Friday, 31 October 2014

The Club Run

Although this blog is for my personal use, this little post...rantette is open to and indeed welcome to comment.
The club run? I've been riding Sunday club runs through the seventies, eighties, nineties, naughties and now the what ever it is we call this period in time. For those first four decades the club run was just that, a club run. So blindingly simple no rules were ever needed. In fact there wasn't if I recall correctly any thought process in the action of riding a club run.
Everyone turned up, all ages and all abilities and off we went, The weather wasn't discussed, and there was no mention of distance or that of hills. Weather distance and hills were a forgone conclusion, a matter of fact.
Then there were the riders. Back then when a rider joined your club for the first time he rode with you as if you'd been on the bike together since leaving the womb. It seemed such a natural act there was never really a need to communicate, though we did of course. You rode a wheel because you knew you were safe behind the man in front. You rode wheel to wheel and two abreast everywhere. Verbal instructions to your club mates just didn't exist...they just didn't need to.
The kit. clean bikes always, a dirty bike was just poor form. Everything worked, though granted it was far simpler then. Cables crimped at regulation length, no rattles. black shoes and white socks. And certainly no computers, most churches had a clock and you'd be back in time for dinner. A hundred was a hundred and not 62 miles.
It was so simple, so well oiled, a thing of aesthetic beauty.

So to the present.
How in the name of all things sacred have we managed to make such a pigs ear out of something that was once perfect?
Why do so many modern club cyclists refuse to ride as a club? That's actually a genuine question. How did the rider of the past just know what to do seemingly from birth? Trust was instant. He would know if you were tiring and ease off or tow you for a while, and you'd all work together without having to be asked. Pulling away from the group would be seen as showing off, and pulling away from the group after spending all day on a wheel to do so would mean a trip to Coventry.
Riders do it all the time now, there seems to be no shame in sitting in all day long just to show everyone what you can do on the next climb.
And assisting your club mates seems to be a long lost art. What seems to constitute an assist by many is actually an attack. With so much science at the hands of the modern rider he still seems incapable of understanding that by following a wheel he is saving up to thirty percent of the energy the rider in front is using. Many a time now a rider will just surge forward past me  as I slow from towing him along, why can't he see that surging past won't help the man in front or anyone in the group, when what he should be doing is hooking up with his slowing brother.....offering a hand if you like.
We call the rules etiquette these days, but there isn't a need for the rules of etiquette as the rider should be a well mannered sportsman.

Calling out. Rather controversially the warning call makes me cringe.
When we could ride wheel to wheel and two abreast without the rest of the group half wheeling into a six abreast beast there was no need for a call ever. Two maybe three hand signals existed, the point down to a hole, the hand on the back to warn of an obstacle and the arm up for just about anything from a horse in the road to needing a wee. Now it's verbal diarrhea. Car ahead! really there should be no need to shout that there's a car coming the other way. You shouldn't be in their lane and YOU should be looking where you're going. car behind, if you're all neat and we go.....riding wheel to wheel, two abreast not half wheeling, not surging and breaking up the group the car behind can get past easier as they'll see a neat and tidy and predictable group.
Holes. Shouting hole is useless. Two reasons, a) you need to know where exactly hence the point and b) if they are everywhere then you'll know about it because your looking where you going aren't you.

The club run hijacker. The club run is 'the' club run and not a vehicle for personal gain, that's training or Strava'ing. It's oil and water. That's not to say there isn't room for competitive fun like taking the village sign or the sprint to the top of the hill, but the way to do it is to do it in a way that entertains the group and must see you exhausted at the end. Surging out of the group isn't the same, that's underhand competition. And constant surging before returning to rest in the group is a cardinal sin.

