Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Forest Of Dean Enduro Race Report

Sunday 25th September has, in the ABR diary been marked down as a day for waving the FKK flag of support for the various riders of our team.
Birdie, Chris, Rex and Fruity were all planning to return this year to deal yet more devastation on the field that saw us take 7th, 9th 11th and 12th last year.  Me, on the other hand, well, I've been busy making noises for the last 6 months or so about not training and having a year off.
That was my plan, and I defended my increasingly weak argument of monumental unfitness stoically up until last week.
Driving home friday afternoon I received a text from Bird, in it he offered me his ride if I wanted it, he's been suffering a chest infection for the thick end of a month, then, as he had his first week off this year he came down with a sickness bug.  Losing a stone when you weigh what Bird does is not the best prep for a rather tough little course like is usually on offer in the Forest of Dean.
I held off making a decision until I spoke to Kate, she told me to stop being a big girl and to get on with it.
Sunday dawned... wet. Very wet in fact.
I stopped worrying about the rain and biking years ago.. and after my last post about finding the flow in the pouring rain I was actually relishing the chance to get out and put my new attitude to the test.
I hadn't had the ideal run up to the event, doing over 70 miles in the three days leading up to it, that was my excuse anyway and i stuck with it.
We had to be lined up at the start 20 minutes before the start. Heading to the line something happened.  Something bad. My rear shifter broke, changing gear it stuck and steadfastly refused to move again. Urging Rex to go on and believing my race to be over before it started i headed to Pedalabikeaway's shop in the vain hope they would be able to work some magic. 
They couldn't.  SRAM had let me down, they had an X7 on the shelf and offered to fit it for me. Jake assured me that fitting it would take him no more than 5 minutes and whilst he worked with mechanical speed normally saved for f1 pit lanes i practiced pretending it didn't matter.  With two minutes to spare he dropped the bike out of the stand and i pedalled furiously up to the start line. A few deep breaths and the gun went.. Talk about close.
Off the line i ride aggressively, destroying slower riders in my mind as i pass them, i knew from a quick pre ride of the first piece of singletrack the day before that getting here behind anyone likely to 'mince' would mean losing huge amounts of time.
The first lap was tough but fun, i knew Chris was long gone, Jamer was behind me but probably riding outside himself to catch me and I hadn't seen Fruity since my first attempt at getting to the line. Passing riders I felt strong and each miserable sounding answer to a comment from me made me feel that bit better.
More than once I silently thanked the awesome grip provided by the mud x tyres as the rain continued turning the course into a mud bath. 
Exiting a track the marshall tells me the rider in front is 10 seconds ahead.. '10 seconds.. Nothing.. I'll get him in no time'  I'm enjoying the combination of rediscovered fitness and a newly found attitude.
The final descent is a monster.. Steep and greasy in the rain with a loamy surface that falls away from tyres as they pass over. Riders in front fall but i swerve and avoid becoming a casualty. A mile of join up track and i arrive at the start finish line for lap 2. A few gels to see me through and i power on, a rider I've been tusseling with moves ahead as I stop by Kate for a fresh bottle.. Rewind a year and at this point my head was down, Rex had passed and disappeared and I wanted to stop there and then. 2011 is different, Kate is as suprised as me that its not Rex who has gone by first.  I move off and arrive at the tight first singletrack, I recognise the rider from earlier battles, he's behind a string of riders. As soon as i can I duck up the inside of them and he's dropped for good.
Halfway into lap two I finally remove my glasses, they've been steamed up and covered in rain and mud for miles now anyway.
I start feeling nerves.. Rex hasn't passed me and although I'm not slowing I'm started to feel hunted. It doesn't bother me if he finishes ahead of me.. Not really, he's family and i just enjoy us both sharing such a fantastic past time. But deep down being passed by him means another place lost so I dig deep and push on.
The final descent again.. This time i know that the last mile is all i need to do. I throw caution to the wind.. Now is a time to catch those in front whilst staying ahead of the riders behind. I jump a rocky drop.. Laughing as i do.. Nearly there.
I enter the finishing chute, I just run out of time to catch one last rider but now it doesn't matter. I get a small cheer from Kate and Sam and then drop my bike to run back up the course to cheer Rex home.
He's had a bad one.. The mud have forced him to take off his glasses but without them he struggles to see.  I know that 2012 will see him quicker than ever.
So, I didn't do Bird too much of a disservice but i know he would of gone quicker.. Probably even finishing around Chris who was 5th in cat and 10th overall. I was 14th in cat and 26th overall, Rex 36th and 52nd respectively and Fruity decided one lap was enough for him.
Not bad really.. And now, to Thetford.