• Battle on the Beach

    My summer beach holiday took place last weekend. Down in South Wales. While most people head for somewhere nearer the equator and prioritise high temperatures, my beach holiday requirements were slightly simpler. I just needed the beach and a tailwind down it 🙂

    Saturday day saw a nice ride along the coastal cycle path to the pier at Mumbles. A chilled out pace in glorious spring sunshine, sharing the route with hundreds of other families was ace. Everyone happy, everyone having a little adventure at the seaside, away from the hustle and bustle of the busy main roads. Brilliant.
    Saturday evening saw me eating pizza and drinking beer, with a nice lung-burning time trial down the beach in the fresh evening gloom. Every year I’ve entered Battle on the Beach I’ve paid the extra to do the night lap and, up until this year, every year the lure of the bar has been too strong. Not this time though, this time I was well up for it.

    Not up for it enough to do any sort of warm up, or anything as sensible as that, but up for it enough to line up with 200 other grinning riders, each being set off from the start line at 10 second intervals into the darkness.
    I’d overheard the commentator mention something about riding through the main marquee, right past the band and though it was just a joke, but seconds after launching myself off the startline I found myself briefly sandwiched between a crowd of dancing onlookers and an enthusiastically strummed version of The Stones’ “Crossfire Hurricane” (I think, I was only in there for about a second!). Brilliant.
    Out onto the beach and away from the light of the main arena my “beach holiday necessity” tailwind kicked in bigtime. I almost wiped out riding across the soft sand, losing all momentum, but soon reached the hardpack section near the tide and started spinning the bike up through the gears until I ran out of cogs. 30mph, tucked in and spinning like a loon, chasing down light after light from riders in front of me through the inky blackness. You can’t beat it 🙂
    The beach exit had turned into a bit of a queue up a steep, soft sand bank, but it didn’t seem to matter. Everyone was loving it and everyone waited patiently. The return leg along some old, sandy, tank tracks and some lovely swoopy singletrack saw me miss a couple of corners but refuse to slow down to correct anything – favouring just crashing through course-side bushes at full pelt to get back on track. Probably not the fastest way round the route, but awesome fun, if a little spiky in places!

    I finished 18th and went back to the bar.

    Sunday morning brought with it some very uncharacteristic rain. I decided to ‘up’ the amount of clothing I would wear for the main race and added a softshell baselayer and arm/knee warmers, thinking that it might get chilly if the rain persisted. somewhat annoyingly (for me) it didn’t amount to much during the race and, within about 30 seconds of the starting hooter going off (from where I immediately went from “at the front, on the front row” to “a thousand people back somehow” on the startline run across the soft sand) I was absolutely boiling!
    Saturday’s tailwind had grown overnight and groups of riders were hurtling across the sands at well over 35mph. Not only did you need fitness to compete and work your way up through the riders, but a big gear was a necessity – I was spinning out 46×11 and wishing for something bigger!
    By the time we finished the first lap beach assault I’d worked my way back up into the top 20, which was pretty good (for me). I lost a few places through the singletrack and, weirdly, along the sometimes-sand-sometimes-grippy doubletrack section, where I thought I’d be able to hold my own, but I consoled myself with knowing my heartrate hadn’t dropped below 180bpm since setting off. Any places lost certainly weren’t as a result of a lack of effort!
    Laps 2 and 3 went in a similar way. Silly fast down the beach in whatever group i found myself riding with. Lose a place / regain a place etc through the doubletrack & singletrack sections. Stay as fast as possible. Put in all the effort I can. Try not to crash.

    The doubletrack section – my nemesis during the race

    “Try not to crash”.
    This plan went well until the final lap, where a slip in the singletrack, with only a couple of miles remaining, saw me slide out to the side of the course, both feet unclipped. Suddenly rider after rider hurtled past. I fumbled around trying to get going again, my glasses steaming up as my feet slid around on the pedals trying to get clipped back in. I couldn’t see a thing, riding through complete guesswork until enough airflow across the lenses cleared them enough to give me an idea of what was in front of me. Panicked gasping ensued as I tried to chase back as many of the newly-ahead-of-me racers. I managed to get a couple of places back but crossed the finish line in 33rd – having dropped about 7 places due to that one fumble. It gets properly competitive the further towards the front you are!

    The briefest pang of grumpiness was washed away almost instantly as I handed my timing chip in (partly by the now heavy rain…) and realised just how utterly awesome the race had been once again. 5th year in a row I’ve raced the event and it just gets better and better. A great beach holiday 🙂


    2:24 pm on April 17, 2018 | Comments Off on Battle on the Beach | # |