Saturday, 7 February 2009


" slip slidin away ...."


Not the usual Sunday ride up Rivi ' this week. Alan and I ( with Jez on support crew ) did the HTN Cyclo-X/MTB 'winter sprinter ' thing.
We've both got 'works ' Cannondales.I'm on the Rize carbon.A 5"er. Alan's on the Rush carbon , a 4"er with a lefty. I've prepped mine with some skinny 1.5 tyres ,lowered the stem and tipped the saddle a notch ,oh , and wound down the forks.Head down ,arse up. Alan has the same tyres ,but apart from that it's pretty stock. He's fitted some new brake pads .They seemed a bit off when I rode it the other week.

Unlike every other bike event we've ever done we arrived with plenty of time to spare . It's the way forward. We set up the E-Z up and drinks dispenser ,a couple of chairs and a bike stand. Full factory all the way. At this point it is VERY cold.
After a bit off faffing and pondering over headwear we recce the course. Well , a small corner of it. More just to get a feel for the tyres . The course is rock hard frozen mud. Hmm. Skinny 1.5s . The bit we ride just round the corner has a tasty downhill ,nicely rutted with a fencepost in the middle ,leading to an adjacent drop culminating in a frozen puddle 'splash through'. A bit like our local Haigh Hall trails ,but,unfortunately ,not actually our local Haigh Hall trails.
Still very cold we make our way to the start. There seems about a 100 riders on a variety of bikes. We get talking to a guy on a vintage Kona.Fully rigid and 'canti-ied' up. At the other end of the spectrum are some tasty looking belgian cross bikes.I spot a few other 'dales. A Scalpel and another lefty Rize , worryingly gaffer taped up . Apparently it was a prototype. That's OK then.

After a 'behave yourselves' pep talk the start is upon us. The brass band played ( tiddly omp pomp pomp ),and we were off . A melee of a half lap to split up the field before the singletrack.
I got an OK start and even though I had approached it as a fun event I still want to do reasonably well, so I put in a hard effort . It is still very cold.
In the woods ,riding like a rag doll ,it nearly all goes wrong. Very wrong. I'm only about 50 yards into the trees on narrow singletrack with a huuuge drop to my right. I ping my front wheel on some obstacle or other and I nearly deck it. Heading for the drop. Luckily I dont actually deck it. I am now paying more attention.

The first lap was hard work ,but I soon settled into a pace I was happy with. I overtook a couple of riders , and was overtaken myself a few times. Once I settled down and the pain of cold legs had subsided I began to really enjoy it. I had a few minor 'incidents ' and 'dabs'. Nothing major .
As the laps continued the sun came out. The track came alive. The combination of a bit of warmth and a load of knobbly tyres turned some of the rock hard bits to proper sticky gloop. There was one particular bit that was on the wetter side of mud 6-8" deep . Approaching it every time I thought " here we go ". I'm sure a regular MTB tyre would have floated and slipped ,but the conti' 1.5s cut right in and were surprisingly good . Brilliant even. I was running them on the medium soft side and had no trouble blunt edging the many bridge crossings.
In the woods there was a few sets of steps requiring a 'portage'. This is where a £3000 full on full carbon full susser is hard work. All the bouncy bits get in the way. I wasnt envying the CX lot though ,especially when at about the 1hr mark my back started to kill me. I was in a firm pro-pedal setting at the back with the forks turned down . I simply turned 'on ' the rear shock and wound out the forks an inch ,or so. Better than 2 ibuprofens.
Around the back of the course it opened up to skoot around a few ponds. Reclaimed wasteland-y type stuff. It was alot faster here than the slog through the woods but ,even up to the last lap there was ice all about the place. It was probably the coldest part of the course .Very exposed and about the farthest point away from the hospitality tent. Little wonder then that the organisers saw fit to place Mr Brant of on-one noteriety on marshalling duty here. It was a good job that I only found this out after the finish ,or I would still be there now discussing the relative merits of vintage XT seat QR levers.
So I keep spinning around . In the groove .Really enjoying it at this point. It's approaching the 2hr mark on one of the laps as hit the cold back side. Mr Brant ,as we now know him says " It's 12 O'clock ". I take this to mean when I get to the finish ( about 5 mins ) I'll be done . Well imagine my horror at the finish as I shout out "83 . Is that it ? " ,and the timekeeper says " No . You've one more lap in you " . I was ready to argue the point ,but carried on anyway. I've just beaten the bell by a few minutes.
I'm now tired . I'm getting the rag doll heavy head thing from the first lap,but for different reasons. It takes a gargantuan effort going down . Hard to focus . On the edge. I nearly make a right hash of that first drop.
There's a point on the course where a dismount was mandatory. A half dozen steps with a drop of death beyond . The type of thing you'd cane down on a thursday night ,but in a race situation probably wise to get off. As it's the last lap I'm saying thankyou to a few of the marshalls without whom there is no event. Standing in the cold for 2 hrs watching people cycling . I wouldnt do it. Big shout out to the lady near the carved squirrel. Very cold down there. Anyway ,back to the steps . So I get off near the steps ,thank the marshall , touch the first step and my left leg ( my bad one i dont like to talk about ) slips right down to the bottom and folds up under me.With my right leg still on the top step,in the splits, I look like Rudolph Nureyev doing swan lake but with a lime green MTB.Ace. I instantly cramp up. Not good .
Survival time . I've made another last lap so I'm not quitting now . If I take it easy it'll be OK ,but there's one point where I think " If it gets any worse I'll have to stop ". I kinda spin it out and it doesnt fully go away,but it's bearable . I drink the last of my Camelbak and soldier on. Still perversely enjoying it.
I'm chillin' now on the home straight . The sun's come out ,so even more mud ,but it's beautiful. I stop at the bottom of one of the downhills ,say hi to the marshall ,top job , and take a few pics.Earlier I was passed "ON YOUR RIGHT ! " by a guy on a yellow Orange.( how confusing is that ?) He then spent the next 10 mins right in front of me ,just kinda slugging round . Anyway ,I was quicker than him so I overtook him and was away . That's him below. He re-overtook me as I kindly took his photo . Incidentally he finished one place ahead. Hmm. Well ,I'm here to have fun ,what the hell.
So that was that . Dead good. I did 5 laps ,2hrs 20 some mins and finished overall about halfway up the field ,Alan did 4 laps and finished a bit behind me . But we both finished which was the best result we could have hoped for.

Big thankyou to the organisers and all the marshalls. Top day . Well done.Big shout to Jez for the support and the post ride massage.Oh and all the paticipants with an extra special "ey up " to the two guys in pisspot lids who kept going and didnt quit despite clearly suffering somewhat. That's what MTBing ,or cycling in general ,is all about,not being told to hurry up by some cyclocrosser when you're clearly just enjoying yourself.

Lots more info and pix and stuff up here


1 comment:

  1. The splits?? No one got a photo of that? LOL

    congrats on finishing this one and lasting out the cold!