It’s been a funny year. I haven’t quite got the results I wanted but looking back on them, ‘in a list’ they actually looked quite good! Plenty of 2nds but, heh could have been worse!
However I started the year with a win at the Winter Warmer Marathon at Kielder. Then got a 3rd in the Border Raid, the May leg of the series, (after flying down a hill in precisely the wrong direction!). Next installment of the series was the Hot Trod. Got there in a hurry with Glen, jumped out the van with ten minutes to the start… to find I’d left my helmet, shoes, clothes etc. on the kitchen floor… Doh! (We ended up having a good ride in Northumberland though).
I’d only needed to put in a reasonable finish that day to acrue enough points to make a half decent finish at the Oktoberfest more than enough for the series win. As it stood, on Saturday morning, I pretty much needed to win to top the points table…
So why did I drink three pints of Grolsch on Friday night after not having a drink all week…..?
I stood on the start line feeling decidedly queasy. My warm up sprints had left my legs feeling bruised and heavy. I was desperate to pee following the two pints of water I had knocked back for breakfast in a desperate and naive effort to rehydrate…
There were a couple of Wheelbase riders on the front line and Steve Young, a solid rider and a man I had to beat; he was second in the points table. He hasn’t beaten me before, (well, except when I took a wrong turning!) but he has been hot on my tail: in the Winter Warmer I finished just one minute up on him. I couldn’t, for example get a puncture, (or get lost!) and expect to get away with it.
Off we went, straight into perhaps the best bit of the course! A short stretch of super fun rooty singletrack. I slipped in behind one of the Wheelbase riders. When we got spat out on to fireroad I eased past him and settled into a steady fast climbing pace. Down again through a fun natural grassy bobbly section that your front wheel wiggled through easily if you let it. I hit this section pretty fast as I had decided I had to make time up on anything technical… grinding fireroad is not my strength and I expected plenty of it!
I wasn’t disappointed… but even on the first substantial fireroad drag I was pulling away from the chasers and felt exceptionally good. The mild hangover, (yes, I know it was only three pints… stop giggling at the back) had passed and I fell straight into a hard but comfortable pace and kept pushing.
I passed over a cross road. No sign told me to do anything else…
I kept the pace high, having decided to stretch the gap early… Minutes passed. No signs or marshalls. Then a two way fork. Still no directions. I could see the gap had risen to around thirty seconds. Bugger! What to do? They say it’s better to do something rather than nothing and, not wanting to loose the advantage, I tossed a mental coin and chose left!
Lucky really because, after a few hundred meters of gradual climbing, the left ran to a dead end. (Apparently, if I had chosen right I wouldn’t have hit another junction for miles…)
So… about turn. It was now a gradual descent so I hammered it downwards whilst shouting to the chasers we had gone the wrong way as I passed them, (with gravity on my side, I still managed to retain some of my gap ; )
Ian from the Bike Place was at the last junction and directed me back to the crossroads where the problem had started. Apparently, someone had removed a marker from the course at this point. Some suspect it’s a local who doesn’t like mountain bikers. I can see their point; there really isn’t much space in Kielder to just do your own thing and let others do the same! If by random chance, the perpetrator is reading this, read my lips; you are an idiot. There are various reasons for this, but here’s the main one; if a rider had continued in the wrong direction, crashed, got lost, hurt themselves, got caught in bad weather etc. etc. etc. nobody would have known their whereabouts…. So not very clever really.
Anyway, back to the action. I was now royally at the back of the race, except the five riders who had followed me before the marshalls had got there; this still chasing group included Steve Young, luckily for me! I’ve been in this position before, and if I’m totally honest, I quite enjoy the adrenalin and excitement of charging through the pack, not quite knowing where the front is! I was pushing harder than before but still felt very very good. But the feeling that I wasn’t destined to win this series nagged at the back of my mind!
Into the first lap transition and I scanned the marshalls… I had given Robert a bottle to hand to me. He wasn’t there. Bugger! I had no drink left and an hour and a quarter riding to go. The nagging was back… No time to think, just keep riding….
Fortunately, I saw him about fifteen minutes later. Phew! And thank you Robert!
Any K100 riders remember the horrible zig zag climb up onto the wide high level board walk? Well, soon after this point on the second lap, I established that I had taken the lead. And I couldn’t see anyone chasing me (there was a good view back at this point). I relaxed mentally but decided from here on I was going to capitalise on my good form and go as hard as I could. Each time I launched into a climb my legs whirred away almost effortlessly. I was really enjoying this!
With the end in sight, I relaxed and span over the line with a comfortable gap. Then I felt all queasy and hungover again.
Only one thing for it. Down to the Anglers Arms for a pint of Black Sheep before everyone else got back.
Riders trickled in and Steve and his wife joined me. Bought me (another) Black Sheep for ‘getting’ him again! A very noble gesture that will only serve to encourage me next season. I’m sure he’ll get his revenge one day!
So I won the series which was a nice end to the year. It’s a laid back series but a worthy one which raises funds for the local Air Ambulance. (I hope the course saboteur remembers that if they ever get lost / injured on the fells…)
It’s frustrating ending the season on a high; I really want to race now! Sure I’ll find something, perhaps some cx races… But, despite the slight dread of the winter creeping up, already I’m remembering why I like this time of year. Atmospheric dark commutes, deserted fells, brooding skies… And the day dreams of the season to come… Funny how targets help the winter fly past and before I know it, I’ll be back on the start line again full of nervous energy.
But probably not as much strong lager.
Something worked though…..
Thanks to Matt Jones for taking me up to Kielder following The Death of my Volvo : ( He rode the race and then got up today to run the Kielder Marathon…. Which he did in a very respectable 4.5 hrs on no running training! Good effort! Check out his next challenge and think of him when you scramble up that last K100 climb…. http://killerkielder.blogspot.com/