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.
July 30 2009
Clogs, national jerseys & aeroplanes...
This past month has turned into somewhat of a blur. With the national title one of my goals for the season, I was getting stuck into a tough training regime, worked around a couple of UCI races in Turkey. Upon my return from Turkey following two wins and a revised world ranking of 54 things changes as I discovered I had been selected for GB to ride the European championships in Holland.
Always a great honor to pull on the national strip, I could not turn this opportunity down despite the fact that it was only a week before Nationals. Talks with Barrie & my coaches followed where we jigged around my schedule & training program.
I enjoyed the four days spent in Holland with the rest of the GB squad. There was a good sense of team morale and positivity but on track the conditions were rapidly changing depending on the weather. It went from fast and dry to wet and sluggish. However, I had ridden the course in all conditions and was confident I could handle whatever mother-nature threw at me!
Race day arrived, it was wet and grey but I was actually relishing the conditions rather than dreading them. After a good warm up in the GB tent with some lively tunes going, I made my way to the start area in pouring down rain. Phil Dixon was on hand with advise and some umbrellas! Thanks Phil :-)
After a hectic start with several crashes on the tarmac section I got stuck in, getting caught up in congestion all part of the battle.
I kept pulling back riders and gradually edged my way towards the top twenty, but at half distance my front mech decided to give out and I had no big ring. But in situations like these you have to remember everyone is having issues of some sort and just get on with the job as best you can!
I would finish 22nd after an average start and a slight mechanical it was a solid ride and a step in the right direction.
Returning to the UK it was back to the original agenda - I had a national title to regain. I spent the week recuperating as best I could after what was a tough physical race in Holland, getting a quality interval session in by Wednesday before holding my nerve and not doing too much.
We arrived at Innerleithen Saturday lunchtime and the arena was buzzing. It was great to be sharing an event with downhillers, it was a bit like the old days, lots of people to catch up with - Barrie even got called out by Steve Peat!
The next day was race time and I arrived at the start area feeling confident I was climbing very strongly and there was plenty of uphill to come! My goal is always to do my best and I was sure this time my best would be good enough!
By the second section of climbing I had passed all of my competitors and Barrie shouted up I had a gap of over a minute and a half after the first lap. I found it hard to believe as I felt I was being pretty conservative in my effort, but when you have good form this is often the way it feels!
The rest of the race I built further on my lead, forced for two laps to climb in the middle ring because of gear problems, but by the last lap my prayers were answered and I finally had full use of my gears again. It was not until this final lap that I allowed myself the luxury of thinking about the title. I had a big enough gap to ease off the throttle and take a no risk approach - memories of the 2002 Commonwealth Games incident when I punctured while five seconds off the lead fresh in my mind!
Pulling up onto the tarmac finishing straight with a big grin on my face my Dad was there to greet me, followed closely by Barrie who had run down from the top of the course with our dog Charlie. He must have run a fair few miles that day, popping up all over the course to give me valuable information on times - Barrie, not Charlie... although her barking did encourage me to keep pushing on.
Back at camp I lay on the grass and thought about what I had accomplished. I owe so much to so many people who have given me so much and also stood by me through the good times and the bad. To mention a few, Barrie who is my rock I don't quite know how he puts up with me :-) Husband, best friend, training partner, mentor, coach, mechanic, chauffer! What more can I say?
My parents who are my biggest fans, my Mum a self confessed ´'bike groupie' always there cheering me on, my Dad hammering me into the ground on long endurance rides 'to toughen me up' (I guess I should thank you for that now Dad?!) Coaches and mentors Mike Johnson who has shared every trick in the book with me and many hours on the phone, Dr Gordon Wright who has spent many hours analyzing my heart rate data into things well beyond what I understand and formulating the specifics of my training program. These guys have worked so hard to get me to the start line in perfect health and peak condition. My team Science in Sport thanks guys. Another national jersey to hang on the office wall :-) Alex from X-Lite who has been a personal sponsor of myself and Barrie for many years and who will fund me to the Canadian World Cups in the coming weeks. These are but a few of the people who have helped me, there are many more, you know who you are, this title is for you.
Now it is a manic rush to say the least. After interviews, podium & packing up we make a dash for home to wash kit, bikes and pack up as I have to make my way down to Liverpool to catch an early morning flight to Montreal and the World Cup rounds at Mt. St. Anne and Bromont in Canada.
Here's hoping for an easy flight, bye for now.