I've had a read over what I've written and I stand by it. It's too complicated, too many rules where rules aren't needed, too many choices. A little lacking in manners and an unwillingness to take advice?
Myself? I'll continue to strive to keep it simple in form and practice

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Central CXL Round 4 RAF Halton

Ten of us this time. Ten LBRCC riders racing, I remember when the club wasn't even that big! Our host venue were the superb grounds of RAF Halton, you could tell it was on forces land as it was immaculate.  The weather was almost immaculate except for the pretty strong winds, so all in all a pretty good venue for the LBRCC novices, the experienced racers and the many LBRCC spectators alike.
As usual the Novices went off first, we had six in this class including two novice novices! Emma and Kevin. Before we went off to warm up we watched the start, and then dashed off to see how they got on in the 'bowl' a steep drop with a tight turn to take you back up and out again........ Once they were underway we got on with our warm ups.
The course was a mix of well clipped grass and dry loamy singletrack, and all 100% rideable. The circuit was a beauty, with a little less singletrack it would have been a classic cyclocross course. Not a thing was an issue under tyre, only the increasing wind speed was an issue.
In no time at all we called up by the commissaire. I was called up to the front again, and then noticed that being in lane 8 on the left I was further away from the first bend, a right hander than some of those behind me?

We get a 45 second countdown, except it's not counted down and when the whistle goes I'm a little caught out and fumble with my trailing pedal. The benefit of the front row gridding is already lost. I knuckle down, I'm on the back of the fast guys with a gap behind me. To me it looks better than it actually is. We come to the first demanding part of the course a sudden loamy steep climb, and bosh the rider in front stops to walk it and a flash of team green goes flying past.....Miles. I un-clip and run to the top to see Miles almost finishing the next sector. I chase like hell to no avail, he is cementing a lead. We hit the Bowl and luck fails me again, two riders tangle and fall on the climb making me dismount and run again. Miles is away off and I'm mentally banging the bars with frustration. I won't give up, so carry on with my chase. He is stronger in the open, but I make gains on the technicals, and to make matters worst he is having better luck with walkers and fallers than me. It becomes clear that we are neck and neck, but our fate is being decided by others.
Dropping into the Bowl

Finally I get one clear fully ridden lap and I'm right on Miles tail. It's now that Andrew and Jules sail past. The scenario confuses me a little, Miles is ahead and we've held the Vet 40 pair off for longer.
I shake my self into action, but I haven't formulated a race plan, so when I see Miles luck take a turn for the worst (skidding into a rider with a rolled tub) I tear past, what was I thinking? After the race Jason from Team MK says I was flying at that point and barely keeping within the barriers.
I overcook it and fade in the final turns allowing Miles to take club honours.
Miles takes 17th and I trail in five seconds later to take 19th.
Andrew and Jules also take 17th and 19th in the Vets 40/49.
Neil took 2nd in Novices, with Kevin 5th, both are moving up to their relative age bands for their next race, Seniors and Vet50 respectively.
Ross, Darren and Stephen took 7th 8th 9th in that order, and Emma our first lady to race? taking 22nd
Andrew V40
Miles V50
Carl V50

Jules V40
Massive thanks to Ashley Lewis for his great images and his support on the day, cheers.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Central CXL Round 3 Culham Park Oxfordshire.

After a two week rest myself and Team Green were back on the cyclo cross circuit. A record nine members were out to test man and (machine in some cases) against the dreaded Culham Park course, a course which serves as an MX circuit for the rest of the year. Thankfully damp conditions the day before compacted the sand making the going fast. Well it should have been fast except the wind was up and keeping the tape monitors very busy. The wind was to play a major factor in the days racing.

First up were an LBRCC quartet going in the novices. Neil, Darren, Stephen and Ross. We watched them set off and couldn't help but notice how dominant the MTB's were, the fat tyres peerless in the sand and their suspension canceling the rough tussocky bone jarring straight. Once they were underway we vets went off to warm up. The course was familiar to me and one I enjoy. The wind however was a killer. During warm up I decided a race of attrition was on the cards. Also during the warm up Miles found the limit of his bike! We returned to see Neil and Darren come in top ten, and Steve and Ross trail in behind. Sadly Ross's race was marred by a good few 'SPD moments'.

