After the Andalucia Bike Race (our report is here; http://bikemagic.com/news/guest-blog/rich-rothwell-and-ant-whites-tales-from-the-2012-andalucia-bike-race.html) I was really looking forward to the Whinlatter Challenge for loads of reasons; the setting is amazing, the course challenging, the atmosphere superb, and it’s got loads of dead big hills and stuff. Perfect for the smaller gent in fact. Also, it’s usually my first race of the year so I go into it with no racing in my legs; this year I had Spain as the perfect pre-season hard block so felt I had some form.
Standing on the start line in lovely warm sunshine, most of the usual attendees were in position. Minus Rob Jebb… Feeling positive, the win was a possibility… However, I was also wary of the Keswick Mountain Bike lot and other Wheelbase riders, as well as Greig Brown (Dooleys Cycles). We’ve torn into each other on several previous occassions, in a friendly kind of way you understand.
And then with ten minutes to go, who should appear but Neal Crampton. Hmmm… The New Favourite. Anyways, off we went; the first selection in this race is always the long climb out of the blocks.
Very soon, Neal, Greig and I had formed a break and accelerated away from almost all the chasers. Nice. The start is crucial in this race because there is so much tight singletrack. Greig was descending superbly and the pattern became Greig pulls away slightly on the descents, Neal and I reel him back soon after.
Despite my incredible new Superfly Pro 100, I wasn’t descending brilliantly; it will take a while to get the bike set up correctly before I hit full speed downhill on the techy sections. However, it is a ruthless climbing and swooping machine and I felt comfortable holding both Neal and Greig. We worked well together, taking turns and sharing some light hearted chat. It was hard to be ‘head down’ on this one; the weather was incredible, the trails are superb and the views incredible; looking out towards Skiddaw it struck me that there are few races in the world with a view as good as that!
Back to it. After about two thirds of lap two, completely out of the blue, Greig er, blew. He virtually ground to a halt. A real shame as he had been so strong throughout. Just at that point Neal put in a very well timed acceleration. Perhaps the sudden shake up of the status quo threw me but I didn’t react in time to Neal and a 30 second or so gap opened up. And so it remained. (We all got lost just before the finish but that’s another story).
Tight and exciting racing indeed. We all rode a hard pace throughout and I was pleased with my result. Yes, I’d love to have won this one but Neal was quicker when it counted. End of.
All the places received generous vouchers for Altura clothing from Whinlatter Bikes. Much appreciated. Oh and everyone got a mug. Good heavy ones that make your tea taste even more magical. Happy days.
I’ll be back to try again next year. Love this race. Sorry, ‘Challenge” ; )