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As usual we arrived far too early, getting up at 4.30am on a saturday morning to head to an event is not the norm !
particularly if you arent going to be sleeping till 9pm the following night.
There was no one around apart from Barry as they all had more sense and bagged an extra few hours in bed ,so we just got on with putting the gazebo up, right next to the main tent, perfect spot😊
Soon we had everything laid out, stove, food, drinks, chairs and already the second coffee of the day !
We headed down to the pantry for some breakfast, everyone is smiling and happily recounting stories at this stage, beans on toast is my feed and another coffee! we then sat and cuddled the log fire for at least an hour.
After what seemed like an eternity (still only 12pm) we’re on the startline and anxious, there's some crazy people who i think are maybe just inexperienced setting off at full tilt, I’ve got at least 50 people in front who i'm looking to catch up over the duration, as they say its a marathon not a sprint event and 24hrs is a long time in the cold.
We were lulled into a false sense of security, after an hour of racing surrounded by beautiful blue skies, your mood changes and your thoughts are “oh this is great things might not be so bad after all” Oh how wrong could you be!!!
i finished my 2 laps, we (Keith Fawcett and myself ) were going with 2 laps each then swapping over. i felt good, got changed into my next set of dry biking clothes ready for the next changeover and set about eating, drinking and boiling the kettle for keith.
Keith put in a couple of fast laps, its amazing how quickly the 2hrs or so goes while your off the bike, time just seems to disappear although it takes about 20mins to change out of your wet gear and into a dry set.
A lap can take between 52mins and 1hr 10 to do, there's 1000ft of climbing and its 7 miles long, first 2 sections are woodland singletrack followed by a long forest track climb to a technical switchback climb, then you have a rocky switchback climb followed by another forest climb before a river singletrack descent which gets you soaked through, then onto a 1 mile section of deep mud/puddle section before a major climb then the final fast flowing red graded descent through the wood back to the start.
Conditions dramatically changed at 5pm, the downpour started and didnt stop till 12pm i was eating porridge and coffee kindly supplied from richie from team cycles whom had made the trip up after work, he also changed my brake pads as they were shot , i’d rode 4 laps with no back brake and couldnt be bothered to change the pads, this is when keith came back and told me he'd came off at the fast berm went over the top and hit a tree. He was out, his back was done in, just then it started snowing and 2 inches fell in half an hour the snow kept on till 5am. Keith retired to his sleeping bag in his van (hope you recover well fella), lucky man there were very few out at this stage and this is when i made a move, if i could bag a few laps then this would make a huge difference at the end, that time out there was hell, pure hell the cold was penetrating and unbearable, when i got back the gazebo had collapsed with the weight of the snow so eating and drinking went out the window. i was running out of clothes so went and sat in front of the heater for 3 1/2hours and just dozed/thawed out.
At 7am i went to the cafe had beans on toast a cuppa and then jumped on the bike, i felt refreshed and great, the weather had broke and had turned into blue skies, the course was an ice trail as the temp had gone down to -5 overnight but i could ride this. I felt great especially as most of the others out were walking the hills by now and taking 1hr45 to do a lap! i was still bagging 1hr 5s and knocked 2 more laps out before checking our position on the leaderboard, i didn't have to do that final lap even though i felt good the elation of finishing was superb.
We'd finished in 2nd place in the Pairs category behind Rich Rothwell. It was a Team Cycles 1/2.
There were some grim looking faces at the end including me, i was done in, tired and sore but very happy, there's a great cameraderie as your riding round talking to each other, discussing how each other is feeling and how the course is riding and a friendship is formed from pain, its a bonding of fellow suffering.
I'm sure i'll be back for more. Chris