Our turn. As usual the Vet 50+ riders go to the front, I was gridded front row again, and a look over my shoulder confirmed Miles to be right in behind me. To be honest I didn't really want to be front row, a wheel in these conditions would be a God send. Still there I was. The wind was making such a din I couldn't hear the commissaire giving the countdown so I just waited for the whistle. BOOM! we're off. So much for grabbing a wheel, I've got the 'holeshot' and out front leading the race. I lead out off the clipped grass and into the sands, I still have the front when we pop up into the crowd, it's a good feeling, but then the big boys start to filter past. Now I'm just a number fighting the conditions and trying to make up places.  The laps go well, no mistakes but I don't have the strength of some on the long stretches into the wind. Halfway in Jules in Vet 40-49 passes looking like he is on a Sunday stroll astride his mountainbike......bye bye Jules. The Andrew comes past, another Vet 40-49 rider, he even give me a cheery hello. Jules and Andrew have gone now. It's just me and my fellow Vet 50 riders to battle.  I have to work out where I stand. I glance across the course and see Miles closing in, I also clock some Trisports guys and a lone Finchley rider. These are the guys in my race. By the halfway mark I'm feeling good but unable to find another gear, by the time I've done another lap I can see that the Trisport guys, the Finchley man and Miles are exactly where they were previously. Still I can't lift it. We lap again, and again everyone is as was. Everyone is clearly as tired as me. I've had the bell so now it's just a case of keeping my race in order. Just one more leg sapping slog up the lumpy field into the head wind and onto the smooth as silk clipped grass to the finish. Three riders come off my wheel and pull away, I've just towed three guys to a better finish than me and I've got nothing in the tank to do anything about it, they're getting away. Then as I come out of lumpy field some one shouts my name....'don't let em get away.....c'mon' I don't know who it was calling out, but I got out of the saddle, put my head down and sprinted for the line clawing one place back again and taking the flag. After crossing the line I coasted out of sight to recover and joined a pool of racers slumped over machines waiting for normality to resume. It was tough racing, the class of field is far greater this season and almost double in size. It was also clear that the wind had made it's mark on the race. Getting out in front as early as possible was key, limits were reached with early efforts and the winds cemented riders into those reached positions. Possibly this will go down as the seasons tough one.

We're not over yet. Next Chris is off in seniors, Chris is a first year rider and as thus isn't getting favourable griddings. He has the unenviable task of learning the ropes and having to make his way up the field. Still he sets off well, clearly the technical issues he suffered at the National Bowl are sorted. We walk over to the main climb to give our support, his strength is evident as he passes riders going up. We then cross over to see how he goes on the flat, he is going well, but he is up against it in a very very strong field including Whyte Bike and Raleigh jerseys. I can't speak for Chris, but from the other side of the tape he looks like has a good race. A few more races and a half decent grid position will turn the tide, I think.  

