When Steve Parr announced he was organising the UKGE series again I was quite excited. Even more so when my Dad expressed interest in taking photos of me racing and my folks offered to babysit so that my husband and I could race. I had competed in almost all of the UKGE races since they started in 2011 and ended in 2015, before taking a break to have a baby. I really enjoyed the races and it was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Eastridge was always a great race venue. Being one of the shortest rounds at only 20km loop along with my comparative lack of fitness, I thought this was a good round to start on. I was really looking forward to a fun weekend camping with friends in the sunshine that we had been spoilt with all month. However, the forecast soon changed to heavy rain on Friday and thunderstorms over the weekend. It kept changing though so I was optimistic!

We arrived late Friday night in the fog to a wet field. Saturday morning we met up with our friends and set off for practice. Stage 1 was loamy and rooty and it took me a few corners to find my grip in the wet conditions. Stage 2 was short and fast. Steep at first then a pedal to finish. Lots more exposed roots than I seem to remember in previous years. We closely followed each other down, buzzing each other’s back tyres, it was so much fun I was eager for more. Stage 3 was equally as good. Enough steep, rooty, twisty sections to keep you smiling to the end. Stage 4 was a pedal fest. Not my cup of tea and I knew I wasn’t fit enough for this one. Stage 5/Seeding started with rooty tech then out into the open for tight rocky corners, then a pedal across the field to finish. I felt like I’d had a good practice ride with no major errors, the sun was starting to peep through and the trails were drying out.

Saturday afternoon was seeding runs. The nerves hit me as I was waiting to start. I made a mistake early on and got onto a totally different line than I had practiced. My foot came unclipped and I was all over the place. The nerves ramped up which just made it harder to ride and I lost my flow. I was a bit annoyed about the mistakes I made but I finished in 4th.

Saturday night I awoke to a thunderstorm and the rain hammering down on our van. Sunday morning came and it was still pouring down. Gutted! There was so much surface water around, Stage 1 was cancelled. The ladies set off in the torrential rain. It was starting to stop when we got to the top of Stage 2 but we were all soaked through. The stages had huge puddles of water on the flatter sections and the roots were so wet and intimidating. It was so different than Saturday practice and goggles just steamed up whilst racing. Teammate Claire Bennett and I rode up the transitions together chatting about the previous stages. Luckily it wasn’t too cold and we finally started to dry off.

I was happy to finish the race in 4thplace Elite. But mostly it was all about riding my bike on great trails with my husband and my friends, something that is more a luxury than a routine these days with an 18 month old toddler to look after!

Carrie Poole

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