Monday, 8 June 2009
Bristol. The bike fest. Last year, i had decided that it was a target for this year.
What's not to like? Well organised. Fast racers. Good friends. Excellent rooty and rocky singletrack. Almost guaranteed sunny weather...
This year started with some heavy rain. To be honest it had been so dry and the ground baked so hard that this wasn't a major issue - as long as it stopped. For the supporters (to the vc-m crew - thanks all!) maybe not so good!
The course consisted of a le mans start into a double track climb, before a short decent down through the transition area, and into the singletrack. After a few minutes of roller coaster fun on the narrow gauge, it spat out onto the drive way of Ashton Court, and a short, mellow climb before descending rapidly into the trees. Some fun winding trail led to 'the bridge' - a notorious Bike Fest feature with an 'over' bridge, and an 'under' bomb hole that you rode after a f a s t descent where care had to be taken on some slippery roots burried in the ice-like mud - into a climb to the bridge feature.
After that, a slog round a singletrack to the side of a quarry then a rapid, high octane descent - punctuated with a punchy climb - into another winding singletrack through trees before back out into the open and climbing into the start/finsih area.
Points to note on the course: The bridge, even after a 5am effort to cover it in chicken wire, and then through the race with wooden grip slats, was pretty hair raising. The bomb hole began to fill with mud, making it a significant effort to get through without stepping off, whilst avoiding other riders. The slog after the bomb hole remained very sticky and energy sapping through out the race. The only recovery was the drive and the climb up the doubletrack, making it a pretty cardiovascular effort all in all. Laps came in at 40-45mins or so.
Unfortunately, a combo of rain and motorway issues delayed a lot of riders from arriving early enough for the 9am start. Instead the start was delayed to 9.30 am, making the race an 11.30 hour effort. No worries.
The VC Moulineers were well represented in all categories with Gareth in singlespeed solo, myself in open solo, shaggy from the 69er collective and phil in pairs and Marty joining chipps in the old buggers' pairs race.
The set up for the run showed that the rain hadn't turned too many folk away...and the queue for the first singletrack and then the bridge brought us to a standstill.
Before too long i got up to speed. The plan for the race was to 'not stop'. Sounds simple, but often a lot of time is wasted at the 'tech' area taking on fuel and making sure the bike is working. I was riding a singlespeed, so no worries there, and i had decided to use hammer perpetuem and nuun laced bottles through out, meaning all i had to do was stop to replace a bottle.
Lap 1 i saw phil speeding past further on - "tear the course a new one!!" - and had chance to chat to marty in the queues. Into the second lap, and i managed to not get too frustrated at the general level of riding on the course. It was slippery, and it is technical, rooty and rocky riding. You have to take it on the chin that the week end warriors are going to struggle at times, and if you want high percentages of singletrack, then passing will be limited.
Then puncture! i think from an errant wire on the bridge. Odd because the tube dropped 15 psi then held. When i got to a good situation to fix it, i checked for a thorn, and popped a new tube in and went for the co2. Oddly this caused the nozzle to jam open and the presta valve to jam open. The slippery mud, wet and freezing effect of the co2 must have been some sort of magik-bad-juju. after a lot of faffing, i eventually got it sorted, as marty sped by and made sure i was good to go.
The next few laps turned into a blur as the riders spread out and the mud dried as the precipitation stopped. Around lap 8, i rode for a while with matt carr from the 69er collective, and then once we crossed the halfway point, with gareth, who was having some issues with leg cramps. My feeding was going well, and the legs were feeling strong, but my back was beginning to spasm whenever i put any hard effort in. For the next couple of laps i tried a myriad of things to try and minimise the pull on the back. I walked the middle section of the climb up to the bomb hole, to allow time to stretch and decrease the overall climbing, and tried to sit and spin through as much of the technical stuff as i could. Speed dropped but comfort increased. Then i ditched the glasses as the course wasn't spitting so much mud, and after i could see to pick better lines, the last 3 laps sailed by with minimal spasm. Until half way through the last lap when i square-edged a rock in the bomb hole and punctured the front again!
I came in with 30 mins or so to spare but knew i couldnt get another lap in before the close (only laps finished before 9pm counted) and overall was very happy with how things went. In terms of *this* race, i kept it going continuously, and the nutrition and hydration was pretty close to perfect. The riding kit (thanks endura!), chamois butt'r and bike gave great comfort and the support was heartening.
5th in open, 16 laps and ready for the next race. Steve the ringer (aka the pencil) won singlespeed solo, with gareth jones in third. Marty and chipps were 4 seconds off fourth place and everyone else put in some sterling work!
Thanks for the photos love.