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Pyrenean end of summer

It had been a year since we were last in the midst of the Pyrenean giants, but here we were again Fraser Neil and myself all set for a week of riding some of the best cols the Pyrenees can offer.
We've just landed in Toulouse to a very welcome twenty eight degrees, just like starting summer all over again! we collected our car and drove to our destination  Luchon De Bagneres. The rest of Saturday was spent getting supplies, showering (not together) and getting familiar with the cafés before getting an early night.
Neil was on a hire bike, or would be at midday, I'd brought mine over and Fraser was on his bike in residence. The plan was to ride over the Portilon and into Spain on the Sunday afternoon, that was the plan. Then there was the hire bike, Neils hire bike was a bit of a character, quite a nice carbon LOOK on some nice Ambrosio blues. However the running gear was eclectic to say the least; Shimano Dura Ace, Ultegra, 105, Tiagra and Sora, but it didn't stop there Campagnolo and FSA and that's just what made up the gears and brakes. But hey ho off we went. The first problem comes when Neil can't change down, not ideal on a cat 1 climb. After getting off and moving the chain by hand we continue to climb, but Neil isn't happy on this bike and to make matters worse the heavens open at the summit.
We take stock and conclude that Neils bike is a piece of shit and unsafe in the mountains in this weather so head back down the Portilon to swap the bike. Descending off the summit in a downpour at full tilt is a special experience, great but scary at the same time. I hit the bottom and then bang, my tyre blows out, I'm very thankful it waited until I was off the mountain. The tyre is badly torn, we're soaked through and Neils bike is still shit. The day is called. Tomorrow we'll do a big one.
We'd spent the evening deciding on a circular route taking in at least four Cols, we spent the night deciding on what beer to drink so with perfect planning we get ready for the off. By now Neil is sorted and is riding a Scott with envy inducing triple chainset. Fraser is on a sublime Time road bike and me? well I've just blown another tube so Fraser is now in pursuit of a new tyre and more tubes while I faff myself into a sweat. Fraser returns with a nice new Conti which is duly fitted. Finally I'm ready to go.....except my Garmin wont locate, I eventually give up and set off. We set off down the valley road at a cracking pace, the sun is shinning it's about twenty nine degrees, all is good. Then we cross over a railway line and I loose my drink, the lids are off and the bottles are emptied, my day isn't getting any better is it? I salvage a few drops to last the next 100km, the next four summits and the increasing heat.
The valley takes us out 30km and then it's onto the first Col, the Col Des Ares a steady 797 metre ascent to warm up the legs. Soon we get our first hairpins, this is the stuff. We press on yo yo'ing each other to the top  and passing local riders on the way. It always surprises me how well our club members climb considering where we live! We stop for the customary Col top photo, and push on, well drop off the top nose to stem.
Blurry summit piccy first of four today

The next Col is the baby one, the Col Des Buret at 599 metres. These two might be babies amongst .the giants, but the Tour comes over these. That said the Buret is easily done, We're now on our way to the Col de Menté, but first we have to encounter a mountainous forested road, not a major climb but a road that tricks the brain into thinking the big ring would be ideal. You start to question yourself about how you're feeling, my bikes hardly moving but the road seems to point downward. We eventually look at each other with that 'is it me or is this bloody hard' look, it's not just me. We slip the big ring, sit down and tempo to the end. I didn't need that.
We are now at a junction, a real juicy one. Right and it's the Col De Menté or left and it's the Col d'aspet. Last year I came off the Menté  and missed my turn during the La lapebie sportive. Instead of turning for the 599 metre Buret I got onto the 11% gradients of the 1069 metre Aspet. Luckily a kind soul chased me down and told me of my error. Today though we would venture onto the Aspet, but just to pay our respects at the memorial to Fabio Casartelli who during the 95 Tour crashed and died on one of the Aspets bends. I wonder how sobering the white stone memorial must be to current day riders as they push the limits on the descents. (Fabio Casartelli 1970-1995)
We stay longer than expected at this spot.

