The first things I did when I knew I was moving to Aarhus was look for a mountainbike club, and find MTB races in which I could participate. I quickly found Aarhus MTB, and circled "19-20 September, SRAM Liga race in Slagelse" in red in my agenda. As of August I have been training with the sports team, and this weekend I would race my first race in Denmark.
I was really looking forward to the race, but I did not really know what to expect of the level of competition and the race result (since I have a Dutch licence, I would start in the Men-B category). Furthermore, with comments like "You should be able to get a top 10 result, maybe even top 5", I was very nervous on race-day. Luckily, we had already arrived on Saturday, and had plenty of time to check out the course. It was a nice course, with plenty of single-track, lots of tree roots, some short climbs, and a few drops and jumps. Something that would suit me quite well.
Since this was my first race, I started on the last row, and on the first climb I was held up a bit. So only when we entered the forest I was able to pass other riders. We quickly arrived at the first technical section, a few consecutive log-drops, where the pack slowed down a bit. I quickly decided to take the B-line, and managed to pass four or five riders, including co-Aarhus MTB rider Peder. My legs felt pretty strong, and one the following climbs I passed a few more riders. We were nearing the halfway mark of the first lap, as I caught up with the next group of riders, again including an Aarhus MTB rider, Bjørn. Since we were about to enter a long section of singletrack I immediately overtook the group, hoping to advance further towards the front of the race.
Luckily, the track was clear ahead of me now, so I could keep the pace high. When I was heading towards the last longer climb of the lap, there were still some remnants of exhaust fumes in the air, and I finally realized that there would be no further "advancing to the rest of the race". I was the head of the race! Indeed, when I was about to turn onto the the start-finish straight, the lead motor was waiting for me, or rather, us, as there were still two other riders in my wheel. When we again entered the forest, the other two riders passed me, and further increased the pace. I could not immediately follow, and since I had been putting in quite some effort on the first lap, I decided to continue on my own pace.
One of the riders must have had a mechanical, because when I went through the feed-zone, Kasper and the others, yelled to me that I could still catch up to him. I rode consistently, and made very few mistakes. Despite that, I could not really catch up. Furthermore, the gap I had on the next riders, was not very large. Towards the end of the third lap I started to fade a bit, and was caught, and passed, by another rider. When heading into the last lap I quickly took a gel, and was able to keep up the pace. I still had a bit of a scare when I heard a hard "clanging" sound coming from my bike after one of the jumps. However, as I could not really notice anything that was wrong I pushed on. Towards the end of the race it started to rain heavily, and the trail turned slippery quickly. Luckily, I knew that I had a sizeable gap on the riders behind me, so I did not have to take any risks during the last decent.
I finished the race still not entirely sure whether I finished third or fourth. It turned out I could indeed get on the third step of the podium. All in all, I was very happy, and surprised, with my result. The other Aarhus MTB riders in the Men-B category, did very well as well. Bjørn came in in forth place, and Peder finished eight.
The rain had made the course quite muddy and slippery for the Women's race. After a long race Camila finished fifth. The Men-A riders had similarly muddy conditions, as it started raining once more before their start. Oliver rode well, but mechanical issues and cramps set him back to the 25th spot. Esben finished just behind him in 26th. Unfortunately, Rasmus and Kasper did not manage to finish the race; Rasmus (also) had mechanical issues, and Kasper crashed, and was unable to continue (although all is well at the moment).
Aarhus MTB also had riders in the junior categories on Saturday. Lukas and Oliver finished in 6th, and 17 places in the U17 category, respectively. Jannick placed 15th with the U15, and Magnus 13th in the U13 category. Finally, Puk managed to get the third podium spot in the U11 girls category.
As a final note, I would like to thank everyone for a great weekend, as well as the other bikers in Aarhus: you guys have been very friendly and welcoming to me over the last six weeks. I hope for many more nice mountainbiking with you guys in the coming year(s)!