Well, we did it. We created a mountain bike endurance race in our back yard, from scratch, with little previous experience.
The week leading up to the event was quite fraught. Strimming weeds, cutting low branches, hanging signs and marker tape, re-hanging signs and marker tape after the first lot had been removed, phone calls to solicitors regarding access to fields to park cars in, shower blocks that wouldn’t fit down the road to the campsite without damaging them and chopping trees with saws, fences that had to be cut with a saw to remove them and rain that was threatening all week and then just would not stop once it had started…
On Friday, our first “guests” started to arrive. By Friday evening the campsite was busy and the beer tent was open. The rain was hammering down on Friday night and we all knew that we were going to have a difficult race. Inevitably certain sections of the course were going to be tricky and some would become extremely muddy (but no more muddy than any other mountain bike race in bad weather). On Saturday morning we had to cram all the “day parkers” into the campsite as the field we planned to use for parking was flooded. I remember Andrew being totally calm and optimistic about this whereas I was getting extremely nervous. He was right though – they all fitted in there (well, mostly).
The race started with an unintentional rolling start as the chip timing guy wasn’t quite ready with the starting tape. Andrew led all the riders down to the road at the bottom of the wood whilst wearing a hi-vis vest. I’m not sure that was needed as well as the peppermint green cycling jersey, but there you go. The lad was side by side with the elite riders at the front. For a short time anyway.
Pretty soon some riders were packing it in as the conditions were so bad. The mud was getting worse and reports from out on the course included words like, “unrideable” and “dangerous”. We then heard that 2 riders had been hurt down in Bombhole Woods. I ran down the hill to find one rider on his back in the bombhole and one face down halfway along the alternative, “chicken run”. Anyway, 30 minutes of near chaos ensued with grumbling riders, people telling me to stop the race on the grounds of health and safety, St John’s Ambulance guys reluctant to get their arses muddy and a Mountain Rescue Team apparently missing on the moors near Bolton.
Relative to that first couple of hours, the race ran quite smoothly. The rain continued to bounce off the ground, the mud got steadily worse but most of the riders taking part just got on with it, no doubt understanding that nobody can control the weather and this is the UK after all. Granted, some parts of the course will need to be looked at before we do this again and perhaps diversions will be considered….but not everyone was walking. Most people were still riding the bombhole with a degree of success and most people were still smiling.
Marshals were a challenge, especially during and immediately after a shift change. My only two “official” laps involved riding around the course immediately after a shift change, marshalling points that had no marshal and saying “hello” to new marshals. Brant turned up at a marshal-less bombhole at one point and thoroughly enjoyed his 3 hour shift, watching cyclists ride, crash or slide down the mud on their bums.
The end of the race saw a packed beer tent (complete with DJ) and a completely unrehearsed presentation where local lad Shaun Wells picked up the men’s solo trophy.
Would we do it again? Maybe.