Next for us is the Col De Menté at 1349 metres. I sneak off ahead knowing there is a short drop at the start of the climb and use it to catapult me up the first few metres! The Menté is not technically hard, but it's a hell of a toughie a real 'time stands still' climb, It's also exposed and therefore hot. We spread out and do our own thing to get to the top, passing a few locals is a bonus, but not enough to take the niggle in my back away and it's only day two. I'm sitting high on my bars and wondering if I can get a 27 or 28 cassette in town, I even press my Ergos hoping for another gear. The 25 tooth is making it real now. Although seemingly spread out over the mountain we summit within seconds of each other. The summit of the Menté offers great views and a piccy opportunity, but nothing can keep us from descending the fantastic road below us, especially when it takes you into another country in this case Spain. We descend batshit fast, Fraser has gone and myself and Neil are in tandem. I spend moments nose to stem hoping for a 100kph moment and other times up on top gob smacked by the views. We come across Fraser already with his wheel out after blowing out on the fast descent, lucky boy is still upright.  We get it sorted and finish the descent, we've also ditched clothing, it's so warm now even the descent is hot. We reach the bottom, grab the big ring and turn left for Spain.
It's only about 16km to the start of our final ascent, but we're into a full on headwind that's dragging upwards and its pretty hot. Neil does a sterling job of pulling us to our water stop in Bossost, though his hard work isn't going to be rewarded later on. We down iced Cokes, watch a man drive his pick-up into a fountain and move on.
It's the Portillon again, the Col du Portillon at 1293 metres. One more climb and it's out of Spain and back into France and a favourite descent to Luchon and home. I'm doing 'my usual' feeling cheeky as we near the end of the ride, so after settling in I up my pace for fun! Near the top I can hear a Flute? It's pretty annoying and sure enough at the top there's a bloody hippy sat cross legged on a rock playing the flute. To misquote the Inbetweeners 'there's always some c@@t with a flute' It also starts to pour down, so it's a soggy hippy. We file into the summit top café for some mountain food and to sit out the passing storm. Bread ham cheese and coffee, classic. We grab the Col top piccy and hoon off down. Twice down the Portillon in two days, I am therefore expert at this, convinced I'll not have a second blow out I push it a bit until one bend nearly catches me out. I reign  it in we regroup and roll home. Day over, four Cols 110km.
Day three is our rest day, we always have a day off for something different.....or a rest. I think we shot ourselves in the foot with this years 'day off'. Hiking was the cunning plan, so we'd all packed walking boots for a nice restful gentle plod in the Pyrenees.  Our chosen destination was Pic de Céciré. You simply summit Superbagneres at 1790m and hike the rest to 2410m. It was bloody gorgeous, pretty hot as well and definitely not restful. A walk like this is hard on the cyclists legs even with the Leki poles taking some of the strain. I certainly start to wonder if this is a rest of actually harder than riding. I'm also sunburnt now! We finally summit and sit for lunch of bread and cheese. Going down is far quicker, but it feels like my feet are trying to break out of the front of my boots it's so steep, I'm convinced my socks have melted. Soon though we are down and phase two of the rest day is about to start. We're off to the Thermes to sweat it out in the 42o caves and pummel our legs in the spa pools. The Thermes are better than anything man made and we stay there until closing time. I feel ready for day four.
Day four is a single climb, we're going up the hors catagorie (HC) Port de bales 1755m. This is an absolute favourite of mine if done from the 'hard' side and the 'hard' it was. The ride started off with a great 30km warm up going down the valley from Luchon. This time there were no blown tyres, no Garmin problems and no water bottles spilling over the road to ruin the start, just a 35kph ride in the sun. After 30km the route turns off the D125 to Siradan and follows a beautiful route that undulates through farmland and village to Mauléon-Barrouse where soon the route turns right over the waters that have come down from the mountain we are about to climb. The first kilometres of the climb are steady through forest. The warmth of the farmland below has given way to fresh cool mountain air, so far the climb is pleasant. Then there it is, the first hairpin....things are about to get all very pointy from herein now. Last year this was the last of four Cols I climbed in the La lapebie, then the climb was strewn with riders in all sorts of pain, I find great pleasure in other peoples pain when riding, not my friends of course, but when you're on your chinstraps as we were then, it's who can manage the the pain the best.
Spinning on the early slopes of the Bales

