Despite being off the airwaves for some time, I’ve actually been very busy recently and have managed to squeeze in some great riding and racing around all the fun and games of fatherhood.
The National Cross Country Championships was always being to be a tough race. Being dead last on the grid made a mountain into erm, something bigger and harderer. I stood in the holding pen as it emptied feeling like the kid who hadn’t been picked for the football team…. Right from the back, I knew a high finish was going to be a huge ask. Having ridden no points events I couldn’t complain though. Off we went and I hit the first bottleneck as the field squeezed and slowed through the first fence. Up a steep climb and I picked through a few places. The descents were super steep and technical - here I ’should’ make up ground… but hold ups and bodies everywhere resulted in frustratingly slow progress made worse by the knowledge that the fast guys would be accelerating off into the distance.
It took about two of the four laps to get clear track. Despite picking off a few more places it was clear I was not going to be in the mix for a top five, which had been my original goal. Oh well, in retrospect I realised that 13th from the back row wasn’t so bad and I’d learnt a valuable lesson; if I’m going to do any more xc I need to get up the grid, especially at that level.
Next was the Selkirk CRC Marathon. Hadn’t done this in years and just fancied it purely on the basis that it’s a flippin ace ride. The weather was absolutely perfect; sun had followed a few days of rain and northerly winds which always produces clear air and fantastics views. And you don’t get views much better than the fell tops around Selkirk.
Off behind the pacing car. I felt good. Sat at the front and car pulled off. I just eased into a steady pushing pace and got my head around the pleasant thought of a fast day in big hills. Just got my head down and dug in. Then after a solid ten minutes of climbing I glanced back… to see I was totally on my own with a bunch about 5om back. Marvelous! I held my lead for about two hours and continued to feel bang on. And then totally out of the blue… cramp! I was bloody furious! I hadn’t felt like I had over exerted – perhaps it was hotter than I realised. Riders streamed past me. I got really hacked off as I was glued to spot. I think I may have even started swearing and screaming at inanimate objects, like trees, and my now useless legs.
Anywho… I recuperated and set back on the chase. Which went really well actually. On Minch Moor I caught sight of the leaders again. Big effort – legs working properly again. Maybe I can pull this ba… SNAP! went my chain and it slithered off my drivetrain onto the floor…. Bugger! Knowing that the lead was gone I calmly sorted the chain and just aimed to get around the course with a shortened chain and no more mishaps. And I really enjoyed the last few hills. In fact I was flying and finished with plenty left. 4th finisher was pretty good considering, but I would have loved to be first finisher; Selkirk Merida was one of the first Marathon rides I did some years back (and I finished considerably further back!) so to have got the fastest ride would have meant a lot to me. Oh well, the form is there and I left Selkirk feeling well happy after a great day in the hills.
Next big trip was this weekend gone; West Highland Way / Fort Bill road trip with Ant White and Chris Pedder. (Heck my wife’s good to me!). Day one was Tyndrum to Fort Bill along the WHW to stay with my main Scottish Man Dougie Pryce (who, as ever, provided Great Scottish Hospitality by the bucket load. He even washed our clothes after we rode. That’s fancy livin’) the next two days were spent riding the Nevis Range including a beautiful if non technical singletrack route out to Spean Bridge. Kind of reminded me of Life Cycles, which we had watched the night before. Dougie’s knowledge of the area is so good that he always takes me to fantastic little corners I would never find myself. Cheers mate!
So after a great long weekend we made the long trip back and the ideas started to crystalise… The WHW Double. I had considered it in the past, following my 2009 UK Coast to Coast ride. But the idea lay dormant in the back of my mind. After riding half the route, I suddenly realised that I really want to, no have to do it. OK, it’s not a race but it’s a fantastic, technical, beautiful and edgy challenge. My UK Coast to Coast ride still remains perhaps the most amazing experience I have ever had on a bike and the desire for an ultra distance wilderness ride needs satiating once more. Who wouldn’t want to ride through Glen Coe in the midlle of the night with (hopefully!) starry skies and deer’s silver eyes blinking on the fells that surround you? The black of the mountains and rocky cliffs blocking out the sky; invisible but you can feel the gravity bearing down on you. The Devil’s Staircase; next time I’m there it will be late September, the night will be creeping in and the adrenalin of a surreal night will start to course through my blood….