I haven’t been on my bike since the D2D on 4 October for one reason or another. Initially, I just didn’t want to, having been worn out by my efforts; more recently family has got in the way and a niggling doubt about getting a cold. But it hasn’t materialised so maybe it was just the effects of the dust at Thetford.
Some of that dust must have magic properties though as we went out last night in a good old fashioned XC ride with my bike still unwashed from our Norfolk adventure. Despite reluctantly taking my race number off the Orange before the ride it seemed there was still plenty of XC fire in my belly.
Meeting at the garage as usual, our clan-meet consisted of Matt(P7), JohnR, Tony, Lee, Jez, Mark, AndyC and myself. We decided to aim for Box Hill and Headley since we haven’t headed that way for a while and after a bit (OK, a lot!) of chatting we set off up Crabtree Lane and through Wiggly Wood. Despite the odd bit of rain the trails were once again bone dry but now with the steady build up of leaf matter. When it finally gets wet (as it must) these hills are going to be one slippy hell for a while.
But not just yet. Everywhere was a pleasure to ride last night and I was making the most of it. After the ‘wall ride’ at the start of the Tanners climb we settled into the climb proper. With my recent short break and a new found willingness to push I found it strangely bearable even though it’s one of my least favourite slogs around here. Pretty soon we had a breakaway group of the usual suspects (John, Jez and Tony) but surprisingly, I was in there too. Thankfully we got a chance for a breather at the top where Lee discovered he’d picked up some suspect ‘berry matter’ on his backside!
Down toward Denbies we headed for the left hand drop down to the vinyard. For the first time this year I actually led the group down so could pick my own line for a change. With the advantage of the Five’s lovely suspension travel it was great fun although I nearly over-cooked the left hand turn. Coming out onto the Denbies concrete Tony had a near miss with a badger that ran out in front of him. That’s four incidents this year I think now (with Colin’s badger nadger gnarler being the worst) but there must be an awful lot of badgers out there!
After a short stop for Matt to sort out a puncture we started on the Box Hill climb. This is the first time I’ve tried it for probably about four months as we’ve always seemed to be riding elsewhere. With no real intentions of setting a quick time I made a note of the elapsed time on my computer (41.50) at the bottom and set off, some 30 yards behind the last riders and about 60 from the leaders. Yet slowly I reeled them in. By the time I’d reached the Box Hill road I’d almost caught John and Jez at the front and my speedo was reading 49.34. According to John and Tony the ‘official’ DoMTB finish line is crossing the big hump to the car park so I can probably knock off 10 seconds or so. Which means with a bit of squinting I set a 7:34 time up the climb! I’ll settle for that – I told you, that D2D magic dust was still working…
After that we rolled on toward Headley, parting from Mark, John and Matt at the top of Happy Valley before a fast mud free blast across the Heath to the car park. From there, it was into secret singletrack which is just starting to get rideable again now that it’s summer abundance is starting to die back. It’s still pretty difficult to spot a clear line though if you don’t know it’s twists and turns and the lights created quite a bit of shadow too to confuse things.
Our final blast back to Leathehead took in the Tyrells Wood decent and Alsation which we strung together into one long flowing run if you discount the car which nearly took Tony out at the gatehouse. In fairness, I think the guy lived there! He was only trying to park… With that behind us we cracked on, me following a very fast Tony and Jez down Alsation. What a blast. I jumped clean over the track half way down and landed in a lovely smooth flow with both wheels landing together; I even impressed myself but don’t ask me to repeat it!
Back in civilisation, we dropped Tony off at the Leisure Centre while Jez, Andy, Lee and myself carried through to Bocketts and up to the A246 where we finally parted back at the garage. 19 miles under the wheels and a lot of fast riding with plenty of chat seems like the ideal combination to me.