Neil has gone on ahead, whilst I adopt Audax mode for a while to ease in the legs. As the gradient steepens the mountain becomes more exposed and it becomes damn hot. It's quite  nice to be alone climbing this beast. The kilometre to go signs act as a torment, especially the one that says 9.5% average but then starts with a slight drop, you just know you're in for a beasting at some point. When it comes I literally wobble to the top it's all I can do to avoid the rockfall that litters the road. Even the sunbathing Lizards  don't rush to get out of the way.
I'm given a gentle breather as the road cuts through the Pas de Canadien, last year there was a feed station here, no such luck this time. \however the gradient drops to 7% for a while, just enough to ease tired legs before the summit appears 4km away and before the final exposed push starts. I see Neil a few hairpins ahead, but he soon disappears. I think he is close, but the road  zig zags away seemingly taking me further away from my summit goal, Neil is clearly further away than I thought.
Finally I'm almost there with just the metre markers to push home the effort. 300......200.....100 and I'm at the top. I hadn't noticed the sun being replaced by cloud and wind in the last few kilometres, but now it was cold so arm warmers and gilets go on. We take the obligatory col top piccy and head down.
Say cheese

The descent is one of the finest, and I'm a little surprised to find I can recall most of the turns. However that doesn't help when a car takes a hairpin too fast and comes head on at me, only diving into the storm channel alongside the road saves me from a visit to the Pearly Gates. It doesn't slow me and I'm happy with my off road 'skilz'. It's crazy what you do sometimes. Neil got to the top first so I want to get to the bottom first, ideally sat drinking a coffee when he comes in!  I get to the bottom ahead, but I've no cash damn it.
Port de bales is a real tough one, and one col today is enough as it's three big ones on day five.
Day five is three cols. The Peyresourde 1569m then the Col d'azet 1580m then the Peyresourde again two Pyrenean and Tour classics. We start the climb or the first climb of the Peyresourde virtually from the front door, which I can tell you is plain ugly. Fraser on fresh legs is well up the road, followed by myself then Neil who must be paying for his blast to the top of the Bales?
First hairpins on the Peyresourde

We regroup at Garin and take a detour that traverses Portet De Luchon before spitting you out on the main climb just before the climb becomes serious business. We summit almost together and stop for coffee and frites at the small summit café. Again the weather dictates arm warmers and gilets for the descent. It's another fast one, not too many bends you can get down this pdq. From mountain top to lake, we're now riding along the edge of Lac de genos-loudenvielle and slow down to absorb it's beauty. It seems an ideal place to stop and replenish drinks, so we do. We tempo along the other shore of the lake to the start of the climb of the Azet. This is another favourite of mine, with me it's not all about the height it's more how you get there and this one gets you to the top by pure hairpin bend!  I go to the front, sitting standing sitting again it's a climbers treat. Fraser is a little way behind me and comments on my shoulders, you see I don't like a rider that rocks his shoulders when riding, looks messy. Well my shoulders are well and truly rocking and I start to laugh at his comments, problem is laughing and trying to keep your lungs in don't go together too well and I fall back while Fraser passes. We group at the top and sit a long while taking in the views. And of course get the piccy.
Now for some fun. The descent of the Azet ooooh! Everything you know about balance, position and braking, actually everything you know about riding is needed to descend this one at full tilt. You get momentary glimpses of the lake bellow which just adds to the feeling of altitude. I could descend this all day or until my pads wore down to nothing! All to soon we spill out onto the shores of the lake below. Deciding we're hungry we head off for a café only to find that our extra long stay at the summit has robbed us of eating time, all the cafés are closed. Luckily there's a small supermarket serving the ski resort so we dine in the car park on bread and cheese.
All that's left to do now is climb the Peyresourde again. I really don't fancy this, I don't mind climbing, but the Peyresourde from here is a slog. I scarper off ahead to get it over and done with, but Neil and Fraser both come past. I curse the fact that Neil chooses this moment to find his legs again and it's all I can do to keep them both in sight. Neil is ahead, but I manage to ride in with Fraser. Lets say no more about that climb. The descent however!, not technical, but it has some run outs and I manage a good 53 mph plus chasing Fraser back to the front door.
Day six and the last day of riding is a climb to the top of Superbagneres 1800m and I think HC. I've been looking forward to this all week as I didn't manage it last year. The start is the hardest start of the week, we're climbing hard and we've not been riding five minutes! On top of this there's a strong headwind. I press on hard convinced I'm now a Belgian headwind specialist, I'm way ahead of Neil and Frasers out of sight. However today Fraser is on a hire bike after exploding a freehub. I know what's happened, he has landed another shit hire bike that doesn't work. Turned out that I was right.
I turn out of the wind and onto the hairpins, Neils a dot in the distance. I feel so good I can hardly feel the efforts of climbing. I'm just 3.5km from the summit when all of a sudden.....TWANG my back goes big time. This has never happened ever. I can't pedal and have to fall against a signpost to stop. I manage to slide the bike out from under me and await Neils arrival. I explain what's happened and we wait for Fraser, but I know deep down he won't be coming up the mountain. Sadly I have to descend, I roll down a few kilometres and wonder if it's worth trying again. I loop around, but my legs won't work, so back down it is. Two years running Superbagneres has beaten me.
So day seven is spent sitting it out watching the world go by. Next year I'll tackle Superbagneres before anything else.
So there it is another summer in the Pyrenees. It wasn't all riding, there's the good food, the finest beers, musical Whippet club vans, Spaniards crashing into fountains, after beer movies icluding the best use of the C word in a movie and in particular French Madams who just do a tight jean so well.
Tres bien.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Central CXL Round 2 Milton Keynes

