Well, since dropping out of Mountain Mayhem I’ve been finding things much clearer, riding wise. Sacking off that race wasn’t due to a loss of mojo or anything like that, in fact it wasn’t far off the opposite. I started riding bikes for fun. I started racing bikes for fun. I started getting fitter and thinking about how to go faster and ride for longer for fun and (damn it!) that’s how it’s going to stay.
I love racing, love training for the races, love just generally riding, faffing with bikes and everything else that comes with it, so I’ll continue to push myself whenever I can find any sort of enjoyment in it or recognise that it’s part of a bigger picture. I’m not, however, just going to slog my guts out in abject misery just for the sake of it. If the race course has redeeming features I’ll be on it, if it’s just a shitty schlep round some fields, then I’ll find something better to do – this country isn’t short of options, event wise (and even if there’s no other events on, there’s always some deserted hills somewhere requiring the addition of a bicycle).
With this in mind, I headed out a couple of weekends ago at annoyingly-early-o’clock to Lee Quarry for a round the Brownbacks XC race series, ignoring the heavy drizzle and late autumn temperatures at the end of July. I knew the course would still be great even under constant heavy rain and many riders and I wasn’t disappointed. The extra couple of hours before the race had stripped all the lube off my chain by the time the race kicked off, leaving me with cronic chainsuck and no option but to leave it in the big ring and run (OK, walk quickly) up the super steep, un-big-gear-mashable rises. That was fine though, the racing was still close, someone was always near enough to chase/escape from and after a few laps I’d even stopped shivering, having been soaked to the bone for most of the morning.
The standard of rider at the series has stepped up over the past couple of years and, with 12hrs of Mayhem and a couple of cheeky mid week rides in my legs I was never going to be vying for the top spots, but it was great fun nevertheless…and made better again when I discovered that almost everyone in front of me was racing as either elite or expert. I finished 9th, hung around to natter to people for a while before Phil and Neil turned up and we buggered off into the hills for a few hours along scarily waterlogged (but still rideable and fun) trails.
A week of getting the road bike rebuilt followed, with everything coming together just in time for the Bowland Badass last Saturday. This was a ride I’d been looking forward to for a while, all my favourite ‘local’ hills in one go, with the addition of a couple of food stops to make carrying enough food and drink a bit easier and a few other people to test myself against.
The constantly wet summer had played on my mind a bit in the run up to the event; if it rained for the whole ride it would make a committing route harder. Much harder. To my delight, the morning of the ride had near wall to wall sunshine.
The first few hours were ticked off in an ever increasing barrage of climbs and descents made scary by the utter destruction months of heavy rainfall had delivered to the country roads, with the first feedstop coming surprisingly quickly, 62 miles in.
(piccie of off them lot at SportSunday)
The ‘proper’ climbs kicked off shortly afterwards, as did my rest-of-the-day-long habit of puncturing. Luckily the weather continued to hold and each pause to swop tubes, despite loosing Jase and I time to the quick lads in search of the fastest time trophy (which I did contemplate going for, for a while), was a nice excuse to sit in the summer sun enjoying a nice day out in the countryside.
The second feedstop, as well stocked with butties, sweets, samosas and onion bhajis (yes, that’s right) was paused at, not out of necessity but simply because it was nice to have the option as was the third, which also heralded the end of the major climbs. I still managed to puncture again on what felt like the ‘extended end’ of the ride, which could be seen as the reason why myself and Jase ended up getting soaked to the skin by the return of the rain when we were only half a mile or so from the finish and suggested to me that my damn fast and light but obviously not terribly tough Schwalbe Ultremos might need replacing… It didn’t seem to matter too much though, post ride cups of tea kept the damp-chill at bay and although our finishing time of 11hrs 43min wasn’t really all that good – saying that, we were still 4th and 5th riders back, to give you an idea of how big a ride it is – finishing the ride feeling fresh and not at all fatigued bodes well for the rest of the season.