Kate McIlroy went into Le Race last weekend having been narrowly beaten the year before.  This time around McIlroy not only won, but won in style with a new course record to boot.  Afterwards we caught up with the new champion.

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RC:  First of all top job not only winning but decimating the women’s course record at Le Race.  Was it a case of wanting to get revenge on last year’s result in a way?

Kate:  I definitely had unfinished business with this race.  It is a strength-based course which suits me as a rider.  The first year I rode it, I lost it on the final descent into Akaroa.  The second year, I assumed I had the win and the record having not seen a competitor around me.  Ella pipping me on the line when I didn’t know she was there was a big blow.  I was so pissed off with myself, it was an amateur mistake to not look back and assume I had the win.  Tough lesson to learn but one I will never do again.  A few hours later I said to myself that I was coming back to win it and smash the course record. 

RC:  You mentioned post-race that you wanted not just to win but to destroy the record.  How confident were you of achieving that heading into the race at the end of your summer?

Kate:  The most important goal for me was to win.  The record was a bonus.   I have had a different summer of racing with the introduction of mountain bike racing.  It’s been bit of a juggling act to get the mountain bike/road balance right.  I still have a huge amount to learn skill wise on a mountain bike, which doesn’t help my road fitness, so it’s been about still finding the time to keep some sort of aerobic base on the road bike.  

Kate McIlroy held on for dear life on the roads around Little River, but she dug deep to keep with the group, photo Le Race

I have found however the style of mountain bike racing, full gas from the start with no let up has complimented my road form – it has forced me to work more on the anaerobic component of my training which in turn has helped my road riding more than expected.  The conditions were the best I have raced in over the last three years, or rather it was till a headwind on the flat into Little River which isn’t ideal – it was about having a good legs and a group to work with this year. 

RC:  When racing for the course record did you find that tactically there was a shift in the way you approached the race, was there a bit of a greater emphasis in your style around trying to beat the clock rather than just trying to beat riders?

Kate:  I wasn’t feeling super flash on the start line or the days leading into it, I have had a busy month of racing with Calder Stewart, Karapoti and MTB Nationals so I was a little tired.  I knew I needed to make the chase group by the top of Dyers – which I did then lost most of the group on the Bastard Descent – luckily a smaller group of about 6 came charging through to get back on, so I jumped on their train to find myself back in the big group.  

I did my best to conserve as much energy as I could here, it was a little surgy at times and the pace was solid!  I knew once we hit Little River I had to climb with this group – previous years I have not had the legs and have watched the group ride away from me up the hill; losing valuable time.  I dug really deep to stay with them, which I was really happy with then hung on along the ridge line to the descent.  It was a super solid ride reflected in my power data!  I knew at the top of the descent that I was well within the record, but still descended the best I have and sprinted across the finish line to win – did not need a repeat of last year!

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