Riding almost wheel-to-wheel, zipping through the trees on singletrack barely wider than our tyres, carving around bends, a small weight-shift here…a mere hint of brake there…drop down this hill, carry enough speed for the next little uphill…
The sun was shining, the ground was dry, the trails were quiet. “I tell you what, let’s not bother with racing today. Let’s just do this all day!”.
The ride from Lee’s house to Sherwood Pines for round 1 of the British XC Series was threatening to spoil the race itself. “There’s not that much quality offroad riding ‘round our way” Lee has said on many occasions. He’s been fibbing. The riding out of his back door is brilliant. Granted, the weather was probably helping but we rode 12 or so miles of quality singletrack to get to the start of the race without once having to ride across a sheepshit-covered exposed moor or through a farmyard full of Ford Cortinas or into a headwind along a dangerous A-road in the dark. This was indeed a rare treat and a fitting way to mark the day the clocks changed.
We arrived and signed in and Dave prepared himself for the 12pm race – me and Lee were racing in the vets’ race later in the afternoon.
The start was delayed for a few minutes after one of the Expert racers crashed quite badly – the air ambulance arrived and caused chaos by blowing away assorted tents, picnics and children – but once the race was underway Dave moved his way from near the back of the grid up to 20-somethingth place. Not too shabby given the limited overtaking opportunities through the trees…
Meanwhile, Lee and I were ‘busy’ spectating, soaking up the rays and catching up with various friendly faces. All this had to come to an end of course when it was our turn to line up near the back of the grid (our lack of results from last year’s XC series saw us chucked at the tail end) and spend the next hour and a half tearing around the course. It was simple – 4 laps, flat-out, don’t crash. I almost did crash about 100 feet from the start as a pile-up occurred right in front of Lee, everyone braking hard to avoid adding to the carnage, my super-slick rear tyre sliding all over the place as both wheels locked up. To my left, other riders managed to negotiate their way around the pile of carbon, aluminium and lycra whilst the rest of us had to do various 3-point turns and tourettes-inducing argy bargy.
I must have been in about 90th place by the time we got going again. To be honest, I’ve no idea what happened in those few seconds of dicking around on the start/finish straight but I knew I had to get past more people now that I’d hoped for. Oh well. At least I didn’t end up in the tangled mess on the floor.
What followed was 4 laps of overtaking on the short sections of fire road, keeping up with the guy in front on the singletrack and heroically sprinting past the cameras of friends and family at the end of each lap ;0)
The course was ace, my newly-lightened and race-fettled Scandal was also ace, I was feeling good (despite crashing shoulder-first into a tree on lap three), the sun was still shining and no sooner had I warmed up properly, the race ended.
I finished in a ‘not-too-bad-really-considering-but-that’s the honeymoon-over-with’ 40th place, which I think is just inside the points, which should in turn give me a better starting position at round 2 next month at Dalby Forest. Yay!
So it turns out that short races are brilliant fun, I only wish I’d not left it until now to take part.