Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Matt No-Balls: Battle On The Beach

This weekend saw the 2nd annual Howies Battle on the Beach at Pembrey Country Park, the site of a former World War TNT production factory. Last years inaugural BotB saw 225 riders race the 3 lap format, over a course that consisted of fire roads, singletrack and beach terrain and was the first race of its kind within the UK.

Based on last years success its no surprise that this years event was also a sell out. What was more surprising was that it sold out at its new capacity of 600 riders within days of its unique midnight new years eve entry opening, which saw a twitter frenzy amongst those that attended last year whilst most people vomited to the sound of old lang syne. By 9am New years day, more than 250 entries had been submitted.
This event last year was my first cycle race of any description and its uniqueness - that it sees mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes fat bikes and everything else in-between race together, over the same course with relative parity - that made me take that plunge into racing.

Myself, Paul and Ben headed to Wales to test ourselves against a strong field of races including international entries from Holland, Belgium and Ireland as well as MTB and CX racers from all over the UK. This year in its slightly altered format saw a mass running start on the beach, where we left the soft formidable sand and headed in mass down to the tideline in search of harder sand to mount. I mounted too early in the soft sand and cost myself valuable time as Paul on a CX bike and Ben rocking a unique retro Kona FS 26” MTB frame fitted with 700c CX wheels (with all of around 0.01mm of tyre clearance in the rear) got away and made it into the lead group of about 50 riders whilst i failed to make the gap from the 2nd group on the 5km of beach into the welsh headwind.

After 3 laps of beach, single track and fire roads the race was won by a Dutch beach racer Ramses Bekkenk of Holland’s KMC-Mitsubishi-Koga in a time of 01:21:12 ahead of his team mates Bram Rood & Stefan Vreugdenhil. Paul finished 35th in open male in 01:36:13 (50th overall), Ben finished 50th in open male in 01:40:38 (79th overall) & I finished 51st in open male in 01:41:41 (83rd overall) from a field of 183 in Open male and almost 600 in total.
Those post NYE minutes we all spent getting our entries in paid dividends as this years event was just as much fun as last years. Sure all our results didn’t quite live up to our positions last year, but the event from its 1st to 2nd running has moved on so much and can now genuinely be seen as a significant win in any riders palmares. Im already looking forward to next years event which has been penciled in for March 20th 2016. For me, its now back to racing Mud Sweat and Gears at Round 3 on the 10th May.