Rider Diary: Sue Clarke Part 9

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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.


February 24 2010

Sunshine Cup Oroklini

My first race of the season and my first race for Cannondale was the UCI ranked C1 Sunshine Cup in Cyprus. After leaving behind a cold, wet UK last Friday I arrived to a very appealing climate of 23 degrees and sunshine. My friend Anthony (who races Masters), Lee Williams (bronze medallist at the British XC Championships) and I have teamed up with three riders from the Orange Monkey team: Paul Beales, Chris Andrews and Ben Roff. We have rented a fantastic villa in the small village of Oroklini, venue of the first XC race. It is a perfect setting for our race preparations and training.

After some bike building and a bit of a road spin, we headed out to the XC course for the following days race. We were really happy to be presented with a great course, full of variety with challenging climbs, steep technical descents and some fun BMX type areas thrown in for good measure. A couple of laps later and we were happy that we had nailed all the right lines. For me it was a chance to familiarise myself with my new Cannondale Flash, which I was loving!

Race day arrived and everyone had that ‘first race of the season' apprehension! I was really excited and couldn't wait to get stuck into my race.

A quality field of Elite women from many different nations lined up. Among them was Mel Spath, regular on the UK circuit. We caught up a bit as we waited to be gridded. I was lucky enough to have plate number three as my World ranking is steadily improving and this meant I had a good start position. Ahead of us lay two start loops through the town, climbing up out onto the course before descending back down and starting our first complete lap. We were to tackle five laps of what was a tough course, which seemed quite challenging this early in the season.

The Elite men got off cleanly and we were hot on their tails. I got in a good position in a lead group of three after the first start loop. Out on the complete lap, a couple of riders joined us and things became a bit tactical. Swedish rider Annika Landvag showing some early season form made an early break for it and soon after the once compact group was in splinters.

I was feeling pretty good and holding fourth position after two laps. Behind me was last years' overall winner Alexandra Engen from Denmark, along with Mel Spath. I was really enjoying the descents and getting into a good rhythm on the climbs, when to my utter surprise I totally blew my doors at half distance. The last time this happened was two years ago at Thetford. My endurance is usually my strong point but I think a combination of hectic travel, missed meals and heat conspired against me and the outcome was pretty unpleasant! Soon enough I was reeled in by Alexandra and Mel. I could not believe I had another two laps to race and had to concentrate on keeping things under control as much as possible. I was still in a good position to gain valuable UCI points. But the way I was feeling I reckoned the entire field was going to pass me!

Much suffering later I crossed the line in seventh and I had to be happy with that. Not the result or ride I had planned but sometimes these things are thrown your way and you have to deal with them as best you can. I must admit, I learnt much about myself from this experience, namely how strong my mind is. It is amazing how far you can push yourself physically and mentally. I think my recent training both at home and out in Tenerife has challenged me and pushed my boundaries further than ever before. I gathered some valuable data during the race on my Powertap. This is the first time I have used it in a race and the objective was purely a data gathering exercise at this stage. My files will be analysed by Dr Gordon Wright who will come back to me with his findings.

Back at the apartment I caught up with the rest of the guys and we compared stories. Anthony had a fab ride and claimed second spot in the masters, race. Ben had a bit of bad luck in the form of a crash and dropped chain but battled back to tenth showing grit and determination. Out of the Elite men Chris placed best on the day in 44th, Lee 49th and Paul 61st. Lee was on fire comfortably sat in the lead group of twelve which contained world marathon champion Roel Paulissen among several other strong contenders for the podium. Unfortunately for Lee his breakthrough ride came to an abrupt end when he crashed on one of the many technical descents when he burped his front tyre. Bruised and battered he battled on to the finish and spent a sore night nursing his skinned chest, knees and arms. He assures me he will make up for it at next weekends three day stage race.

Today has been a day of recovery and a steady ride under sunshine filled skies, sorry to rub it in to you UK riders suffering in the snow :0) We are all looking forward to next weekends stage race. Watch this space!