Sunday, 8 July 2012


I’ve been a bit lax on the blog front lately so this is an attempt at catching up. So, first off we have...

Settle Hills fell race

Out of the attractive town centre of Settle and almost immediately we are climbing. I’m pretty close to the sharp end as we leave tarmac and get up onto the grassy Dales. It’s still a stiff climb but I’m feeling pretty good. Up ahead I can see Mark Walsh and Des. I put a few nippy overtaking manoeuvres in and I’m right behind them. We’re still within the first mile of the race but I’m in a silly mood and so I put it in again and shoot past them both just for the hell of it. Just to make sure they’ve got the message I give them 2 fingers over my shoulder. I hear an appreciative chuckle from behind.

Mark soon re-passes me but I am surprised that Des doesn’t follow suit. I still feel pretty comfortable so I settle in behind Mark. I’m not sure what is going on here but I am soon on his shoulder and without too much effort I pass him again. It must be about 5 years since I last got past Mark in a race so this is a pretty big deal to me. We descend slightly across a wide field heading towards the next steep up.

Mark pulls away here and I get my head down and run at my own pace now. There’s a long way to go and I have no chance of staying with him all the way round. There are a couple of runners just behind me as I ascend. On the top of the hill and Mark has vanished, I follow the markers as best I can but after a while I realise I’ve gone astray. I glance to my right and spot a marker near a gate in the corner of the field. The two runners that were behind me appear from behind a hillock and are now about 30 yards in front of me. ‘Thanks for shouting me back when I went off, lads.’ I think to myself.

We are pretty much at the highest point of the course now and are traversing the moors in a large circle. Still trying hard I seem to be at my optimum pace and nobody else passes. Onto a track and I can just make Mark out in the far distance. At the back of my mind I am expecting Des and Jonathan B to come past at any minute. I’m wise enough not to look back and I just get on with keeping my pace up. Eventually I reach the famous descent. I’d heard it was pretty steep but there was still the comedy ‘ Bloody hell!’ double take when I got onto it. It just dropped away in a massive grassy chute.

As the world’s worst descender I started mincing down as fast as my knackered knees and ankles would allow me. The flood of overtaking began and inevitably included Jonathan B. I reached the bottom after an age and crossed the field to where Barnesy (wearing his metaphorical Settle Harriers hat) was marshalling. I guessed that we couldn’t be that far away from the finish now so tried to up the pace a little. Jonathan stayed about 20 yards in front with a few runners between us. I hung on and hung on as we hammered along the track. We finally came out onto the road near the Rugby Club where the finish was. A little sideways shimmy through the gate and then it was onto the pitch for a charge to the finish funnel. There wasn’t anyone in front now and I certainly wasn’t going to risk looking back at this stage of the game. Flat out and breathless to the line.

Third Dasher. That’ll do me. I felt like I’d had a good run, especially the climb at the start.

20th out of 121

Results here

Brownbacks mtb series round 2

Lesson learned from the first race, I used Will’s bike which is geared lower. The memory of the pathetic attempt at the start climb still smarted. A look around the other competitors and it seemed that I was the only Singlespeeder there. Hmmm, there was pros and cons to this. It meant I would be unopposed for the prize but I wouldn’t have anyone else to race against in the class. Ah well, I’d just have to content myself with racing all the other V40 ‘silverbacks’ and ‘weekend warriors’.

Shivering on the start in the rain I was pleased to hear the start signal and try to find a line that gave me some traction. Standing up and thrutching, I managed to pass a few as we headed onto the course proper. I’d had a bit of a ride round the course before the start so had an idea of what was to come. As ever it was an interesting mixture – stiff climbs (especially on a SS), speedy flats and some decent technical bits. The mud and rain on the rocks making you think twice on some sections. Well, until the racer in your head piped up ‘Waddaya doing, you pussy?!’ and normal service was resumed.

The course seemed a little shorter than last time and I determined to get at least 5 laps in (you race until the first in the racer class has completed 6 laps). I’d spoken to a mildly hypothermic Twinkly Dave before the start. He had, of course, ridden there from Preston and was riding home again afterwards (!). He passed me at one point and gave me a bit of encouragement. I put it in and tried to stay with him for a while.

The back end of the course is where the action is – a whoopy rollercoaster leading into massive berms which challenge you to stay off the brakes and ride smoothly. Later on you are crashing across a rocky ledge of a path with a drop to the left. It makes you concentrate shall we say.

I got a couple of laps in and realised that I was so involved in the race that I hadn’t been drinking water. There aren’t that many places to grab a quick slurp but I force myself to. No chance of getting my gel down so I mtfu instead.

As at Round 1 there was a tricky rocky chute to negotiate part way round. This time there was the added ‘fun’ of it being churned up into a muddy slurry and then ending in a 90 degree right. I cleaned it most times but cocked it up once. The Mountain Rescue who were waiting at the bottom in a vulture stylee, got treated to some world class swearing that time!

As I tackle the short, sharp climbs again I think to myself ‘This must be the most old-bloke-with-dodgy-knees-on-a-singlespeed-unfriendly course I have ridden in a long time.’ And it bloody was too! Some of the climbs that I was clearing earlier on are now seeing me off the bike and pushing, albeit at a run.

