We arrived on the Saturday to pre-ride the full course and check out all the stages before the race day on Sunday. The race circuit was about 9 miles in total so it wasn't overly long, and after pre-riding all the stages I felt pretty good about them all, stage 2 was much better than the video had made out (must remember videos always flatten out trails), it was still quite pedally but good fun and the wee uphill near the end was going to catch quite a few people out.
|Enjoying the sun before the race|
We arrived reasonably early for the race day on Sunday after stopping in a nearby pub. The morning had been set aside for practice so we rode stage 1 and 3 again before having an early lunch and waiting for our category of racers to start. The race was a pretty relaxed affair, since we had no seeding runs everyone just lined up in a very british queue and we were let out in 30 second gaps in groups of ten or so to stop the start of stages getting too cramped.
Timing on each stage was done via a timing chip on your wrist and a wee beepy box at the start and end of each section. The idea being you swiped your chip at the start and end of your run, not as swish as some of the other timing solutions out there but it actually worked out pretty well.
|The timing chip thing, highly fashionable no?|
The first stage was part of the red route called home-baked, a fairly tight twisty trail through the trees. It was hard to get many pedal strokes in so keeping smooth was probably the best way to get a good time. I never felt like I really found my flow, it was difficult to get into a good rhythm through the tight trees and I didn't feel particulary smooth but then again I didn't come to a dead stop anywhere so it wasn't too bad overall.
Stage 2 was the longest of the stages and possibly the most varied and pedally. This is the stage where you could easily lose or gain quite a bit of time so I knew I had to really go for it in order to get a faster time than the other two. The top section of the stage was created for the event and cut down a grassy trail near a wall then into a wooded section that wasn't too boggy thanks to the dry weather, it then popped out onto another section of the red route, it was still pretty flat here but it flowed well enough to let you sit and pedal like crazy to keep the speed up. Up next was a short rooty downhill segment that led you to the cheeky climb. My legs and lungs were already feeling ragged but I pushed on through and got a "well done mate" from the rider in front who had stopped to let me passed as he pushed up the hill (cheers fella). That left just one last little bit of tight wooded trails followed by some nice sweepy turns and a last ditch effort by my legs to put some power down to reach the stage end. I was happy with the run and felt like I had give it a good go but was it enough to beat Coley and Chris?
The final stage was another red route section called Swoopy and surprise surprise this was going to be another pedaller. Starting on a fireroad meant you were going a fair click when you hit the singletrack, a couple of mellow flat corners later and the trail started to swoop up, down left and right and you could keep the speed by pumping through sections and saving your legs for little sprints to keep the speed up. This was the first time I really noticed the marshals whistle as I went by, then not long after I would hear another and wondered how long was the gap, was that Chris catching up or was that Coley in front of me going passed the next marshal? Stage 2 had kind of taken it out of me but I pushed as hard I felt I could until the end of stage was in sight, one final push saw me through the line as I struggled for breath and to swipe my chip on the beep box. The race was done.
|I am not a number... I am a free man...|
Once back at the van anyone who had finished already was free to go their results, the chip and beepy box had done a great job of recording times along the way so there was no waiting for your actually times, just your overall place as not everyone was done racing yet. Times were close on stage 1 with Coley coming in quickest, followed by Chris then myself being the slowest of the three. Stage 2 was the important one, Chris managed to get a 6 second lead on Coley and thankfully I managed a 29 second lead on Chris, maybe the longer pedally stages are more my thing after all. Coley and Chris were within 1 second of each other on stage 3 but again somehow I managed to push myself ahead with a 9 second lead. Overall in our class (Master Men) I came 47th out of 101, Chris was 2nd in our little group at 66th with Coley just 2 places behind at 68th (there was only a 1 second difference between Coley and Chris's overall times).
|Any excuse not to pedal|
Pretty happy with my result and riding over the weekend, I'm sure I could of done a little better but then we all say that don't we. We couldn't have asked for better weather either, the sun shone all weekend keeping the trails nice and dry while a cool breeze helped it stopping getting too sweaty. A big thanks to all who organised it, it was a great event that seemed to run really well and was enjoyed by many, if it runs again next year I shall be entering.