It was a great feeling to be back competing at a big race and catch up with plenty of the other World Cup regulars. It’s a close knit community and even after almost 6 months doing our own thing it felt very normal to be back amongst it all. Everyone was pretty much in the same boat, and as it was the first big XCO race of the year for many there was definitely some uncertainty as to how things would stack up. Especially with so many top riders making the trip to Banyoles to claim some of the HC points on offer!

I started well and felt good from the get go. I tried to stay in the top few riders most of the race and on a course with plenty of corners to accelerate out of it made a big difference not getting too strung out. By about the halfway point the lead group had been whittled down to just 5 riders and while I felt like I probably had the best legs out of the group it’s still not a done deal unless you cross the line first! I was patient and waited until the last lap for the right moment to strike. I pushed the pace on the main zig zag climb before attacking over the top on the final pinch and opening a gap. From that point it was all out for the remaining few kilometres to the finish line to take my first win in a UCI event for the year.

Overall it’s a really positive start to the year and hopefully a sign of things to come. Although I know my fellow competitors will only get faster between now and the first World Cup in May, I’m also confident, that due to the nature of my training so far this off season, I also have big gains to make before then so that’s really exciting. I will be racing again in Chelva, Spain at a Cat 1 race next weekend, then spending some days in Germany with my girlfriend before returning home for the National Championships in Rotorua.

Photo credit: Francesc Llado Riba

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