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It seems like longer than a year since I last did the Enduro 6. Maybe I deliberately blocked it from my mind following last year’s puncture-fest or perhaps the fact that I seem to have ridden the course at Catton Park so many times over the years that things are simply becoming too familiar.
If I’m honest, my head wasn’t in this race at all from the start. After the short , elbows-out run, the first lap was brilliant – I was riding my new On-One Lurcher for pretty much the first time ever and I felt like I was flying. The bike was doing everything I wanted, it felt as fast as anything else I’ve ridden and it had the added novelty of a suspension fork. Comfort! Grip! More comfort! Everything was ace right up until the point, around a mile into lap one, that my rear tubeless tyre sprung a leak. Here we go again. The Catton Park Curse.
Back to the pit, a few minutes lost (Dave rode off into the distance as I slowed to ride two-thirds of a lap on the rim), onto the spare bike. 2 more laps. Slower this time. Not really pushing hard. Didn’t really know why, similar to my state of mind at the 12 hour champs a few weeks ago, I just wasn’t interested in racing. That said, at UK12 I did at least manage to pull my finger out a bit plus I had the excuse that I had a cold. I’ve no idea what was going on this time though.
Lap 4. Really losing interest now. Lap times extending into proper ‘slow’ territory. Massive swamp next to a ploughed farmer’s field starting to really piss me off. Sticky, draggy mud also getting right on my wick.
Extended pit stop. Moaned a bit. Sighed and set off again.
Phil tells me I’m in 5th place. Whatever.
Rode some more laps, regularly checking my watch. Clockwatching! In a bike race! Jesus.
Deb told me that Dave was also struggling to keep his mind on the job. I suspected he was bloody miles in front of me by now (he was) but that made me feel a bit better, in a “maybe I’m not having a crisis after all” kind of way.
Did something on my last lap that I’ve never done before – I ‘lurked’ to avoid going out for yet another lap of sticky, spirit-sapping mud. I’d done my prescribed-by-the-training-plan 6 hours of riding a bike today, however I still felt like one of the morons who leave the stadium before the end of the football match. What was the bloody point in coming if you’re not going to at least give it 100% attention all of the time? Oh well.
Dropped to 11th place.
I’ve never had such a spectacular loss of focus in a race before. It wasn’t even a long race as such.
Still dwelling on the ‘result’ and worrying about how I would find my ‘old steely resolve’ in time for Finale Ligure, I swapped the mountain bike for the road bike and rode a hilly 100-ish miles the day after the Enduro 6 to prove to myself I’ve still got long distances in my head as well as in my legs.
I rode a route that included as many hard roads, big climbs and big views as possible – legs felt great, the forecasted rain didn’t appear, I didn’t get lost once and I started to feel better and more optimistic.
After one of the most enjoyable afternoons on a bike I’ve ever had, I’m pleased to report that my riding mojo returned as quickly as it faded. The big test comes in two weeks’ time….