Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Do you remember the first time?

I like getting muddy.  I like bikes.  I want to share my passion for cycling with my family.  Attending a Rapha SuperCross last year with my family I was struck by the something-for-everyone nature  - this was an event, not just a race.  So I bit the bullet, invoked the N+1 rule and ordered a ‘Cross bike.  And now I am here. 

I line up amongst the Juniors and Seniors, a novice amongst professionals and amateurs.  In an hour, Rob Partridge will wipe the floor with the rest of the field – I won’t care then and I don’t care now.  This race is personal.  This is man and bike versus grass and mud.  I will slip on a corner and come off.  I will hit a muddy bit and slow to a crawl, forgetting I am allowed to get off and run.  I will remember to get off and run, and I will lose my footing.  My lungs will burn, my legs will burn.  Every muscle will beg me to stop.  And even though I think there’s no more, I will find just a little bit extra for those handful of seconds every lap when my kids run alongside me screaming encouragement. 

Every lap of the race the course changes and evolves– the off-camber corner that catches me out on lap one, I better on lap 2, is treacherous on lap 3 and has deteriorated to swamp by lap 4, destroyed by the procession of wheels and boots.

By the last lap the bike weighs double than at the start, everywhere clogged with grass and mud and shit.  There is a slug on my crank, completely unphased by it’s transition from bush to bike.  I am caked, covered in bruises from instantly forgotton knocks.  My throat is dry, my heart pounds and I am desperately searching for the line.

What do I learn in my first ‘Cross race?  Tyres are everything.  Tread and pressure, pressure and tread.  Water is everything.  Beer is everything.  Frites are everything.  A clean T-Shirt is everything.  Taking my children to play in the discarded foam wall is everything.  And I do it all again next weekend.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Badass Three Peaks 2013

I love the Three Peaks. It becomes a bit of an annual obsession. The problem so far is that I've been mediocre at best, and last year ended in tears when I tombstoned off the bike is disgusting conditions descending from Whernside. 

After a summer of fannying about, I wasn't really sure what to expect from this year's Peaks. I knew I wanted to do well but it's difficult to replicate Yorkshire's fells in South East London. The steps of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel can only get you so far. 

The day was gorgeous - blue skies and sunshine - but the wind on the fells was terrible. Whernside was blowing a near vertical gale so much so that it blew me into a wall. However, that little scuffle (and managing to fall off the bike before even getting the start line) was the only real mishap of the whole race. 

It felt good to be ascending Pen Y Ghent in a quicker time than I have done previously - there were fewer riders so it was much easier to keep riding higher up the hill. I kept telling myself that it's not over til it's over so kept going hard up Pen Y Ghent and on the final road section back to Helwith Bridge. I was dangerously close to getting under 4 hours and really wanted that time to cap off the day...sadly I failed and made it in 4 hours 57 seconds. Got the win though so that's what matters. 

Big up to ex ViCiOUS Perry for being at the foot of every fell despite me not taking any food or water from him. 

Photos courtesy of Geoff Waugh and Andy Jones. 

Now for some 40 minute races around somewhat flatter courses...