The snow has stopped, the rain came and what did it leave us? Ice. For the week leading up to the race the course builders spent a lot of time clearing the snow from the single track. The weather on the day was light rain. So the course turned from firm with the ice to soft. As I had just recovered from a bad chest cold I didn't have the chance to test my legs before the race. I'd not been on a bike in over 10 days. I thought it best not to bother riding the course as to not waste energy. I did have a little practice on the 1st hundred or so meters of single track. I'd pretty made up my mind that I was there to make up the numbers and to give myself a good 4hrs training in race conditions.
I went through my normal warm up routine of a short ride a few sprints and a bit of a stretch. Realise that I wasn't warm enough in what I was wearing so I took off my club jersey and replaced it with my Trusty Assos 851 Jacket. A little overkill maybe but I would be toasty what ever the elements gave me.
I placed my 4 water bottles in the feed zone with a few tools, some lube for my chain and then we gathered at the start. As I had made up my mind I wasn't going to give it full gas i didn't start right up the front. No need to go into the red early on for no reason. It didn't matter anyway as the start had two very wide tracks before the bottle neck of the 1st bit of single track. I think I must have stood there like a lemon for about 20 seconds waiting to get on the single track.
The course was really really fun. There was loads of nice single track which for the 1st three laps I did was excellent. Well done on the Course Builders behalf as they made my day. There were two big drop offs which I rode for the 1st three laps. One was very steep at the top. (I'm no fan of drop offs) The Small amounts of fire track always led to the nice single track and the fire track was always short but steep.
Anyway How was I doing, first lap I felt great there were no surprises other than I took the wrong line at one point and stacked it into a bush. Quickly back on the bike and onwards. The 1st time over the 2nd of the big drop offs came as a shock. Nothing went wrong but I wasn't at all relaxed and could have easily stacked it. My forks felt a little soft and I was sure I didn't have enough rebound so I stopped and adjusted it. Lap finished and I started feeling great. Although I felt good on the 1st lap my legs did feel a bit rusty.
On the second lap I felt really good. Legs relaxed and I pressed on a bit harder. I slipped on one of the smaller drops and went off the bike to the side. I held onto one of my bar ends and dragged the bike down with me running. In one fluid movement I managed to remount the bike and ride away as if nothing had happened. (Why doesn't that always happen instead of landing on the deck in a heap?)
Third lap went well to start with. I'd taken on a new bottle at the start of the lap and shoved a few gels down. One thing that was obvious though was that the mud was getting thicker and harder to ride through. Starting the 4th lap I realised that if I kept the pace I was doing up I'd end up getting to the finish line with about 10 mins spare and would have to do a sixth. With all the mud and that I eased off and took it easy. Not that it was easy. The second half of the 4th lap and the 5th were Hell. The mud was porridge like. My pace got slower and slower with my final lap almost 25mins slower than my 1st.
Finishing was a relief. I normally don't feel that tired after doing 8hrs in the saddle but all in all I'm happy with how things went. It was an excellent days training in race conditions. I wouldn't have ridden that hard if I was out on the hills on my own. I went through a set of disk pads that had just been replaced with only an icy 30miles ride where I barely used the brakes. Good news is my drive train looks OK so it didn't cost me too much.
Today the day after I have just sat in the house watching films and servicing my bike all day wearing my Skins Compression tights. Knackered. I hear from the Twitter world that everyone else is tired too. God know how I will feel on Tuesday after riding the South Downs Way on Monday.
Results 19th in the 4hr Mens race. I wish I hadn't eased of and managed to do a 6th lap.
Check out the links from Joolze Dymond Photography below
Pic 1 This bit of single track was great fun
Pic 2 I love this pic I might buy it off Joolz
Pic 4 The mud
Pic 5 More mud
My shoes How random
Bloody glad I took my training tyres off. The Nobby Nicks would have been murder in that mud. The Rocket Rons were perfect. Full on mud tyres would have been too slow on the rest of the course.