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Autumn ‘Cross, the CXNE drops in at Preston Park, 12th October 2014

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Photo copyright of Graham the Scribe

The past weekend felt different, I didn’t have my dad with me to kick my bum into the van, drive me to the venue, sort the bike out and motivate me for the race as he was at the first national event of the cyclocross season (where he did outstandingly may I add!).  So it was up to my super-duper multi-tasking mam to take on the role, the poor love!
It was another early start as the race was at Preston Park about an hour and a half’s drive away.  On opening the car door I was suddenly hit with the freezing cold wind and blinding sun, well hello there Autumn!  After that little shock to the system it was all as normal; sign on, kit on and off to check out the course. 
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Photo copyright of Vicky Hopper

A lot of people were kind enough to offer me help with my bike as they knew my dad was away and my mam had no idea, bless her.  This is one of the things I love about the cyclocross scene, it’s like one big family where they all help to support each other and I was very grateful for it, big thanks guys.

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Photo copyright of Alan Draffan

Got a few practice laps in and I wasn’t too sure, it was really quite difficult with technical off-camber turns and a really big hill that was incredibly slippy.  I kinda got used to the track after a few more laps and decided to head back for a drink and a breather, however I turned to see some hurdles being set up and I hate hurdles!  So, swearing quietly under my breath, I had a shot at them and accepted I was in for a challenge come the racing.

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Photo copyright of Ed Rollason

Soon it was time to be gridded and I headed over to the starting line to be met again with a great turn out for the women’s category.  It’s really good to see so many women getting into the sport.  Nicola Davies, Jen Batey then myself were the first to be called out, once we were all set the gun went off and everyone was in the zone!

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Photo copyright of Ed Rollason

I was with a group of five women, which included Nicola and Jen, we stayed together for the first lap, Nicola then got her race face on and shot off into the lead. Jen followed suit and I battled it out with Alison Sarmiento for another lap where I got into my zone and sped off. For the last half of the race the positions stayed the same with Nicola running first, Jen second and me in third (where I also took the first place in Junior), pleased as punch with that! I was absolutely relieved when the race was over mind you, it was very physically challenging!  I know now that I need to go and practice my hurdling technique.

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Photo copyright of Alan Draffan

The day’s weather turned out to be lovely so we stayed and spectated, Preston Park is beautiful and such a great venue for cyclocross.  There was some amazing racing to be had.

Now it’s back to training for the Darlington race with the sand and the hurdles, I’ve heard we’re all in for another tricky one, bring it on!

Megan x

You can follow The Development Racing Team on Facebook here: The Development Facebook Page

Cool, calm and collected, #TheDevelopment’s @_meghopper_ took the first place in juniors at today’s #CXNE event, race report coming soon…. #Cyclocross #CX #FrankTheWelder #AdventureList #TeamBerghaus #MeganHopper #rideSDG #Hayes_Life #Thomson #MichelinTyres #Ride100Percent #Cycling #SunRingle

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Down to the Wire at the Hetton Park CXNE, 5th October 2014

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Photo copyright of CWhat Photography
On the morning of the Hetton CXNE race I awoke feeling sorry for myself with a bad cold and generally feeling lethargic which lead to a negative outlook towards the day ahead.  On arriving at Hetton and where I usually hop straight out of the van, grab the bike and get going, I needed a bit of a parental push.
Throughout practice I wasn’t feeling too great, I gave my head a wobble, told myself to get over it and got my race head on!
My dad and I also forgot to pre-enter the event which meant that I would not be gridded despite previous results and that when the race got under way I was at the back of the women’s category, the very last line!
So, we set off and with no time to lose I sprinted through everyone to get to where I needed to be. The starting line was at the bottom of a straight concrete path which then lead the riders onto the course and I knew that I had to use this to my advantage.  Although it tired me out it needed to be done if I was to be in competition with the top ladies for the lead.
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Photo copyright of Ed Rollason

I was with Nicola Davies for a fair while and didn’t want to let her go however when we came to the hurdles I struggled to get back on my bike quickly enough and she shot off into the distance.

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Photo copyright of Ed Rollason

I kept on digging in and the spectators told me I was very close to Bev Blakeman, who last year I made it my goal to keep up with as she’s such a powerful athlete. This made me push harder and I eventually caught her.  We decided to work together trying to catch up with Nicola, however with only two laps to go there wasn’t much time.

I was really feeling it by this point and was determined to keep up with Bev. As we came around the corner to the finish, we both began to sprint and despite giving it my all Bev beat me by an inch! I was still proud and happy that we were so close, the hug and the “Well done!” from Bev made me feel great!

