I have not been back to Ireland for 12 years since I lived there, so when my parentsand I landed on the green island a few days ago it was with great excitement to be back and see if I would recognise anything! We drove past Dublin and I could remember the junction where I turned to go to work and the park outside from which I saw my motorbike being stolen. At the same time as there where places that I did not remember at all.
We drove for a few hours south to Kilfinane where we checked in at Ballyhoura hostel, our home for 5 days.
On Thursday morning we found our way to the Ballyhoura forest, the venue for the European Chamionship,a chance for me to ride the course and to get familiar with the area. I was lucky to bump in to Emma, an Irish girl who also was there to ride on the course and knew the area. She was going to ride the first and last loop so I went with her. I also wanted to do the second of the three loops and I was lucky again, as I started the loop I met Jenny Fay, the Irish marathon champ. I was very happy that I had met her since we got totally lost at the point where someone had had a bit of fun and turned the route markers in the opposite direction. Eventually we were about 10 riders standing there not knowing what to do! Luckily we eventually found our way back but the ride got a bit longer than planned and I had some worrying parents waiting at the venue 6 hours after we got there. Still valuable to have seen the route!
Friday was spend sightseeing at the Mitchelstown caves, some limestone caves on private land that were found in 1833, imagine having a 3km deep cave system in your back yard! On Saturday I did as little as possible and feet up, except for a short cycle to get the body going again.
It was again a late start on Sunday, at 11.45, enough time to sit around and get nervous. We were lucky with the weather, it was sunny and warm even though it always rains here! I had decided to be offensive and go out amongst the first and especially on the first single track. The 5km start loop got us going on a 3km gravel road hill, Sally led us out and on her wheel was Borghild Lövsedt from Norway and Christina Kollman from Austria (who I got to know during the Epic), I felt a bit stuck behind and did not find my space so I went to the front where I felt comfortable. The 3 of them passed me on a bend but I went to the front again a bit harder so that i could go first in to the 2km single track back to the venue. Since it was impossible to pass on that one, I came to the venue in the lead! By going in to the single track first I challanged my self since there was a narrow bridge, exactly the width of my handle bar, that I was a bit unsure of, by leading the bunch I HAD to make it! And I did;)
Loop two started with a hill on the tar that carried on to gravel when it got steeper, I was leading us up but when it got steeper Sally, Borghild and Christina came pass me and got a few meters gap, I crested the top in 4th place. The technical downhill went well but on the next uphill I was passed by Tereza Hurikova from Chezch (she ended up winning), I could see her in front of me for another 10km without getting closer, I also saw Sally now and then up until 30km. After that i did not see anyone ahead or behind so I was in 5th place through the whole race. It was a great course, lots of single tracks which I loved, and a lot of ups and downs, we climbed 1900 meters in 75km of riding but it did not feel like that much climbing. Tereza won ahead of Sally who had passed the other 2, Borghild ended 3rd and Christina 4th.
I am happy with my 5th place at my first European Championship! The course was fun and Ballyhoura forest is a beautiful place for mountainbiking, I would really recommend anyone to go there for a cycling holiday (if not going to South Africa of course!), fantastic! It was great having mom and dad with me to the race for some support and help, I could not have done it on my own! At the moment I am at Heathrow waiting for my connection to Cape Town, I will spend 2 days at home in (a rainy) Stellenbosch before heading to Pietermaritzburg for the World Championships in 2 weeks time.
A huge thank you to Cape Brewing Company for making my trip to the European Champs a reality! I am really greatfull!
At the start!
On the first single track
Still in the lead!