A Belgium Education
Six Scottish MTB riders were selected from the SXC and National Series Results to travel to Belgium to race in a country where cycling is the national sport, and children grow up wanting to be Tom Bonnen rather than David Beckham. Scottish Mountain Bike Coach Paul Newnham, assisted by volunteer coach Andrew Melton (Laggan Wolfpax) escorted the selected riders: Michael Taylor, Tom Evans, Iain Paton, Scott Lindsey, Ross Wilcox and Stuart Wilcox, to take on the best Belgium riders in a round or their national series.
A long arduous journey through the chocked British motorway network gave way to the lush green rolling hills of Verviers, where the riders would be taken out of their comfort zones, both in terms of competition and environment.
On the Friday night the riders were asked to sit down and come up with a team constitution that would lead to all the riders getting the best out of themselves and the team.
They were also asked to come up with a goal for themselves for the race weekend.
Up on Saturday and onto the course, it was a relief for the riders to finally get on the course and spin their legs. The general consensus from the guys was that it was a tough and challenging circuit with lots of short sharp climbs, combined with steep and loose descents. It was a course suited for a strong powerful all round mountain biker.
After washing the bikes and kit ready forthe next day, the riders sat down to dinner and discussed the course and tactics for the next day.
With expected temperatures in the high twenties/low thirties, preparation and pace judgment were going to be crucial.
After dinner, plans were made for the day and Andrew went though some very useful relaxation and visualization techniques with the riders before every body retired to prepare themselves for the long day ahead tomorrow.
Up on race day and we found that the race started up a huge tarmac climb from the base in the village, before starting out on the proper race lap. When the gun went the riders started well, putting themselves into the bike race from the off.
After a lap they all came through in good solid positions in the top 20, apart from Ross who had unfortunately had a mechanical out on course.
Whilst Tom was battling back impressively from a broken chain Into lap 2, and the front group of Belgium riders were giving a master class in bike racing, knocking out some impressive lap times.
With 1 lap to go, thankfully the cloud came over that gave the riders some respite to the blazing sun.
After an hour of hard racing the Scottish riders finished in solid positions, from 14th to 21st but more importantly, they now have a better understanding of what lies in wait for them as they move up the ranks and aspire to become world class bike riders.
Final Results can be seen below..
7th Yuka Gallagher (riding for British talent team)
12th Ben Miller (riding for British talent team)
14th Michael Taylor
16th Iain Paton
18th Stuart Wilcox
19th Tom Evans
21st Scott Lindsey