Sunday, 10 June 2012

Riding Without a Board - 4th at BUCS XC MTB

Erlestoke 12
A couple of weeks ago I took a deep breath and removed the map board from my mountain bike. It's been well over a year, maybe 2, since I raced a pure MTB race and the Erlestoke 12 would be my 4th attempt at it!
Me and my friend Becky were racing in the 6hr race as a female pair under the name 'Shé-velo'. I rode around the course early in the morning to get a feel for it and it was excellent. Dry and fast singletrack for the first half, then a big climb followed by a huge bomb hole and swoopy singletrack wiggly technical riding down (and up and down again) to the change over.
By midday and the start it was roasting hot! I set off a bit too low down the field and spent my lap sprinting the open sections then settling in behind a queue of people on the singletrack. Still - this proved to be my fastest lap in the end.
As the afternoon wore on it got hotter and hotter! By the end of my 3rd lap we knew we were in the lead (not the most populated race catagory tbh) but it was looking more and more likely I'd fit a 4th lap in within the six hours as Becky was coming through consistently strong! The 4th lap was tough, by the up/down singletrack fun my back was wrecked but I only dropped a couple of minutes all told and we held onto the lead :-). A good start to racing without a board! 

Such a fun weekend and great to see Pete and Andy (Becky's boyfriend) fight it out in the 12 hour race to come 2nd and Tom and Andy pull off 11th with only one working bike and the most layed back transitions I have ever seen (including time for a cuppa...well almost)! Great efforts all round!

After a week of excessive work I was ready for a holiday. So it was a good job we had one planned, after a quick trip to Horton-in-Ribblesdale it was off to the Isle of Man. 

80-100miles of cycling and a lot of tea, pub and watching fast motorbikes ensued. The only bit of proper MTB we fitted in was on our hunt for a pub on Monday - race day! We rode 14miles, found some fun descents, an indistinct river/ footpath, 1 inaccessable pub (whilst the roads were closed for the TT races), an ex pub ( close) and finally an open pub! One mile from where we started...

View from The Railway - Union Mills. A pub 1mile from where we started looking for a pub.

 Thoroughly relaxed I arrived back in Sheffield in time for my second MTB race without a map board in 2 weeks! The British University MTB Champs at Birchall Golf Course. I had no clue what to expect (except a wet mess after this weeks weather) or how to race it. The recce at 9am revealed a wet course but not impassible given a bit less tyre pressure. 2 races later...well..

This was the first time me and Helen would race each other without a map, it was going to be interesting. 4 laps but if you were lapped by the leader you finished on their 4th lap.

Helen shot off and I immediately realised I was in the wrong gear - massively. Rode the start probably in about 12th position. But then we turned the corner onto the golf course and I overtook very quickly - back past Helen and another couple of girls.
We set off about 2 mins behind the guys so caught them up just at the start of the killer hill. So boggy at the bottom it was miles quicker to run - which allowed me to overtake again.
The singletrack at the top was congested so I hung back accepting we weren't going to be able to overtake all the riders ahead until the short bit of open. The Manchester girl behind me thought otherwise and started yelling 'riders coming through'. I let her past to deal with the guys ahead.
She made it about 3 guys ahead. Then there was deep mud and running and I was right back on her tail. Somewhere in this mud fest singletrack she got a minute on me (according to lap times). I had real trouble with non mud tyres - own fault though!

Really enjoyed the last bit of the course with the bomb holes and proper downhill fun! Even got the comment 'your riding it better than a lot of the guys' hehe. I might have to admit I am a mountain biker one day soon...

If possible lap 2 was muddier. I was still in touch with the Manchester girl going up the climb and planned to dig in and try and stay with her at the top - then I got distracted by somebody saying they thought I had a flat (turned out not - just running low psi) and the few seconds stopped to check was enough to lose contact. Another girl overtook in the gloop at the top which I had had to dismount for. That put me back in a bit of a race mode and I overtook her and put distance between us quickly. Still, no sign of Manchester anymore.

By lap 3 the course had deteriorated badly - churned up unridable sections now clear though so I knew where to dismount and where to push through. No sign of girl ahead or behind. Towards the end I started to expect the first girl to lap me and when my chain came off in a bog I thought it was over. But no, got through finish without being lapped so off on lap 4...

The mud was now no longer wet mud but sticky mud. Got the dismount sections firmly in my mind but had to stop a few times to clear mud to keep wheels turning. Tyre tread completely saturated - just like riding slick tyres! But no sign of girl ahead or behind so dug in and enjoyed the descents at the end for the last time.

I was amazed to learn at the finish that I was in 4th overall! This is way more than I expected. Rode all the technical downhill well and only messed up the row of 6 bomb holes once when my tyre slid out on the mud on lap 3. Needed less than a min a lap to reach the podium (cough:mud tyres/being less clueless) - next year :-).

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