So we had a wet, muddy highly technical race on our hands, we being Nick and myself. I should point out at this point that the Milton Keynes course is a tricky little bugger, people sneer at the thought of XC in Milton Keynes, but they soon have that sneer wiped of their faces at the first off camber tree lined clay track. The Bowl is a huge amphitheatre, a huge crescent of earth with a tree lined top hiding a continuous drop back down to it's original level. The race uses this man made climb and decent zig zaging back and forth, then it throws in a long stretch of off camber as you traverse the Bowl through the trees. The other part of this course is over the spoils of the Bowls construction, which nature has long since taken over, a rider was bitten by an Adder there last year!
So to the race. Not the usual 45 minute XC race start, far steadier. As XC isn't my forté I was going for the steady approach thinking three hours would be enough to reel other riders in. However lap one was a disaster. At the first switchback that led into the trees and a climb my jersey caught a tree, taking me down and ripping the shirt off my arm. I was last man riding by the time I got going and my Mojo was in a place nowhere to be found. I was floundering like a fool, slipping at every turn. So I stopped, let out a lot of air and pressed on, much better.
My fitness was good, but I couldn't make the most of it as I couldn't get my XC head on so steady I went. The course was hard and slippery so you had to memorise each and every part of the circuit. Where to change gear, where to go wide, when to stand, where to sit. And where in the name of God was I going to be able to grab a gel or drink? One place, a short stretch of gravel between the amphitheatre and the woods.
With the course etched on my mind and the 10 second food stretch sorted I slowly gained momentum. My times were improving and I started to pick off a few riders. Though every now and then I'd lose it and skid or hit yet another tree. After a few hours the course started to dry and some of the undergrowth that had slowed me earlier had now been cleared by the constant passing of riders.
By 9pm I was riding on lights, the woods and overcast skies weren't letting in any light, but strangely following the beam of my L&Ms helped a bit, I suppose I was looking further ahead as you should do.
In the last dark hour I seemed to be alone, wondering if an Adder was going to have me for lunch tonight. Or would anyone find me if I cam off on the 100MPH downhill gully?
I couldn't read my watch, but I completed a lap and was told 47 seconds, which meant I got in 47 seconds before the three hour cut off and could start another lap...whoopee. Off I went, and this time I was alone, so no mater how fast I went I'd not improve my overall standings. With the last lap underway it started to rain again, I counted my blessings that it had remained dry all race and crossed the line to finish 17th overall. Though entered as a Grand Vet I don't think they divvy up the results. I finished feeling pretty pleased, shame about the ruined club jersey and the arm covered in claret and Nicks practice lap bent hanger, but that's XC.
One week two races.
|Post race, still clean and intact|