who knows.. I might be able to sneak in a recovery week after ;)

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