Anyways: 10 at Kirroughtree is a tough event. The course has no major climbing, but is pretty relentless in terms of technical riding. As such it tends to give racers little time to really recover during a lap. Also, because it is so much fun to ride, you tend to nail it pretty hard making mechanicals, punctures and broken chains commonplace.
For the first time in a good many years i decided to bring a gun to a gun fight - in so much as i had gears and a suspension fork this year. Bristol had left me pretty beaten up and i wanted to try and race not just survive the 10 hours. At 10pm i felt the first spats of rain, and it never let up through the night. It was going to be an interesting day...but I've done a few of these things over the years, so my prep was good, i had what i felt was a sound feeding strategy and i was pretty stoked when the start gun sounded.
On the first climb i rode for awhile with Stevo, velo VC Moulineer, before he made short work of the upper part of the opening climb and disappeared off to the pointy end of the race. More on him shortly.
My first two laps went by pretty quick. The course had been altered to include a steep short down/up off camber racked over 'new trail' section that even on lap 2 had racers literally crawling to try and climb. The ceaseless rain and non-packed 'trail' meant traction was a foreign language. Still, the rest of the course was generally good, though a lot of folk were having a hell of a time staying on their bikes down some of the sliders. I enjoyed testing the skills on those sections, and the gears and suspension made short work of everything else.
On lap 3 however, i split my rear tyre on the fast downhill towards the finish with a catastrophic latex spillage. The wet and mud meant the change wasnt a quick one and i got pretty cold in the rain. i also fell rapidly out of the top 10 or so solo riders, a lot of whom i had relied on my quicker descending to stay ahead of. Anyways, knuckle down and back to it.
Some of the course was rerouted as riders struggled to stay on the course and the attrition rate was high. Out onto the fourth lap i was pretty despondent as my rear tyre started to lose air. A slow meant another change of tube, more time lost and getting colder. Instead i tried to ride a bit more carefully and get back to the start/finish where i could at least hope to change the tube and pick up a new one from my stash with a little over head cover. But my mojo had seeped away in the non stop rain.
The mental game started just as soon as i pulled in at adopted team mum Team Singular's area. If i kept going i was certain a top 10 was on the cards. So many were dropping out, and with the timing of my laps it was simply a case of keeping going. But i just didnt want to. to do well in a race through effort and canny racing is one thing. To do so out of waiting for others to stop is not quite as rewarding.
Conversely, i had lost too much time with the tyre issues to challenge for a top 5, which had been my aim prior to starting. It would have taken some form of catastrophe for the lead riders one and all for me to get that far up the standings. Cold logic, burst bubble, poor staying power call it what you will i called it a day.
Just as i made this decision, Steveo came roaring into the start/finish, had 2 buckets of water sloshed over the bike, one on him, a quick bite of food and away. He had the look of a winner, and sure enough the standings showed he whipped it into first place for the solo's.
For me, one to chalk up to experience, for VC Moulin a very, very fine win in challenging conditions. Chapeau Steveo.
Here is a wee video of the rce from MTB Cut.
On another note, our kit this year has been of the highest quality: i wore an Endura Lightweight Windtex Jacket for the race over a thin wool baa baa base layer, and my upper body couldnt have been better protected while i was riding. The breathability of the windtex along with the water resistance has made it absolutely my go-to piece of kit in all but the heaviest downpours. The full length zip allows fine tuning of core temperature with ease. Great bit of kit - i would highly recommend it to anyone riding in changeable conditions.