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Photo copyright of Ed Rollason
So there you have it, a day that I thought would be bad turned into a great one!
Next week I should be on my new Frank the Welder CX bike, hell yes!
Megan
x
You can follow The Development on the team’s Facebook page here: The Development Racing Team

You just can’t keep @_meghopper_ down, powering to 2nd place at the @CXNE’s fifth round…. race report coming soon…. #TheDevelopment #MeganHopper #FrankTheWelder #Cyclocross #MichelinTyres #ThomsonForBikes #SunRingle #Hayes_Life #rideSDG #AdventureList #TeamBerghaus #CX #CXNE photo by #LauraKotch #GirlsOnBikes

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The Long Road to Cumbria… CXNE Workington Hall, 28th September 2014

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So the long road to Workington in Cumbria dragged on like mad. I was really tired from the early start but this didn’t stop me from being hyped up for the race and annoying my dad all the way there, but hey that’s what dads are for!  Two and a half hours later we arrived at the CXNE venue at Curwen Park and as usual got our kit on, signed up and checked the track out.
I absolutely LOVED the course, probably my favourite so far with it being quite technical and I really liked the kinda downhill sections through the woods. I’d say there were two main climbs that caught every one out, including me, however I like climbing so that was the icing on the cake.
Being at the start line considerably earlier than normal in hindsight may have been a bad idea as my pre-race nerves kicked in! Despite being confident with the course, my nerves were becoming quite noticeable. Not much later I was lined up and then sped off in the mass scramble from the start.
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Photo copyright of Alan Draffan

The start itself was really narrow so I sped forwards to get in a good position and was soon the leading woman. This gave my confidence a boost and a welcome dose of extra energy, I was mixing in with the male riders and overtaking some of them!

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Photo copyright of Alan Draffan

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Photo copyright of Alan Draffan

As I kept passing the pits the spectators informed me about the big gap between myself and the second lady. this gave me really good vibes and I didn’t let up.

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Photo copyright of Alan Draffan

I crossed the line smiling and really pleased with the day after just taking the first woman and first junior woman position, achievement or what?
At the awards presentation I was given a generous £20 and a bottle of wine which came with the strict rule of having to give the wine to my mam, Ha, the cheek of it! ;)
So there you have it, a major result for me which continues to motivate me to train harder.
Excited for next weekend’s race.
Megan
x
  
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Photo copyright of Dave Hopper

You can follow The Development on Facebook here: The Development’s Facebook Page

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Deja Vu: Fort William hits back

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Aonach Mor is a formidable opponent, the rugged, and often windswept track has been used for countless World Cup, national and regional events, its brutality is highly regarded.
It was here that the Scottish Downhill Series team decided to hold their final round, I guess it was a fitting punishment to end their successful season with!
Perfect weather, no midges and nothing could go wrong………yeah, right!
I got on one of the first gondolas that morning, the plan was simple: to bash out a load of runs.  I’d just fitted the team’s new 650b ADD Pro wheels and wanted to see how they compared to the 26” ones, I was surprised, not just damn fast on the smooth sections but rolled superbly across the rocks, yeah, I guess I was hooked after that.  Took a pit stop at the Deer Gate watching the lines some other guys were taking and mentally plotting the course out.  Back on the bike, up to speed and then *BANG*, the front tyre blew out and flattened my wheel’s rim.  It’s a long walk of shame from the top of the course let me tell you.
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Photo copyright of Marked Media House
Switched the wheels back over to my 26” set and headed back up.  On the next run I was held back by a few slower riders but I got down in one piece.  Third run down was good, just wished I had the bigger wheels as they’re so at home on this type of course.  The fourth run down was deja vu, right on the same section as earlier, *BOOM*, another tyre blow out and another walk of shame.  Down the bottom I was actually relieved to note that I was in the majority, there were other victims not just with flats but smashed rear mechs, the old volcano was fighting back.
So did I manage to get a tonne of runs in?  Did I hell!  Two half-decent runs, crap!
Sunday, race day, up early again to scope the course out and was pretty much on it, got through the section that was giving me grief without any issues.  Railed the woods section perfectly and got it on down the Motorway, hit the hip, the step down and then suddenly I was slowing up…. double flatted, how the hell had I double flatted?  At least this time it wasn’t so far to push!  Obviously I didn’t manage the second run and my language was as blue as the sky!  Tyres swapped, bike given a once over and then a mad dash to get the gondola again.
*BEEP* I was out of the start gate and sailed the hip jump a bit wide granted, the top of the course felt great though it was certainly pushing me to the limit in some of the sections. Passed the Deer Gate and through the jagged bedrock, I didn’t hold back this time and got over it perfectly.  Straight into the woods section and I felt a loss of tyre pressure, kept on it but then at the start of the Motorway it was the dreaded *BANG* again and the front tyre just went.  I wasn’t gonna risk wrecking my wheels riding sans tyre so it was a DNF for me. Bollocks!
Here’s Tom…… my first run on this track and it was living up to the hype, at exactly the same spot as where Nick was blowing his tyres out I did a great impression of a drunken gymnast, straight over the bars, snapped my chain and got a flat.  Not the best start to the day. The rest of the day was stop and start practice as I was held up by slower riders, there were a lot of riders crashing and puncturing, a fair bit of pandemonium.  By the end of the day I’d pulled five runs out of the bag although didn’t manage any full ones. I’d worked my lines out and was ready to get on it come Sunday.
My first practice run went to plan, lines looked pretty good and I was ready for the race runs my bike was railing it, this type of course suits Frank’s frames perfectly.  Out of the start gate I was hauling it nice and smooth, well that was until I got a puncture just before the Deer Gate!  After another long slug down and a quick snack it was time to head back up again.
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Photo copyright of Marked Media House
Second run was mental, after coming off the track twice and having to let a rider past I knew the result wasn’t going to be a good one so I rode the rest of the course within my limits. Came across the line in 26th place which I wasn’t happy with.
That’s the end of the main 2014 season for me, didn’t finish with where I wished to be, now I will be seeing what’s on in my area for winter races and taking them as they come.  All eyes are now on Megan with her cyclocross racing across the winter months.
Roll on the 2015 season, I’m waiting for you!

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