Well, as anyone looking out the window Sunday morning will confirm, the weather broke this morning, in biblical fashion. For those of us making the trip to Bordon for the Pronghorn Enduro it was a case of a stiff upper lip as the wind and rain battered the car as we drove down.
Testing times were ahead.
Getting to Borden rather early it was great to see Andy and DaveW soon appear in the rain lashed car park, obviously having made even better time than us. I quickly found that my extensive event planning, which had seen me pack all kinds of satisfyingly warm and dry clothes for after the event, had meant overlooking the need for a warm and waterproof jacket and beanie for standing around pre-start! Thankfully Tony had had more sense and lent me a water/windproof jacket and a hat. Thank God!
We queued for registration and were quickly as soaked and cold. A cup of tea helped but we were soon huddled under the Pronghorn awning taking a rather close interest in their latest models—and if you like carbon fibre there was much to admire. Some very light and racy looking machines were on show, in danger along with the rest of us of being blown away by the gusty squalls battering the car park.
Retiring to Tony’s dog-wagon we squeezed in and made what preparations we could, which largely consisted of good conversation and moments of introspection at the prospect of the race ahead. Finally, 10:50 arrived and it was time to start.
It’s strange wheeling up to the start line knowing that however cold and wet you feel things were likely to get a whole lot worse in the coming couple of hours. The first stretch was straightforward enough but we were soon out of the car park and sampling the Bordon mud for the first time.
With three other Moles and a good few others in close proximity it was tricky to get a sensible balance between adrenaline fueled speed and a more circumspect approach. I hung in behind Dave for the first three miles or so with Tony occasionally dinging his bell behind to let us know he was there. After a few simple twisty sections we were soon into the flowing singletrack which was already showing signs of wear.
After the first longish downhill section which showed Bordon has a lot to offer the more casual singletrack rider (assuming it’s open to the public) I decided to put the hammer down as the trail turned uphill, passing numerous riders who were rather more closely bunched than I preferred. At the top my legs were showing signs of tiredness from Friday’s rapid singlespeed commute but I’d got the ‘clear air’ I wanted.
From there, it was a long time before anyone passed me. I kept plugging away and thoroughly enjoyed numerous berms and flowing singletrack and I was starting to think I had the right bike for the conditions. It was a rude and sudden introduction back to winter mud riding as the rain continued to hammer and the gloop continued to grow. In places there was mud and water that came over the bottom bracket! I was able to float, counter-steer and bully my way through most though, despite a few un-scheduled dabs here and there.
By the time I crossed the finish line after 7 miles or so I’d clocked a 48:50 time and was reasonably happy with my progress. I certainly wasn’t panting and blowing as much as at Thetford a month previously. But my poor planning meant I’d no energy bar or snack to top me up on the start/finish straight, which given the lack of extensive fire-roads to catch your breath and refuel on would have been a problem anyway. A special Camelbak brew next time I think…
Even so, I continued to find the flow was there, and could reel in and pass riders without too much effort. Half way round though, things started to change. The effort needed to maintain my pace increased quite dramatically and suddenly the fun had gone out of things. I was now feeling the effects of a sugar bonk to end all sugar bonks as riders I’d passed earlier started to re-pass me.
Within about five finutes of the start/finish line I was screwed and faced with a sudden sharp climb I stalled and need to walk up it and was promptly caught by a bouncy looking Tony. I’d been expecting it but my heart sank. Fortunately I begged an energy gel off him which I’m very grateful for but by the time I’d reached the start/finish straight he’d disappeared a further 4 minutes down the trail.
The curious thing was though that despite every part of me wanting to stop, that energy gel was starting to whisper about a third lap. I really should have stopped, the bike and me were covered in filth, I was exhausted and I knew you can’t recover a from a sugar bonk that easily. But I was feeling bloody-minded and it was an Enduro after all; I’d just have to endure!
What followed was the worst hour and 20 minutes I have ever spent on a bike. I started counting off the miles, then switched to half miles, then was down to fractions of a mile, thinking all the while that at least I wouldn’t need to ride them again. As the lap ground on I was hoping Tony would lap me so I could ponce more food off him, then I started to think about mugging anyone for something!
Eventually, I was down to hoping for a mechanical of any kind (my rear brakes did give up the ghost as the abrasive grit wore them away) and then I pondered briefly, in between extended off-the-bike breaks about taking the odd short cut here and there. But I didn’t do it. Like I said, I was being bloody minded and I was going to finish this event!
For the last half-lap my back gave out too so I had to stop occasionally for a stretch. I have never, ever worked so hard to go so slow. I just felt like lying down and crying to be honest as the sugar bonk returned in earnest and was not to be denied. But imperceptibly I made progress and eventually I neared the finish.
I was the last finisher in our Veteran (40-49) class of 17 riders but my earlier work had paid off. My overall result was a very creditable 9th place amongst the 17 veterans, with Tony finishing ‘just’ 20 minutes up the road from me. Looking at the result for the 20 seniors in the spring-chicken category (30-39 age group) I think I’d have finished 8th, one place behind Tony in 7th, largely by dint of our extra third lap. So I’ll claim 15th of 37 riders if both groups were put together from what was a miserable experience but one which could have been better with the right forethought.
Tony finished 6th in the Vets class and Andy 11th after a nasty looking injury to his hand on his second lap left him unable to grip the bars properly, while DaveW turned in an impressive 14th considering he may just have been on the wrong tyres!
All in all I really appreciated their support in spooning me up when I finished and getting the cholesterol back into my veins via a very hot bacon and egg roll and coffee. I’d been thinking of just that for miles!
So well done to everyone. Biblical rain conditions, mud such as I haven’t seen for a very long time and lots of pain, but it may have all been worth it. At least we’ve had a crash course in how to ride the next few months anyway!
Full Pronghorn Borden Enduro results can be found on the West Drayton MBC website in PDF format.