This time of the year is probably a good time to have a look at some of the stuff that lovely folk have sent to me to be hammer…..I mean, “tested”. I’m quite lucky in that there’s quite a lot of things that I’ve been sent this year so rather than bung all my thoughts into a single post I’ll drag it out over two or three weeks…
I went the wrong way in a race again the other day, which is a bit weird. I saw the sign and the tape on the first lap but on the second I didn’t and came to a halt at bank of a large pond, turned around and rode back into the race where I left off and gave chase.
I also crashed (twice). Not massive spectacular crashes, just lame front-wheel-washout jobs that dumped me quite painfully on my elbow and thigh. One of them was onto some gravel and the other was onto some pointy rocks in a stream after I’d attempted to ride the ‘hero line’ into it on lap 1. So I got wet as well.
The first 20 minutes of the local midweek XC race were a bit of a disaster in fact.
Unusually for me in a short (1 hour) race, I decided that I’d just made the effort to finish work on time so that I could ride to the race from home, the trails were bone dry, the sun was shining and there would still be some hope of salvaging a half-decent result in the time remaining so put my head down (not too far down as I didn’t want to go the wrong way again) and hammered along in an attempt to overtake as many other people as possible. I spent the remaining 40 minutes doing that as best I could and arrived at the finish line after the final lap a near-crumpled wreck.
While riding home afterwards I received a text message from Shaun to tell me I’d won 15 quid as I’d got 8th place in the ‘racer’ category. Which was a nice surprise. He said he’d put it under the till in the shop.
Which reminds me….
I think I’m getting boring now, going on about how great fatbikes are. But they are. Even though they’re everything anyone sensible isn’t looking for in a race bike (usually you’d be after low weight, quick acceleration, sharp maneuverability, highly efficient suspension, etc), the frankly crazy amount of traction, grip and the silly two inches or so of completely undamped suspension provided by the massive tyres, not forgetting the very impressive sight of the biggest cloud of dust (in dry weather, obviously) you’ve ever seen outside of a cartoon means that I’m completely sold on the idea.
What’s more, there seems to be an actual race scene developing. First there was the fat category at the UK and European 12 hour champs and then there was a fat category at the brilliant Run and Ride race at Cannock last weekend where there was a reasonable sized number of like-minded and attention-seeking fatbike riders ready to turn themselves inside out on a course that was so twisty and narrow I was surprised I survived one lap, never mind three….
The race started a bit later than advertised, which meant that my pre-race caffeine gel had probably kicked in, peaked and was wearing off a bit by the time we got underway. It didn’t matter though – I, like everyone else, was here for a laugh and a day out in the gorgeous hot sunshine.
The course was a series of tight, off-camber, momentum-sapping and narrow bends that meant that speed was hard to come by – I was constantly in the wrong gear and trying to build up a head of steam. Meanwhile, Julian Rider was showing everyone how to ride a fat bike on a twisty and narrow course by putting in an almost two minute gap on lap one. By the final lap I’d pulled things back a bit, but it wasn’t to be.
A consistent, fast race from Julian meant I settled for 2nd place and received probably one of the best goody bags I’ve ever had and a brilliant trophy, donated by Judy again 😉
Once again, extra-special thanks to Shona and Rich for letting me take a brilliant bike from their shop without paying for it and then racing the cobblers off it. Love you guys 🙂
About an hour after finishing work on Friday, the van was packed up with two bikes and race kit, I was waving goodbye to the kids and I was on my way to Fort William (via Preston to collect Dave and Wayne), over 300 miles north of my front door, for 10 Under the Ben – a ‘short’ endurance race at ‘only’ 10 hours.
The race was starting at 9am the following morning, so if we were to stand a chance of getting a half-decent night’s sleep we needed to get a move on. We arrived in Fort William at about midnight and within half an hour we were all tucked up in our tents (thank god for pop-up tents!), ready for the early morning pre-race faff. So far so good.
The race started. Four-time winner of 10 Under the Ben, Greig Brown, raced off towards the horizon. I settled into my usual pace which tends to be fine for races lasting 14 hours longer than the one I’d just started. I started to go a bit faster, but not much faster. The course, compared to the type of stuff I’ve been racing on recently, was very tough. Not too many big climbs (although it was far from flat) but plenty of technical bits and fast stretches that kept things interesting/fun/dangerous.
About five hours later, Wayne (who spent the whole 10 hours handing bottles and jelly babies to me and Dave) told me I was 1st in my category so I assumed this also meant I was doing ok in the overall solo standings.
Five hours after that, I finished my 11th and final lap, finally caught up with Greig (who had continued to race towards the horizon at full pelt and took the win again).
I then had a cuppa, stood on the podium as 1st vet and 2nd overall, packed up the van, ate some chips and gravy and then drove home, arriving home 34 hours after I’d set off.
(Then I did the ironing.)