Determined not to believe the hype that UK mountain biking is currently broken due to trails resembling the Somme I entered a couple of post xmas character building outings to toughen me up for greater challenges to come.
First off was the ‘Frozen Devil’ run by Red Kite Events in Llanwrtyd Wells. The 3rd of January was the date so just after the turkey had digested and normally some off season time for me. This year though I needed to get back in the game early on in the winter so I spent the festive period boshing out some back to back miles including a 2 hour 6am outing on christmas morning! This left my legs a bit fatigued (which was the whole point of course) and after picking up a cold just before the event I was planning to ‘survive’ rather than race. As it turned out once I’d warmed up in to it I found that the endurance engine kicked in and ended up coming in 5th rider back.
The terrain was pretty tough going with freshly cut tracks in lumpy woodland not exactly providing much flow but there were some interesting ravine style climbs (with the amount of water coming down them!) and some fun steep wooded stuff thrown in as well. I fell off more times in an endurance race than the entire off last year put together, good fun though! It rained most of the day as standard of late but the pub and ride HQ provided some decent fodder afterwards. The course had been cut a bit short due to the conditions which was a little disappointing for the distance travelled from Bristol for the day but probably welcome by the masses who came back pretty bedraggled hours later!
Round 2 of the Mean and Dirty events xc series just up the road from me in Stroud took place a week later on National Trust property at Woodchester Park. A bigger turnout than round 1 and some familiar faces on the start line meant this was going to be pretty competitive despite the nice local family race feel. The tone of the outing was set by the ride down to the event area from the car park, instantly covered in muck, this was going to be a grind… a buddy of mine turned up at the car park as I was just about to head off for a practice lap, stuck his head out of the car, said he didn’t really fancy it then promptly headed off again back to the dry and warmth, it was that kind of day!
The course seemed to be a mix of three types, fast rolling fireroads, off camber muddy as hell short traverses and muddy as hell off camber fields. I got a bit of a bad start not being able to shift up a chain ring for some reason so the couple of riders at the front including last round’s winner Nic Burridge were off and away. I settled in around 4th but the front 3 immediately started making a gap after the first wood section. I didn’t have the puff to keep up. Around the second lap a chap behind came storming past at a rate of knots so I can only assume he got a bad start, I’d catch right up to him on the wooded sections but then he’d gas me on the fireroad bits and eventually the length of these meant he pulled away. I then started getting hunted down by a couple of other riders who appeared to be working together to avoid the wind on the fireroad sections. Again I managed to keep a gap in the woods but they loomed ominously on the fireroad sections not far behind. Fortunately they split up on the second to last lap so I saw a chance to put in a hard effort to get out of sight. This seemed to work and I was able to back off on the last lap a bit and came in 5th. The main achievement of the day was having avoided sliding down the hill detached to the bike which many ended up doing that I skirted round.
Good banter was had as ever at these small local xc events. I had to rush off to get straight in to a fresh set of kit as I’d planned to head north to meet up with singlespeed nutter Steve Day to collect some gear and go out for a ‘gentle ride’. Needless to say after stiffening up in the car for a while and then straight out on the bike the legs were a bit dead but the ride made up for it and a couple of hours later we were back at Steve’s tucking in to an awesome sunday roast (thanks Ingrid!). Cue more sitting car with stiff legs. After a full day of sanding floorboards the day before I arrived at work on monday looking forward to some recovery time i.e sat at my desk!