Just a bike ride

I rode up to Winter Hill earlier on the cross bike, up to Horwich through the badlands and up the tarmac climb, with the intention of riding down to Belmont Road on the “San Marino” downhill on the other side. I got stopped at the mast by some security blokes who wouldn’t let me go any further. Something to do with guys working near the top of the mast – I couldn’t see anyone though. I decided they must be covering up a UFO landing or something so turned around and rode back down the tarmac.

Then I went for a zip around some woods near Nob End.

Hit the north

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.








(photo courtesy of Julian Winstanley)

Would we do it again? Maybe.

one week to go

We were all out and about on the HTN course today, attaching signs to trees, building some ramps up a couple of big steps, fixing some grippy material to the lethal-when-wet boardwalks, meeting the mountain rescue lads and getting the marshaling arrangements sorted. Me and Michael did the work on the trail and we “tested” it once or twice too. Hopefully the rain next week won’t be so bad that we have to do it all again.

We’re getting very excited 🙂

rain, rain, kindly just F*** off!

Last night I was reminded of the saying, “there’s no such thing as the wrong weather – just the wrong clothing”. I left the house on the CX bike bathed in glorious sunshine wearing shorts and a short sleeved jersey. I’d planned in my head the longest ride I’ve done since Mayhem – a familiar route west then south then tea at Deb’s mum’s house but with a bit of added offroad action in the Goyt Valley. A leap of faith really, I’d planned the route on the map but I had no idea of what to expect. Well, I was expecting mud and hills but I’d no idea of how much/many.

Around Stalybridge the heavens opened, closed again, I dried off, then the heavens opened. This routine persisted throughout the ride and by the time I reached Whaley Bridge I was starting to get quite cold (due to the repeated soaking then windchill) and very, very hacked off with everything in the world. The rain at times was bouncing off the ground.

The “new bit” near the Goyt was nice, despite the weather and the cow poo. There’s an uphill footpath through a wood that’s great for running/shouldering up and some scary steep downhill stuff too. I stopped to chat briefly to a group of runners who were amazed that the bike would be able to take the “abuse of these rough tracks”.

50ish miles, on and offroad, heart rate = quite high mostly (there, you see. I’ve included HR info in a blog entry. I’ll never do that again because it’s boring. I’ll write it down instead in future).

Hit the North is a sell out

Our first go at organising a race and we’ve SOLD OUT. No more room. All full up. How ace is that? In fact, we’ve gone over our limit by about 40 people but we’re not bothered about that. Not too long ago we were thousands of pounds in the red and were considering scrapping it and walking away, now we can concentrate fully on making this a brilliant race and equally brilliant shindig instead of fretting about bike shops running out of entry forms, putting up posters, constantly plugging it on Internet forums and mithering MTB mags and websites for coverage. We’re also well on the way to be making some deserving charities very happy with some sizeable donations, providing we’ve not forgotten to buy something expensive 😉

Right. MBUK. I’m in this month’s issue. There I am, riding the bombhole with a Hit the North article underneath the photos (page 34 if you’re interested). Chris and I spent ages in those woods getting the shots perfect and they were quite rightly printed. But the article doesn’t credit him for the shots and they’ve paid him nowt. Not only that, they’ve lifted the text straight from our website. Shoddy. Shame on MBUK. However we may have got a few more entries this week off the back of that, so it’s probably done the job we wanted it to; I just thought they might have had a JOURNALIST or two working there for some reason. It is pretty cool to be in a mag I used to buy when I was a teenager though. And I got some free flip-flops.

Tonight’s ride was a good one. Warren and I rode some “new” trails nearby – loads of steps to ride down and nettles to get stung by. It was fun! I did feel a bit weary after this week’s attempts at getting back into running. Hopefully next week will be a bit easier (so I can run and ride harder, if that makes sense).