|Pick it up and run|
Who remembers last year? Anyone that raced the inaugural Standalone Farm cross race last year and has come back today is either a total mental, a total hardman or has amnesia.
Memories like running more than riding (well note quite but.....) not being able to ride over the finish line due to the amount of and special qualities of the mud and guys unable to even complete one lap because their bikes just gave up the ghost.
So anyway we're back.
Who have we got? Miles, Kevin, Darren, Andrew, Colin, James, Mitchell and me. Plus Mitchell's mum. And the days 'pit bitch' Ross.
What have we got. Well we have a drier course for a start, but it still has that knobbly gripping plasticine quality I remember so well from many 24 hour solo mountainbike races. I press my toes into it and curse at it under my breath.
We follow the now usual routine. Sign in, wander off to look at the course, chat to other riders and watch the start of the V40's. Andrew and Colin are racing, we watch for a while as if just making sure they're okay then wander back to change and get some warm ups in.
The four of us in V50's practice on the outskirts of the course and the first thing we notice is how bumpy it is. I sack off warming up on this in favour of some faster paths on the edge of the farm land.
Then it's time to get a proper practice lap in as the the V40's have just finished. However the whistle blows to call us in for gridding. I haven't even had a go on the course and I need a piss. What's going on?
I get called up first out of the LBRCC V50 group, though like last week we end up bumper to bumper.
Ah I forgot to say. I'm hung over from a bit to much partying at a rock n roll Halloween party complete with the real Elvis. My bodies a bit shook up (ah ha ha) from dancing and whiskey. So this is racing olden style, olden style pre dating 'old skool' when Watneys Red Barrel was the race day drink of choice and helmets were only worn by soldiers. But I still feel like partying so here we go.
As usual for this season we're not kept waiting, thirty seconds and the whistle goes and so do we.
I get a good start and get past some leaders within metres. This course is all about just riding. There's nothing here today to separate one type of rider from another. So the getaway was crucial.
The course is brutally bumpy, I'm riding three positions to get the best out of each part of the course. In the drops for the only remotely smooth parts, onto the hoods for the bends and on the tops for the long bumpy sections. It's so bad that the wheels leave the ground as I get thrown around.
I start a mantra, it's not as bad as Belgium. I'm certainly not getting whitefinger.
I feel remarkably well settled in early on. My three LBRCC team mates are just behind, From a quick glance it looked like Kevin and Darren were working together. Miles was suffering heavy bike syndrome as his race crosser was still in the LBS.
Midway through the second lap I could see that I had a good lead on the others. The only doubt in my head was rather like last weeks. It was gearing in Oxford, today it was tyre pressure. I had opted for very low pressure for comfort, whilst Kevin had gone higher. This bothered me because there were two ridable railway sleepers on the course. I was prone to pinch flatting on these whilst Kevin had to suffer the endless thumping though his arms. With a massive grimace on my face I negotiated the sleepers each lap, clenching my teeth as the rim hit the wooden barriers.
But I was loving it out there and my race head was fully screwed on, I began to actually enjoy the relentless bumps and I remembered to keep my head up through the turns.
The final two laps of the race were spent keeping an ever nearing Dan Clemens at bay. I tried to dig deep to get away and for a moment I thought I had. But by the start of the last lap he was back on my wheel. It was inevitable, I do it to others, he just had to mark me and make his move at the right time. The VC10 jersey pulled away at the last switchbacks to put a killer twenty five seconds between us.
When I went under the flag twenty five seconds looked miles away.
Darren trailed me in, followed by Kevin then Miles.
Without a doubt my most favourite race of the season so far, and my biggest margin on my team mates. Loved it.
Time to stand around now and watch the others suffer. James and Mitchell had to endure the course for an hour in Seniors. It's great watching Mitchell adapt to all the courses in he's first season, This one I thought had his name on it. James on the other hand just strong out there, but held back a little by racing an MTB. Both rode well in what was a 'proper' race with the leaders going at each other all race long. It's not often I'm drawn this much into watching the finish, but this was a must see. The two leaders came in at road race speed.
Then James came through blowing a sigh of relief. But where's Mitchell? we spot him running and running without a rear wheel. Mitchell runs across the line holding his uni-cycle aloft. Turns out that the constant hammering out there and those railway sleeper crossing had finally tore his rear wheel out. Unable to get it back it he ran the rest of the course. Chapeau.