A quick trip down to the Pain Cave after work

The last few weeks have been relatively quiet on the bike racing-front – with only a few weeks to go before I race as one half of a pairs team at Mountain Mayhem and after that a 24 hour solo race at Twentyfour12, I’ve been keeping busy by working on regaining my cycling fitness after a winter of “just getting the miles in” and running. Gradually re-introducing structure to my riding while leaving out the added stress of preparing for and taking part in races.

Apart from the half marathon I ran in Tenerife, the local cross-country mountain bike race I did last night was the first race I’ve been a part of since Battle on the Beach back in March. I know that’s only a few weeks and a change is as good as a rest, etc…but it’s always surprising how unfamiliar everything feels even after a relatively short break.

A very slow but frantic drive to the race in regular Manchester traffic meant I arrived with only a few minutes to spare before the start, so I leapt from the car already wearing cycling clothes, pulled my singlespeed (which hasn’t turned a wheel since the Strathpuffer) from the boot and headed for the start line.

The start line was down a flat, wide dirt track. Before I knew what was going on, everyone turned around 180 degrees and so I found myself at the back. Right at the back. Bugger. Nothing like a schoolboy error to start the first round of a race series.

Off we went – my lack of gears meant that I was having go spin my legs at around a million rpm just to keep up on the flat sections of the course but could then catch up and pass other riders on the short climbs of the Clayton Vale course.

Overtaking opportunities however were few and far between – the long, wide sections were mainly quite flat so my lack of top speed meant I was having to work very hard just to hold the wheel in front, never mind get past it. I was having fun testing myself though, after the shock of the first lap oxygen debt subsided.

I’ve no idea where I finished. To be honest I don’t think I want to look at the results, but I’m pretty sure that I finished further up the pack than where I started…

In spite of my self-inflicted bike and starting position deficiencies, it was 6 laps of brilliant, breathless fun and I’m looking forward to round two in a couple of weeks.