Isla Short is one of Scottish Cycling's MTB Performance Squad and is from the Scottish Borders; she dreams of travelling and competing at a world class level one day. Last weekend though, it was to Country Durham for the Tour of the Reservoir.
"My first encounter into the world of road racing was physically, mentally and technically very tough.
Before the weekend, I knew little about the tactics of racing in a bunch, the on/off pace and your vulnerability when descending in a group of thirty riders packed closely together. I experienced all three of these things at the Tour of the Reservoir last weekend.
Combined that with icy roads and double the race time I’m used to back on the trails, my mind and body were tested to the limits, and I only just came out on top.
The Tour consisted of two days of racing. Stage 1 was in crit format - I had delved into the world of crit racing already so I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with this. 12 laps of a 2 mile circuit was hard, but tolerable. I felt comfortable in the bunch most of the time and would have finished with the main group had I not been caught behind a bad crash on the final descent.
Saturday’s race taught me that it’s much safer to be at the front of the bunch because this is where the best riders place themselves. With that in mind, I headed into Sunday’s stage with the goal to get myself to the front of the race as much as possible.
However, there were several other factors involved in Sunday’s race; 70 miles of racing meant that fuelling sufficiently would be vital, and this in itself is a skill, whilst riding inches from other riders and constantly watching the front end of the race.
For the first two and a half hours I moved around the bunch, spending some time up at the front. I focused on moving forward and succeeded on the climbs each lap, but during the long descents I struggled to keep pace with the other girls and found myself at the back again.
I used a lot of energy repeating this each lap, and had little thought for eating and drinking. Four and a half laps in this caught up with me and I watched the bunch disappear out of sight. I rode the last lap and a half mainly on my own, occasionally working with one or two other riders to make the windy sections easier.
During the last hour I experienced the most incredible bonk. My blood sugars had plummeted, I could hardly keep my head up and all I could think about was bananas! However I crawled to the finish line, collapsed into the Scottish Cycling car and ate two bananas in around 10 seconds.
I’m a hard-core mountain biker and always will be but I’ll admit that I kind of loved Tour of the Reservoir.
I enjoyed the challenge, I embraced the pain and I’m chuffed that I was in amongst it at a premier calendar event. Good times! Thank you to Scottish Cycling for taking a team down to the event. It was a huge learning curve and a first-hand glimpse into the dark side of our sport."
Scottish Cycling riders Neah Evans, Lucy Grant, Kerry MacPhee and Ella Conolly all took part alongside Isla.
Full results from the Tour of the Reservoir can be found here.