Two of the Army’s top Cyclo-Cross competitors were in action at the National Championships in Gravesend.
Captain Simon Hale and Warrant Officer Jason Marriott both took part in their respective age categories against some of the best riders in Great Britain.
In the Veteran Men’s 50-59 race, Capt Hale put in an impressive showing finishing 9th after leading the first few races.
He has been training for the event since September and explained the difficulty that the competitors face:
"It’s a cross between mountain biking and road riding," Capt Hale said.
"There’s some tarmac sections on the course and technical ones too.
"There’s hurdles, a sandpit and a flyover. It basically involved every skill that you can have from any walk of cycling.
"It all comes together in one single race for forty minutes. It’s flat out from start to finish."
For the cyclist, fitness plays a big part in his performance as does the conditions.
Capt Hale said: “Fitness-wise, in comparison to my career in the Army, I’m probably at my fittest now than I have ever been. You just can’t carry any excess weight or anything else that gets on there.
"I prefer it to be absolutely hammering it down. The more mud, the better.
"This is very dry as far as cyclo-cross is concerned. We are mid-January now and normally we are ankle-deep in mud. I prefer that as an ex-motocross rider."
Regarding the well-placed finish, Hale discussing his possibilities of winning saying: "You have to think you can win at some stage. You always think that. You never know what’s happening behind you.
"I heard three or four crashes behind me on that first lap. You can just hear the bikes smashing together and somebody hitting the floor. I had a couple of occasions where I hit a post.
"You don’t know what is going to happen. Cyclo-cross is very unpredictable."
WO2 Marriott was aiming for a top thirty finish in the Veteran Men’s 40-59 category, but a slow start meant he was always fighting against the odds and he ended up in 51st place. He still found positives to take from the performance.
He said: “The most enjoyable part is that whether you are at the front of the race or the back, there is always someone that is at the same ability as you.
“Although I’m a little bit disappointed in today’s race, there’s still plenty of positives to take into next year. It’s the first season where I’ve coached myself and done all my own training programmes.
"The plan was to start the season with a relatively low level of fitness and to build up to today’s race.
“I understand where I’ve gone wrong this season. I need to be at a higher level going into it and keep that up throughout to improve."
For the cyclist, it was a tough slog of a race and he put it down the tempo of the competition.
“It’s because it was such a fast race,” said WO2 Marriott. “There was no recovery whatsoever. Usually, there is recovery on downhills where you can get ten or fifteen seconds of recovery. This circuit was just full on all the time.
"My maximum heart-rate is usually around 175 but today, I averaged 172 for the whole race.
"There were people just blowing up and running out of power. There were a lot of rocks on the course too and I think some people were hitting them a bit too hard to get punctures."
Like his team-mate, WO2 Marriott also spoke about the importance of fitness as well as watching what you eat.
He said: "You’ve got to fuel yourself mainly to aid your recovery. Training is about breaking your body down so it repairs itself stronger for the next race. If you eat badly, you are affecting the refuel of your body.
"Also, you have to think about your weight. The lighter you are, the faster you are going to go so it is massively important."