Well, a taste of racing and riding with the big boys. Tony and myself took ourselves over to Crowthorne Woods for the final Gorrick classic Autumm XC race, before the winter series begins.
This was a new experience for me, XC racing in daylight, only having competed once before this October at the infamous Dusk til Dawn at Thetford Forest.
Tony has raced plenty in the past, off road and on. We were joined by Clive, Brian, Nick and DaveF (Nick and Dave both managers of different branches of Cycleworks). Dave was competing in the speedy Super Master male category, Nick in the Sport male category. Both of which were four lap race distance as opposed to three laps for the remainder of us in the Veteran male category.
After Matt, Tony, DaveW and Andy’s romp in the mud last week at the Bordon Enduro, we found ourselves with Someone on our side, with almost ideal conditions for this time of year. Not a drop of rain, the temperature was comfortable which meant not having to wear too much to keep the heat in the body and especially the hands.
Mr Disaster was hiding round the corner though. Once we had registered a quick trip to Tony’s dog-wagon to drop off coats and stock up with munchies for the race, on our return we were met with a long faced Clive. I thought you and Brian were on a reckey lap? We were, Brian’s out there, I’m not.
He looked down at the mid triangle of his Orange ST4, our gaze followed, our pupils were met with a totally fuc…ed rear suspension linkage. What happened? Just got out there, dropped off a small dip and SNA…p!!
What a total bummer, I really felt for Clive at that point, his first introduction to XC racing and not even a piece of the action to be had. The only consolation lay with me, as I had now gained one position higher in our category. Clive is far quicker and skilled than myself. Orange don’t seem to have got the ST4 quite right, not really a XC racer, neither an all mountain bike. Is there a category for it to sit in? Not sure on that one.
That left three of us. We lined up stupidly near the back of some forty six riders, chatting away to other like minded souls. Respectfully there was a two minute silence for the brave who lost their live’s during the War(s).
Then, tension rising and the horn sounded the start. It was a real scramble to try and jostle for position as nearly fifty men tried to push their way into some sort of order.
The first hundred metres was a fire road climb followed by another few hundred metres of fairly flat fire road. I had been pushed back half a dozen places at the very start trying to get clipped in. All I wanted to do now was find Tony and Brian, a few hundred metres later and a booming heart beat coupled with frantic breathing I found them and tucked in behind.
The singletrack was upon us, for the next two miles the pace slowed to a proccesion as if an F1 race was following the pace car. It seemed senseless even considering trying to pass anyone, as there was no where to pull back in.
Then came the gloop, a section of probably one hundred feet of three or four inches of chocolate mousse covering some slimey roots, followed by a climb. Not that it was unrideable, but with so many people slowing to gain traction the walking commenced.
Once at the top of the hill there was a sprint down a short bumpy fire road section. This is where I can see my Specialzed Epic comes into it’s own against the ultra light race carbon hardtail’s. Having the rear suspension with the integral brain, it work’s a treat. I was to find that I could pass people on the bumpy downhill sections, only to have my place taken from me on the smooth uphill sections ( I really need to work on my little leg’s).
The singletrack was a hoot, Tony and I commented on how much of the course we remembered from riding as a group on our trip to Swinley. One thing that was apparent, we were definitely riding across some fairly knarly conditions faster than we might usually (race heads on).
I passed Brian as he was picking himself up from an off, all OK and he was soon up behind me. Then came my turn, slipping on a root, me one way the bike the other. No damage done, back up and running only losing one place I think to Brian. Not wanting to be left out, Tony decided he should also fall off, as well as greedily having mechanical issues with his not so broken (as Clive’s) Orange of the Clockwork variety.
Joking aside, I know Tony’s shoulder was giving him some grief. Considering he is in early recovery from a broken collarbone, which was collected in this neck of the woods I might add. You done good! I think he will soon be leading the way, if he has anything to do with it.
The first lap seemed to me quite fast once you were able to get going, the second seemed slower and the third even slower. Once I viewed the lap time’s at www.timelaps.co.uk I was surprised to see the lap time’s were fairly consistent. It certainly didn’t seem that way.
Brian finished before me and placed a fantastic 11th from forty nine finishers, really impressive considering this was his first try at XC racing I believe. I finished 23rd, five minutes behind him. Tony was not far behind me. As far as the whippets in the other two categories were concerned, let’s put it this way, I would love to be near the time’s that they achieved.
So all in all a good day’s work I believe. I thoroughly enjoy the feeling you get from racing and will hopefully soon return to the sound of that start horn.