As usual I end up getting stuck behind somebody slowly grinding up a hill in the granny ring. Not good when you are on 32:18 and trying to power up a climb. I shout ‘Come on, keep it going’ so that I encourage them, without seeming too much of an arsehole. Later on I have to run up a hill and some cheeky bugger behind shouts ‘Come on, keep it going.’ I laugh. And then tear his legs off.

For once I have my wits about me enough to count the laps so when I start lap 5 I am pretty sure I won’t be doing any more. A lad I had been speaking to at the start – Papa Lazarou off of STW – passed me so that gave me some incentive to beast myself in the vain hope of catching him. Soon I was destroying my knees on the last little climb before the finish line and spinning home in a sweaty frothing mess.

Assessing the race afterwards I was fairly happy with how it had gone. I was sooooo glad I’d gone for a lower gear for this race as I would have died on my ass (even more) trying to push 32:16 round. I seemed to have paced it better and certainly finished further up the V40 class.

At the presentation it turned out that there had been another singlespeed taking part. Oh bollocks, I thought. It would have been a bit gutting to be 2nd after all that! Fortunately for me it turned out that he’d retired on the first lap with a puncture and so I got to go through the mild embarrassment of standing on the podium on my own wearing an XXXL Charlie the Bikemonger t shirt and being presented with the chain medallion. The chain will definitely end up on a bike!

Another good day out but, my God, the mud and grit!

9th out of 18 in V40 class. Full results here

Horwich CC Hill Climb

Last one of the mini series so all I had to do was turn up and complete. No dramas, eh? This being me of course, I had to go and bugger up the crank on the ‘crosser a couple of days before. Smashing. So, my choices were: 1. Do it on the SS – given that a lot of the course was along the flat bit of Belmont Rd this was NOT an option. 2. Do it on the Ragley – possible and a good bit of resisitance training – 2.35” tyres and a chunky build meant that this was pretty much last resort. 3. Put out an appeal on Twitter and hope some kind soul responds with the offer of help – Result! Livsey kindly offered me the use of his crosser. What a guy!

I picked it up from his late the night before and so only got a quick go on it before heading to the start on the Wednesday night. I moved the seatpost down a bit but was still unused to the gear shifters. No matter, I’d pick it up. We drove over to Belmont and discovered that there had been a big smash right on the route of the course. Not good. Broken glass and a load of sand covering the fuel spill.

On the car park of the Wilton pub the competitors gradually turned up and speculated on how the organisers would tackle the problem. As it turned out they decided to delay the start and move the start line along the road so it was past the incident site. This was good news for me as it meant that the event was a bit shorter!

I set off at number 12 behind big Dave Headon. I didn’t think I had much chance of catching him! From the off it was big ring stomping and stood up on the pedals until I got up to speed. The gear shift caught me out and I quickly had to change back up again. Doh!

Reaching the San Marino restaurant and it was the plummet into Belmont. I tucked in and pushed as tall a gear as I could manage. Up towards the Black Dog and it was standing up time again. The marshals on the bend cheered me on as I headed up past the church and onto the flat stretch near the Blue Lagoon. Tuck in and hammer. Then, bang, it was onto the last big climb. I’ve ridden up here a lot over the years and so I knew exactly what to expect. And I got it - burning legs and sucking air in hard. Gaining the top all I had to do was boot it to the finish at the turning for George’s Lane.

Will had got a lift to the finish with a marshal and I shot passed him as he took some pics on my iPhone. As I rode on after the line to give myself a bit of time to recover I suddenly realised that my chest wasn’t burning as it had at the previous two events. Now, did this mean that it had been a pollen related problem or did it mean that I hadn’t tried as hard? Hmm, hard to tell really. I was pretty happy with how I’d done – I wasn’t caught by the guy behind and I felt pretty fast. I sent Paul a text saying it must have been the bike as a bit of a joke, but it was nice to ride. It felt light and nimble and seemed to shoot forward under power. I reckon it would have gone a bit faster with some skinny tyres on it. Anyway, thanks Paul – you got me out of the clart there.

In retrospect I have to say that I really enjoyed doing the series, it was even fun in a masochistic kinda way and I’d met some top people whilst doing it. Big up to Horwich CC for putting it on.

Oh, and I got my best result of the series at this one.

1 Adam Newall 6.56 Horwich CC

2 Rob Richardson 6.57 Bolton Hot Wheels

3 Dave Headon 7.03 Horwich CC

4 Tim Stanley 7.46 Woo-Ha Ram It

5 Simon Fox 7.50 Here Come The Belgians

6 Tim Kelly 7.56 Horwich CC

7 Dave Bateson 8.01 Horwich CC

8 Shaun Taylor 8.01 Horwich CC

9 Neil Pope 8.04 Lancs RC

10 Brian Holt 8.32 Lancs RC

11 Albert Sunter 8.46

12 Sue Mayes 8.46 Lady

13 Pete Holden 9.01 Horwich CC

14 Alan Sweatman 9.14 Horwich CC

15 Jordan Stanworth 10.54 Junior

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