Saturday 4th October and it's time for my first race of the year, not just my first CX race, but 'the' first race after taking a year out to pursue other cycling itches.
The venue is the MK Bowl, so local as can be. The weather, shall we call it text book cyclo cross weather? After a very dry summer the rain has decided to make it's debut the same time as myself and six other members from the LBRCC were to race. In fact for Ross, Steve and Chris it was their cross debut. Ross and Steve were racing with Neil in the earlier novices race, whilst Chris was going in the later Seniors race. But with me today were Miles, and stepping up into vets for the first time Julian.
Race protocol put us....Miles and me in front with the vet 50 group, and Julian a minute later in vet 40. Race protocol also puts the current Masters World Champion on the front row of my group. It's probably a bit flattering that I get called up 5th to the grid shoulder to shoulder with the Rainbow stripes. I don't see him again until the pictures are published! Miles is called up just behind me. We're ready to race.
The heavens open.....even more. The course is now ripped up......pulse rate is rising and my mouths dry. The whistle goes and it's take no prisoners pace. We sprint for the hill in front, getting up this ahead is crucial. I do well avoiding the collisions on the bend at the top and get clear in 6th place. I won't hold this, but it means the others have to do the work.
The lap goes well, I do feel rusty though so I measure my efforts. That pays dividends later in the race.

In the clear
Miles has it now

I know Miles is right behind me, I see him on the switch backs and hear Ashley telling him to get me....cheers guys. On the second lap he does, passing and making space on the rough stuff. In an attempt to chase him down I overcook a descent. The brakes don't slow me down enough and I go over. No harm done I go back for my bike and press on. Miles is now away.
When I say no harm done, to me that is. I now have no rear brake, all the descents now take on a more challenging obstacle.
As if it isn't hard enough!

For the next two laps we play cat and mouse. I'm looking to see where Miles is slowest. Well it isn't the Sunday social club run is it. On the penultimate lap I'm on Miles wheel and I stay there. Then my luck turns for the better as Miles luck turns for the worst. I notice he is having gear trouble on the climbs so I wait for the last hill of the penultimate lap and pass....sorry Miles.
We get the bell, last lap. If Miles gears don't play ball I'll have it, that said I want my fellow LBRCC team mate to follow me in. I concentrate hard on the last lap, I can't cock up now. Then I get a rude awakening as Jules comes past with one kilometre to go, forgot about him! I shadow Jules around the last few bends. I can see he is being cautious with his recently mended collarbone. I tail in right behind Jules for the flag with Miles I think a few places down, but all within seconds of each other.
Then that's it. All nerves replaced with handshakes and smiles. A superb race.