As part of my highly organised, not in any way just making it up as I go along, 'training' I decided to have a crack at doing the Brownbacks mtb series. I've raced at Lee Quarry before, a few years ago, even winning a prize in the Singlespeed category once, and so I thought I might come out of mtb retirement and have a dabble.
I took Will with me so that he could marshal and also so he could see what it was all about with a view to maybe doing it himself at some point. Slinging bike, gear and Will in the car we blatted off to Stacksteads. It was a glorious day, the sun really did have it's hat on. Once I'd registered and got Will packed off with the reflective jacket crew I sashayed back to the car to get my dancing trousers on ready for the balloon going up. I was quite disappointed to spot somebody else on a Singlespeed. And worse, it was a very racy looking 29 er with a racing snake pilot on board. Rats. There went my chance of unopposed glory!
I sulked off to have a mosey round the course. I knew that some of the JMC crew would be there, Terrahawk was riding over, Twinkly Dave was racing as was Jacqui - Phil's missus, so it wasn't a surprise to bump into head honcho and all round good guy Budge, knocking about. Whilst chatting to him and commiserating with him about his grip falling off I got his views on the course (he'd already ridden some of it). There was a bit of teeth sucking and elaborate arm gestures to demonstrate the numerous steep, rocky and generally life threatening bits which apparently littered the course. Gulp! I went to see.
Following the route markings I did indeed find some steep, rocky technical bits which did give me pause for thought. Hmm. Tricky.
Soon it was time to rack up on the start line. I realised that I hadn't brought a gel with me as I'd intended to and I must say that I am indebted to Jacqs and Budge for providing me with what turned out to be very neccessary sustenance. The start is naturally up a bloody big steep hill covered in loose stones. I remembered being caught here before, trapped in the midst off a lot of people frantically changing gear and faffing about whilst I tried to keep forward motion pushing 2:1 gearing on the SS. I know, I'll run to start, I thought. Brilliant idea. Not. I looked on as the majority of the amusingly titled 'silverbacks' (V40 & V50) riders buggered off into the distance. Bollocks. I jumped on and started thrutching. I managed to catch up with Budge after a while and sat in for a bit so I could shovel my lungs back in. Recovering I managed to nip past him on a chute that he opted to run while I rode it. He had the grace to cheer me on.
Still smarting at being so far back I put the hammer down (it's all relative) and actually manged to pass a few. The course was actually a belter. Tricky technical bits and really fun swoopy berms a plenty. These made up for the painful (on a SS) climbs. A quick whiz down some whoop de doops and a 90 degree right and we're into lap 2. The first one seemed to have taken FOREVER. Proper pedalling through treacle stuff. Now I'd got a sighting lap in and my breathing was fairly settled I got on with racing. There were 2 guys that I seemed to be quite close to so they became the target men. One was a shortish guy with a red and black shirt and t'other a great big long fella on a Scandal.
The heat and the 8 mile hill rep fell run the day before inevitably started to take it's toll and I had to dismount and push up a couple of the climbs including the one to the finish. Bizarrely the laps seemed to pass quicker now (they weren't, of course) despite me getting a bit shagged now. I remembered the gel that Budge had given me and, as I tucked in behind someone on a flattish section I managed to get it down before overtaking. It might have been placebo effect or the gel might have worked its magic but I felt a lot better very soon after. I could tell we hadn't got long to go so I pressed on. There was one bit that had a short sharp and loose climb, a short level and then up again. Only about 20' or so but if somebody slowed on it in front of me I was screwed on the SS. Coming up to it this time there was a guy right in front who obviously changed down as he came up to it. 'Come on, pal. let's get up this!' I yelled. He was that surprised that he charged at it and then faltered a bit on the second climb 'GO ON!!' Fortunately he did. I then shot past him before getting to the bit of the course that I cocked up every time. It was a sharp right hand switchback at slow speed and I just couldn't do it. Finally I ended up jumping off and running round it, shouting 'I think I've mastered it!' to the laughing marshal.
Onto the whoops and round the switchback before reaching one of the (for me) unrideable short climbs. The Scandal guy was just in front. I jumped on and went after him. There was another short loose climb before the straight to the finish line but I just couldn't ride it. I pushed up as quickly as I could to see Scandal crossing the finish line ahead as the chequered flag was waved. Noooo!! If I'd realised we were finishing I would have beasted myself to ride that last little climb. Ah well.
Then there was that bit in a race where it's all over and there's that 'love in'. Everybody is mates and is congratulating everybody else and it's 'How did you go on?' and 'Good race, fella' and 'Did you see that bit...?' I rode down to the car park, got changed and hung around for the presentation. I found out earlier that the other singlespeeder was a guy I follow on twitter - @singlespeedmatt - and we chatted as Will got his free dogburger for marshalling. As there were only 2 of us on SS I knew I'd be on the podium despite Matt racing in Racer and me in Owd Codgers. The presentation went on. And on. And on. And then suddenly it was over. No Singlepeed presentation??!! Matt went and had a word and I tagged along as back up. They'd forgotten the prize and had managed to forget to do the charade of sticking us on the podium. Doh. They quickly humoured us and gave us our moment of 'glory' and took a snap despite everybody buggering off by now. Hey ho. I'm pretty sure they won't be so shonky next time...
So, in summary a pretty good day's racing. I was a bit rusty but that was to be expected. 32:16 was pretty tall for the course so that might need looking at. Brownbacks have a pretty good set up and the course was fun. The competetive element is definitely still in me and I'll be looking to do a bit better than 9th V40 out of 17 next time.
Results here: Brownbacks