After 11 months of structured training and racing, I have come to the end of arguably my best cycling season to date. – By Jamie Penfold
My season started in November 2016 with base training in preparation for 2017. I decided that I was going to focus most of my time and energy on XCO rather than XCM races.
After a slow start to the season I began to gain momentum with my training and form, and came second in the first round of the SA Cup Series (my first podium in the National Series). I then traveled to Bloemfontein and Pretoria to participate in the second and third rounds on the National Series securing third place once again at both races. I was still looking for my first win of the season.
A week before SA Marathon Champs I acquired the services of a coach for the first time. Next up was SA Marathon Champs – toughest race of my life – but I managed to take the win after an almost 2-hour battle with the second-placed rider. I managed another win the very next weekend at WC XCO Champs. Another important hurdle would be SA XCO Champs and, although I felt good, I could only muster a silver medal. I then raced in the Western Cape Spur league before heading to Mpumalanga to tackle the Mankele 3 Towers Stage Race. My partner and I managed to occupy the second step on the podium after a super-tough 3 days in the saddle.
Next up was the Spur National Finals – a personal favourite on the calendar. After winning the race for two consecutive years I was looking forward to defending my title, however, the competition was a lot tougher this year and the shortened track made it even more challenging. A group of us managed to break away from the start and diced each other for the majority of the race. It ended in a 3-way sprint finish and I came away with the win – a victory that means a lot to me.
Despite all the excitement and celebrating however, I had to turn my focus to the following day’s race. It’s been a bogey race of sorts for me after finishing on the podium two years in a row – securing the outright win was going to be my main goal. I managed to make a gap on the first lap and held it for the win. What a memorable weekend. I am now enjoying a few weeks off the bike before preparing for my first season as a junior.
Till next time.
Jamie Penfold is the current junior SA Marathon and WP XCO Champion. He’ll be blogging for Bicycling about what it takes to train and race while still at school, as he pursues the ultimate goal of becoming a professional cyclist.