The Melgaco International was the opening race on my 2023 schedule and one I’ve been looking forward to ever since I raced it last year. I was excited for a number of reasons, 1. I loved the course 2. I was really excited to race in my new Le Col National Championship kit and 2023 Vitus race bike. 3. My debut race with Dawson Racing.\n\nMy Wife and I flew out on Wednesday afternoon to Porto and travelled up to the race venue of Melgaco that evening. With the race being on Sunday I had a few days to get up to speed on the course and get my bike dialled in. The course hadn’t changed from last year, it’s a super technical course with really tricky downhills and steep technical uphills. \n\nThe course was super dusty and I had opted for the Schwalbe Thunder Burt tyres in 2.35 to begin training with and soon realised they were the perfect choice for the course. After a few days of practice I was feeling really confident and ready to race - all signs were pointing to an improved result compared to my 8th last year. \n\nOn the morning of the race the weather took a turn, gone were the clear blue skies and in came the rain clouds. It was light at first but as the day went on the rain and the course got progressively worse. 70% of the course however was still relatively dry with a smaller portion very slippy so I still opted to stick with my tyre choice I had practised on.\n\nPre race rice meal eaten, sipping on some TORQ nutrition I was ready to race. With my improved UCI ranking, I was starting the race from the front row of the grid which was a huge improvement from my 4th row start last year. \n\nI made good use of my front row grid and made an explosive start - getting to the front and pressing on - I had built up a small gap of around 5 seconds after the opening lap. I settled into a solid pace on the following laps and was joined by Mario Costa and Clement Izquierdo - we stayed together for the following lap. As the race progressed and pace increased a natural gap appeared between all 3 of us, I settled into 3rd and continued to press on hard. \n\nWith the rain continuing to fall and course degrading I was making some small mistakes the harder I pushed, so I settled into a good rhythm on the downhills and pushed hard on the uphills. I maintained my position to the finish and finished in 3rd position, my first ever UCI C1 podium! It was one of my major goals of the year to get on the podium at a C1 event and to get it ticked off on my first race of the season was a dream start - and one that’s given me confidence for the upcoming races. \n\nThe next race for me will be another block of C1 races in Serbia at the ANDREVLJE XCO C1 races on 25th-26th March.