Rider Diary: Sue Clarke Part 10

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Rider Diary: Sue Clarke
Interview with Sue Clarke - Brand New Sue
- July 2009

Racing cross country and representing Great Britain since 1994 when she rode as a Junior in the World Mountain Bike Championships, Sue Clarke has been British Champion, competed in the Commonwealth Games and is now making a return to top level racing with help from husband and XC racing legend, Barrie Clarke. To find out all about Sue read her feature-length interview, and get the latest from her comeback right here.


March 1 2010

Sunshine Cup Without The Sunshine

After thinking we had escaped the UK winter, we were forced to think again. Cyprus has experienced several bad storms towards the back end of last week, timely coinciding with the Sunshine Cup 3 day stage race. ‘Sunshine' it was not!

Stage 1 consisted of a 7.5km TT on a lap of what was to be Sundays XC stage. Set high in the Macheras mountains, the organisers had made full use of the terrific landscape available providing us racers with some unbelievable racing over the 3 day duration.

Opting not to pre-ride the TT course the day before the race proved to be the right decision, torrential rain & lightning was something we were not prepared for. Race morning arrived and there was a good vibe about our apartment. Everyone was looking forward to the racing, despite the weather.

I did not have a trouble free ride in my TT, crashing badly on one of the descents. Towards the end of the lap my front wheel had somehow worked loose and I had to make a quick stop to rectify things. I knew these incidents would have cost me valuable time, I ended up seventh but only some thirty seconds off third position ,so I had to be satisfied with that.

Stage 2 was a point to point style race, something which I enjoy. We were riding the course ‘blind' due to recent weather conditions. Sometimes I think it is good to do this as it develops certain skills that cannot otherwise easily be simulated. I got a good start and soon found myself in a quality group of 4 riders consisting of last years' winner Alexandra Engen (Sweeden), Janka Stevkova (Slovakia), Ekaterina Anoshina (Russia) and myself. The first 15km or so were mainly on fire track therefore having very much a road race feel to it. We worked well as a group but it was obvious to everyone that Engen was the strongest link putting in massive turns on the front until nobody could come around her!

Much climbing later and we flicked left onto the main singletrack climb which was unlike anything I have ever raced on before. Quite technical in places and very challenging. If I had more time I would have loved to take in the apparently breathtaking views across the valley, but a mistake by one of the riders in front of me forced a dismount and a gap had gone that I chased determinedly but to no avail.

Out front Annika Langvad was stamping her authority on the race and soloed in for the win. I had company down the 20 minute descent into the finish in the form of a masters rider. We had great fun racing each other! I showed my strength in the latter part of the race, moving up from seventh into fifth by the finish.
Our final day of racing was a standard XC race, but there was nothing standard about the course. Most of the descents had been badly damaged by a storm the previous night and proved to be challenging. I was looking forward to another day of intense racing with fellow riders who were also up for some serious racing. I was now up to fourth in GC.

I got a great start, coming into the first part of the start loop second wheel . However, things turned more tactical when our front group split. I had to make the decision of chasing down the front group of riders or staying with Engen, who has proved over the last two weekends that her pacing strategy is second to none. My decision of staying put proved to be the right one, as soon we picked up Stevkova & Annoshina, who had dropped off the back of the two leaders.

To secure my fourth overall I had to stay in sight of Stevkova which was turning into a real challenge. A top ten at last years World Cup opener shows this riders calibre. Engen and I worked well together and seemed to have the edge on Stevkova up the climbs. Due to a brake problem I was loosing vital seconds on some of the steeper descents.

With a lap to go I was freezing and unable to change gear or get my bottle out of the cage! But everyone was suffering. I got back up to Stevkova at the top of the course but by the finish she had pulled away a reasonable gap and squeezed me into fifth overall by only 15 seconds. However I was very happy and satisfied with my race, only 1 minute 20 seconds down on winner Annika Langvad, having made a really intense race of it and coming in fourth on the day just off Engen's wheel. I have made a big step forward over the winter and I think there is a lot more to come before the World Cup season starts in April.

Of the other UK riders out here, Anthony Morris grabbed a well deserved win in the Masters category on Sunday and even did an extra lap after his finish by mistake! He also placed second overall in GC. Lee Williams had a good ride in the XC placing sixteenth behind some extremely tough competitors and 25th overall. Ben Roff showed his grit battling through several challenges to place fifth in GC, behind very ‘manly looking' Russians who filled second, third and fourth positions. Unfortunately Paul Beales has suffered all week with continued dental problems and had to withdraw from the stage race. As I write he is hoping to be put out of his misery at the dentist. Chris has struggled all week with stomach problems and was unable to take the start line on Saturdays' stage. Hopefully he will make a full recovery for next weekend's XC race.

My thanks go out to Orange Monkey manager Will, and Paul's girlfriend Yims who came out from the UK to help us over the stage race. We could not have done it without them. Also to the Williams clan who cheered us on like crazy despite the horrible conditions! Thanks to Mike Hadjioannou and his team who did a great job putting on the race in challenging circumstances. Great courses, exciting racing and a BBQ laid on for us after the race was very much appreciated.