Whoever planned the race calendar for this season clearly has a sense of humour. Last weekend we were in deepest, darkest Cornwall and this weekend we are in Selkirk, Scotland. One end to the other!
After an 8hr drive up and a bit of last minute bike fettling with new tyres and brake pads (thanks Ant!), the El Mar ti 29er was ready to go... Following the damage I found on my Light Bicycle rim last weekend the 650b Ala Carte is out of action for the time being.
I've never ridden this event before and so didn't really know what to expect in terms of pace, hills or technical features. The pace at the start was pretty high but I felt ok and was riding in a lead group of about 10-15 riders. We hit the first descent and bang - big cut in the rear tyre and quite a lot of déjà vu after last weekend... I repaired it and was making up time on other riders again. I ended up coming across a group with Mark Spratt and a few others and was starting to enjoy it a bit more. The uphills went on for ever and the descents varied between wide, rocky, muddy and rutted doubletrack to amazing technical Singletrack that I much preferred. There's something about those slithery tracks that I just can't stand. Bit of a mental block I think. However, just as I started to feel better again 'hisssss' and I had a pinch flat. No problem I thought, I'll just fit the spare tube I picked up at the first feed station. But it wasn't to be as helpfully the spares provided (which was really nice of them to do so) were Schrader valve and so were never going to fit in my rims. Genius. Cue a nice run down one of the few fun trails to the third feed zone.
John, who was doing a top job as usual in handing up bottles, said it was the closest he's seen me to quitting a race. Thankfully Ickle Paul found me a tube that fitted and I carried on again, having stopped to enjoy some of the cake and Haribo on offer at the yummy feed station. By this point I really didn't care about the result so tucked into the cakes!
I rode the final section in a pretty bad mood, not enjoying the endless climbing and descending on open moorland through the occasional swamp. Apparently the course is a lot better in the dry! The final descent claimed another rear tube, so again I stopped and repaired it, only to have the valve core unscrew when I removed the mini pump. I begged a gas canister from another rider and rode the last couple of miles to the finish - which was a bit of a surprise as I only had 46 miles on my garmin. For a race billed as 85km that's a bit short.
Despite not really enjoying the course and obviously having a terrible race, it's an event I'd go back to as it's a very challenging lap and it makes a nice change from riding in 8mile circles at other enduros. Also I'd feel a lot more comfortable knowing the climbs and descents. As I was just bumbling along, I was able to enjoy the views from the top of the final climb which were epic.
Onwards and upwards...