I met Simon Ernest at Marble Arch on the Friday morning and we set about packing the car with the three bike frames and 6 sets of wheels. Unfortunately We couldn't get everything in so I had to leave one of the bikes behind. Not ideal for a 24hr race but not much option. So I chose the 29r hardtail. I had 8 good hours on it and I was sure this was the bike to take over the 26in full sus.
We drove up steadily to Newcastleton via the M6. The drive wasn't too bad as we shared it and chatted the whole way stopping for the odd coffee. The moment we entered Scotland I lost O2 signal on my phone and never regained it. Pulling into the Rock UK center we could see the event organisation taking place. We were directed to our little log cabin we had booked and unpacked.
|Big pile of kit outside our cabin|
The cabins were great, basic but good enough for the job. Four beds a sink and a toilet and shower to share between the other dorms in the cabin. Myself and Simon built up our bikes and went for a test run around the course.
|My bed for the weekend|
The course started off with a short steep climb onto a grassy almost BMX looking trail that led to a little drop. From the drop we had a small rocky path to the bottom of what looked like a forest climb. This climb zig zagged up the side of the hill. It was never too steep and easily ride able when dry but one thing that was clear was that the grip was going to be lost with the slightest amount of rain. Out of the last few switchbacks we than regained the rocky path at the top. This was very bumpy. It was here I noticed my rear tyre was leaking. I could hear the air coming out. Wiggling the tyre about I can't image what it must have bee like on 26in wheels. Although I didn't have a rear suspension I could tell it would feel bumpy. My 29in wheels seemed to roll over it well.
|Bloody never did get the hang of Simon's pump|
From this we went down into a little valley over a bridge then up a small gravel climb which led to a steep climb that seemed to be about 300m long. On my 29r this was to be climbed on the lowest of my gears using the middle ring (some people still have three up the front you know) . I was thinking this climb was going to be a tough one half way into the race. This climb was steep and it was going to hurt for sure. Over the top of this we came to a fireroad that was split down the middle. It looked like a out and back from 1st looking at it. The Fireroad was pretty flat but fairly long. When we got to the end we figured that it must go somewhere else or just do a U turn. We turned back (which was a mistake) down the firetrack. We went past the point where we joined it at the top of the climb and about twice as far again on the fireroad. This brought us to the top of some nice singletrack swithcbacks which took us back down to a gravel road.
200m down the gravel and back to some more single track which was up and down. I really liked this bit. This finished at the little valley where we crossed a bridge earlier. This then had a short climb to a very bumpy grass trail that led us back to the finish via a really (bloody awful) bumpy descent into the arena.
Upon finishing I spotted Kinesis Morvelo's Rob Lee and we discussed the merits of the lap. Now what myself and Simon had done didn't feel like an 11mile lap. Rob confirmed that we had missed over half out. Yeah we guessed that. Where? Turns out that the signs were not up where we did the U turn. We should have turned left and all would have been clear 200m up the trail. Oh well! It's not like I won't get practice I thought.
|The jerseys on display|
Back to the log cabin to fix the punture take out the inner tube and make my tyre tubeless again. This time I put double the amount of Stan's sealant in the tyres.
|The signing on sheet|
We signed on went to the pasta party and waited for our room mates to arrive. Simon's team mate Chris Pedder and his partner Rachel Fenton. Chris was also riding the 12hr with Rachel supporting.
They arrived with some wine so we each had a big glass then went to bed. Big day tomorrow