Wednesday, August 01, 2007
10 around kirroughtree was a few weeks ago now, and i have had time to digest and dwell on the ins, outs, ups and downs.
Marty and myself travelled down on friday night as the start was early on saturday. We were to meet up with hamish, chris duncan and crew and then maybe have a beer or two after some dinner, and retire to the youth hostel. It all kind of went to plan, except we got a lock in at the local pub and decided it was whisky time.
It was, for some reason, surprising to find ourselves locked out of the youth hostel at 2.30am, but luckily i had the wardens phone number in my phone and as no one would let us in after banging on their windows ("err, I'm not really sure i should let you in, i mean, i don't know you...."), it had to be used.
A short sleep and up and at em.
Arriving at the kirroughtree visitors centre, it was clear No Fuss had all the bases covered, with excellent food, coffee, marquee coverage, screens showing stuff, a wifi area for instant position download and very organised parking, staff and even a small bike mechanic/shop area.
The race started with a police car lead out. The torrential (and i mean *heavy*) rain of the night before had precluded the ride out from Newton Stewart. At the top of a tarmac climb it was all systems go and the usual british enduro crowd revved their baggies and 4" travel all mountain bikes to the max, breaking for the front. It has always been a bugbear of mine that the vast majority of racers at these events (and i do mean to differentiate from those who are enjoying the completion of such rides and the 'racers') insist on battering to the front only to block those who have a realistic chance of doing well. Its harsh, but definitely true, that some folk need to be more honest with themselves and fairer on others at these things.
Still, some high rev overtaking after the initial blockage at the start of the singletrack put me (i think) in top ten-ish. The course rocked hard. After the initial ride out, the course started with a short singletrack tree-canopy, root and rock climb, to a short section of fire road, then a duck along some hardcore whoops to another short fire road connector, then a super slidey, new cut steep drop and an old forest road climb. This continued for some time, levelled then led to a super fun decent on narrow gauge through the trees with rock drops and natural kickers and berms. The next section was the revelation. A long singletrack, technical climb. This is rapidly becoming a favourite for me. Only the other day someone said how strange it was to be sessioning a technical climb, but why not? it is how chris, marty and me learned to ride.
Following popping out onto the fire road for a last climb, a rolling singletrack section led to another steep slider with a sharp right turn onto off camber, wet rock, more rollers and a final supreme singletrack, dipping and snaking full speed/no braking required decent to the finish area.
So back to the race. As i pushed it along the roller sections on lap one *bang!*. I had dropped my chain...Quickly i dismounted and replaced it, but i thought it was a bit odd, as i have never dropped a chain on my IF before. Immediately the same happened again. On closer inspection one side plate had been forced off the pin and the chain was in essence broken.
Oddly, I had looked in my mini wingnut pack and found i had forgotten to pack the spare 9 speed quick link only that morning. But i wasn't too worried, as, yup! id never broken a chain...
So, i got to work with the chain tool, knowing full well it was probably a lost cause as it was a xt/ultegra 9 speed chain so you need special joining pins. My mind went back to mountain mayhem where i heard a weird crunch from the drive chain...i wonder if this had caused some damage, but it is all academic now. People i know passed (chris d, marty, alison rushton) all offering help and bits but there was nothing compatible, so i had to leg it back to the start finish area and pick up a new chain, fit it and get going again. The morale took a beating and i almost folded.
Then for the first time this year, i looked inside and found some steel. I promised myself once id never give up another mountain bike race after giving up in exasperation at a 6 hour Trek mud madness thing where we were literally towing our bikes for near 5 km around a very messy drumlanrig.
So, i knuckled down, and started trying to chase.
Somewhere i have my lap times and the first 2 laps after this were pretty quick. I reeled in some riders, and despite the 40 minute loss, ended up around 27th solo after 3 laps. Then i started paying for the lack of base miles this year...the rain came on and the course started to become more draggy. Although there were no major climbs, my 58" gear led to some pain in the lower back and tired hams as i kept trying to force the pace.
Lap by lap i gained but i knew i was never going to get the finish i wanted as we approached the 10 hour mark. In saying that 16th overall solo, and 13th in my class ain't bad...it just has a tinge of disappointment in that it was the one race other than finale i was focused on this year as i am doing no meridas, and probably on account of sswc, few other events from now on.
However, it was really good to see i still have some sort of competitive core when it comes to these things. It was nice to dig deep and find something there...although it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that this year, i have more of an urge to ride in beautiful places, beautiful weather, on new trails with lovely people, than to hammer my body in the forge of enduro racing. Maybe touring really is the way forward.