Rider Diary: Sue Clarke Part 5

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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.


October 14 2009
From Worlds To Season End

As the season comes to a close, it is time for me to reflect on the last batch of races before enjoying some 'down time'.

Worlds was disappointing for me, but with the run in I had it was always going to be very difficult to recover in time to produce a shining performance. I must say though that the whole experience was not wasted on me. In fact I learned a great deal from my time over in Oz, things I am certain will help me lift my game to another level for 2010.

After a day and a half at home, it was time to get on the road again for the remaining World Cups in Champery Schladming. There was just enough time to wash and re-pack my clothes! Myself and the rest of the British team stayed in a wonderful place up the mountain from Champery at 1800m. It was a very relaxing environment in a unique chalet surrounded by a farm consisting of llamas, goats, pigs, horses and donkeys. A good place to recover from our long haul flight and prepare for the coming races.

I got a solid ride in at Champery, coming home in 34th. It was a tough course very worthy of a World Cup, with challenging climbs and some very technical descents which turned very tricky after a night of torrential rain. Some of the rocky sections were not so different from my training area of the Lakes, so I felt quite at home!

A bit of a road trip to Schladming followed. This was a course were I hoped to improve from my latest result. It was pretty straight forward with many steep climbs to tackle. The race turned out to be extremely short, with the winning time of 1 hour 24 minutes! This did not really favor me, but I really enjoyed the race and the crowds were amazing! More UCI points in the bag...

After heading home it was a difficult week for me. I think the past month was starting to catch up with me. The thought of travelling all the way down to Plymouth for the final British Mountain Bike Series was not very appealing. I was feeling tired and off form. However, I felt it was important for me to support the national series and also my team SIS.

The start line had a very international feel to it with many talented riders. Among them was multiple World and Olympic champion Gunn Rita Dahle Flesja, returning to racing after the birth of her first child. I felt pretty honoured to be lining up next to such an incredible rider!

When the gun went off I was surprised with how I felt. The last few international races seemed to have upped my pace. I spent the first lap gapping back up to eventual winner Annie Last and second placed Kate Potter, all in the company of Gunn Rita, I could not quite believe it! I managed to drop my riding companions and go on to secure third place. I was pretty happy with my ride on a course that raced well, despite being a very toned down version of the Plymouth of old, used for hosting several World Cups back in the day.

Straight after the race I was on a mission, as Barrie was racing the Three Peaks the following day! Six hours later we pulled up near the start in our van and got as much rest as possible for the next day. Me & Barrie exchanged roles, with him being the racer and me the support crew. Getting around to all the various pit areas was a bit like Wacky Races! I reckon it is easier to do the race than it is to support! Barrie had three punctures in total, which lost him a heap of time. He was happy with his ride and really enjoyed the race in spite of mechanical issues.

Once home I really was worn out, I felt the jet lag I should have had after Oz had finally emerged! I enjoyed a few quiet days at home walking my dog on the beach & spending some quality time with Barrie. Mid week we met up with Tracy Moseley fresh from her victory in the Schladming World Cup downhill. A group of us did an epic ride in the Lakes which we all really enjoyed, it even included a cafe stop which have been few and far between these past few months!

From here it was back to racing and the Hondsrung Classic; the penultimate race of the season. It was a short trip for the team, with only one night away from home. This was an unusual race format, with 1400 people on the start line tackling two 27km laps. There was a really good atmosphere, with tons of spectators. It had a real cyclocross feel to it with beer tent and frites stalls! After a course recce late on Saturday I did not really fancy my chances. It was a pan flat course more suited to a power rider, not a small climber like me! However, I used my experience and got into a good group of about twelve guys and hung on in there as long as I could. I eventually finished sixth which I was very pleased with, first GB riders home.

My season ended at the Roc D'Azur this weekend. It is a race I have always wanted to do, but never managed to get to. I jumped at the offer of joining the GB squad for this race. It was a fantastic one to end the season on, with a real carnival atmosphere, huge expo area & BMX competitions. We got a lap of the 42km circuit in two days before the race.

There were some class acts that had shown up for the final race of the year including World Cup winner Lisi Osl, Lene Byberg second overall in World Cup, Gunn Rita, Cecile Rode Ravanel and a hugely talented Polish team, among others. I managed to close the gap to the front group of riders that had formed shortly after the start. I hit the first climb and started picking off riders. I was aware that the race was going to be longer than normal and tried to use my head a bit more, tagging on with groups of riders where possible. I really got stuck into the rocky, hilly terrain. I spent the latter part of the race with Swiss rider Nathalie Schneitter, who has had some fantastic results this year in the top ten in World Cups.

Together we picked off several more riders and I started to plan my next move. In the closing part of the race we had to negotiate several sections across the beach! Spectators cheered us on from the bars, it was quite bizarre! We both hit the sand together but were forced to dismount immediately when a tandem team crashed in front of us. I got a slight gap across the sand then attacked really hard on the following tarmac section. From there I put my head down for the remaining few kms. I stayed ahead of Nathalie for eighth place, which is my best international result in such a high quality race this season. It was excellent to finish on a high and has given me great confidence for next season. Knowing that I can ride at that level is a huge boost & will fuel my fire through the winter months! Behind me fellow GB riders Annie Last & Lily Mathews rode well to finish 17th & 25th respectively.

No time to loose, as I was due to fly straight home and join Barrie at the Fred Whitton dinner up in the Lakes. With guest of honour being Steven Roche, it was not one to miss. I enjoyed an evening catching up with friends who I had not seen in months. Some great music & dancing was a good way to end the season!

Now I have some time to reflect on what has been a great season for me. I will have moved up to 34th in the world rankings once these are updated at the end of October. I have regained my national title & have grabbed some international results along the way. My thanks go out to Barrie who has been home alone for the past few months while I have been a jet setter! Also many thanks to national MTB coach Phil Dixon and all his staff who have looked after me on my international expeditions. Phil has put so much work into developing the women's side of mountain biking and it is paying off amazingly well.

Sue :-)