The little race that wasn’t. But actually was. And it wasn’t little either. OK the Big Race that Was then.
The weekend didn’t really kick off until the flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror jump started Supergrass’ best known hit “Caught by the Fuzz” in my head, as it always does when ever I see the police. I struggled not to start singing it out loud to the officers as they slowly realised they’d not pulled over a group of miscreant teenagers planning on hanging around a deserted car park at night to do bad driving and drugs, but had in fact simply slowed down the progress of 4 racers trying to get back to their overnight accommodation after ploughing some money into the local economy.
The song hit it’s crescendo inbetween my ears as they finally stopped making “routine” (read: we’ve buggered up, but we’re going to pretend we haven’t) investigations into the roadworthiness of my car and thankfully Gaz Coombes’ guitar solo distracted me from shouting “Of course my high beams are working properly. You know that. You’ve been sat behind me on unlit roads for the last 5 miles, you’ve bloody seen them!” as they concluded their business and slunk back off into the night.
Feeling like giddy teenage desperados, we retired to bed. Well, I sat around drinking tea until Jase and Deb arrived and helped them hammer tent pegs into the solid concrete that made up our campsite in the corner of the Nevis Range car park first. We got about halfway round the tent before giving up and using rocks as ballast instead.
Dawn dawned, as it does and after a bit of breakfast, then a bit more breakfast (hooray for the extra food involved in big long rides!) bikes were fettled in the cool autumn sunshine.
Glorious, glorious sunshine.
Not since Italy back in May had the prospect of a dry race been on the cards (and even then it ended up raining. Bah.) so this appearance by the sun seemed to bring about a chilled and cheery atmosphere around our trackside pits. Pre race routines were satisfied and with much more time than at last year’s race, where Jase and I ended up getting to the start line as the countdown hit “2…1…GO” and we lined up, ready to rock.
Ready to rock…ish.
No training for weeks due to busy periods at work and house moving meant I wasn’t as fit as I would have liked to have been. In fact, if the race hadn’t A) been the last proper race of the season and B) wasn’t always so much fun I would have considered dropping out. But I lined up anyway to see what I could give
Unlike at any other race we’ve done, the pre race chatter between Jase and I didn’t top as the gun went. We shot off up the fireroad and as I moved up through the field I knew he was right behind me. As we railed through the freshly resurfaced and grin inducing singletrack we were still both together and that’s how it stayed.
For a while Jased would lead, sometimes I would go in front, on the fireroads we’d be side by side, staring off at the views, nattering about Big Ride plans, X Factor or the like or just quietly enjoying being out on bikes. On fantastic trails. For the whole day.
Our pace seemed to be nigh on perfect for what we could both sustain for 24 hours. It may, to the outside eye, have appeared that we were just cruising round. We weren’t. Both of us knew that either of us could have sped up, dropped the other for a lap or two only to end up suffering and falling back. Stalemate in effect, but in a nice way. Racing 24hr solo races is usually quite a headfuck, but with someone else there who was doing exactly the same thing this time round it was just a damn big, enjoyable ride. We didn’t suffer too many mechanicals or crashes, but if either of us did have to stop, the other was always happy to wait and help.
Manners and all that, y’see.
Even our pit stops seemed to work out the same. A few messy moments during the night as the monster climbs started to take their toll saw me take a seat in the gazebo for some hot food, but that seemed to suit Jase as well. It was all working out swimmingly for us.
Of course, for Angela and Deb, the syncronisation caused all sorts of logistical issues that we were entirely unaware of until after the race, but as ever they soldiered on with our rockstar like requests throughout the event without complaint. Awesome stuff. Even Budge, who, at points, was frantically flailing about, demanding we start laying into one another up the hills and down the technical, swoopy sections of the course to try and ride away from the other realised that we were neck and neck because, well, we were neck and neck.
By the time we’d started thinking properly about the end of the race, and who would take the ‘real’ first place, I’d already decided I’d let Jase ride off with it. By which I mean “I would have no answer if Jase decided to speed up and ride off with it”! I was knackered. I could still get round the course in a decent time – though I had taken to walking up “that damned cobbled, steep little shit of a climb” – but I had no doubt he was the stronger. As it happened, we’d done so much in the first 22 hours that we’d already build up an unassailable lead, so as we crossed the line at 10.30am, side by side, everyone came to the conclusion that was it. Finished. No last lap burn out required, we’d ridden away from the rest of the field so strongly that the organisers happily awarded us joint first place.
A proper pair of winners.
The thing is, we weren’t alone on the top step(s) of the podium. Budge and Andy had smashed it and won the Vet pairs category. In fact, JMC had won every race it had an entrant in, even the “Silly Hats” event…