While most people I know, perhaps sensibly, were celebrating their graduation on Saturday night, I had other plans. Luckily for me I know a few people just as crazy (and much crazier) than me. 12 hours, mountain biking, at night. crazy?
Trevor had been planning on this race for a good month or two so was all prepared to go it solo, and as Mike was heading along to be his pit crew the idea spawned that we should enter a team. At 6pm on Wednesday we had ‘Bath Uni CC’ down on the start sheet, with Levi, Mike, Natalie and I as the budding competitors.
The race was being held in a little village called Erlestoke on the edge of Salisbury plain, a huge military area which is normally off limits for mountain biking but was opened up just for the race. We rocked up in the Trev-mobile at about 3pm and set up our super pro pit area.
Levi and I set out for a pre-ride of the course; it was raining intermittently and we thought it would be the best way to warm up. Out of the start there was a long slippery downhill on grass before a nasty off camber left hander followed by an overgrown (full of stinging nettles) left hander into the woods. We ended up following some obviously ‘big shot’ racers who had ridden the course last year, however the course this year was entirely different, a fact they failed to take on board. We followed them for a while, all the time wondering how their delicate carbon hardtails were supporting their monsterous bellies, and realising that just because Lycra has amazing stretch properties it shouldn’t be tested to the limit. We eventually peeled off and headed back to the van, just as another huge swoop of rain fell across the valley. I had aspirations of fastest lap of the weekend, so I nominated myself for the first lap; Lining up on the front row made me remember that it wasn’t an Elite XC race, and sure enough the race went off at a leisurely pace, with the odd one or two glory hunters sprinting out front. A guy behind me kept shouting ‘ON YER LEFT’ at me which made me laugh. I don’t think he appreciated me laughing at him as I got a pretty good scowl as he went past. I sat on his wheel for a while until I looked back and realised we’d pulled away from everyone else. Turns out he was a pretty tasty cyclocross racer; seeing as it was so muddy I thought he’d be right at home and thought I’d be in for a good race, unfortunately it got to the first twisty singletrack section and he was all over the place, eventually leaving the course far enough for me to take the lead. The lap was by far the wettest slipperiest root infested course I’d ever ridden, and although my almost bald tires weren’t ideal, they held up enough for me to finish the lap a minute up on second place. I handed over to Levi for the second lap; it was only his second ever race and to be handed the lead gave him a good bit of fear.
Trevor had a solid first lap, and went on to crack out a good 6 hours of even pace laps in horrible conditions, sitting 5th overall. Mike and Natalie both did a lap each in daylight before it went dark; Natalie is pretty new to the world of mountain biking and did a great job of doing a lap in around about at hour, however as she had never ridden at night before, she went for the sane option of going to sleep instead. The night wore on and the weather got progressively better, the loop dried up and for everyone in a team things were generally pretty good. Our pitting system was working well, although our initially well organised van took a battering.
Trevor wasn’t doing so well though; his lap times were solid, but due to the leading riders’ super fast first laps he was about 15 minutes off the pace. 2am was when he cracked, and Levi and I’s persuasion couldn’t get him back on his bike. Mike took the tougher route, and a few stern words soon got him on his way, and back to an even pace.
at about 4:15am the sun started poking its head up over the trees to shine on a dry but windy day; the track had dried out our team was in 2nd and Trevor had a smile on his face. Brioche and haribo were shoved down his throat and the prospect of daylight lifted everyone’s spirits
The rules stated that only laps completed before 6am counted, so by 5:20am we called it a day and concentrated on recuperation instead
We ended up finishing second in the teams to Charge Bikes; only 10 minutes in it out of 12 hours, but I had to remind myself that we entered for the social rather than the competition. Was nice to be standing on the podium, and get a massive cardboard box (filled with very little in the way of actual prizes!)
We packed up pretty damn quick and jumped in the van; Trev insisted he was OK to drive, so Levi and I tried to keep talking the whole way home. Getting back in Bath at 8am on a Sunday morning is a pretty surreal feeling; I ran a huge bath, sat in it and promptly fell asleep! Thus ensued more confusion when I woke up at 10:30am on a Sunday morning in a very cold bath!
I really enjoyed the race and it was great to give my legs their first proper test since I finished exams. Will be heading back to Devon next week for a bit of down time, riding and relaxation. Summer ball next weekend, then hopefully a month full of fun!