â€œOn your right please mate, whenever youâ€™re ready“. Oh I was ready alright, ready to lie down in the cool embrace of the leafy wood and wait to be stretchered out or abandoned as a rotting corpse, whichever came first. Either were preferable to actually riding another lap, or come to that another corner.
Having not ridden my hardtail for more than two hours at a stretch and almost never ridden for six hours in a day, my piss poor performance hardly merits an entry. But being crap wasnâ€™t what really bothered me, itâ€™s the whole â€œendurance” scene man â€“ Iâ€™m more you Enjoyence rider; couple of laps, have a few goes at the good bits, retire to the bar and point aggressively at those zero fat body Naziâ€™s tightly wrapped in billboard lycra.
It hadnâ€™t started badly. Having feasted on a balanced carbo load of fish AND chips washed down with a couple of fizzy lagers, the prospect of spending any longer in a waist high field of blowing pollen drove us out to do a lap. Since this was the night before the race, the track was all ours which considering our pedestrian pace was no bad thing. At 8k, the course is short enough to be tackled with vigour, but varied enough to suspend tedium on multiple laps. Rocky and rooty sections linked buff singletrack and height was gained on a couple of easy climbs. Super quick on a hardtail if you had the strength to manual over obstacles and stand tall when the trail added gradient and undulation. Big grins at the end of the lap, we felt pretty good for the race tomorrow. But that probably was the post lap beers talking.
We were up early but started late with a Chuckle Brothers â€œto me, to you” exchange on who was out first. Pulling rank as team Captain, I sent Frank out and relived my Bridge Over The River Kwai Hotbox experience in the loo. Only smellier. I shudder to think of the consequences once the uneven battle was joined of hundreds of cabo-gelled racers versus a few chemicals baked in the steamy heat.
Did I mention the heat? It was properly hot, short of opening a vein to mainline electrolyte, hydration was always going to be a problem. Not as much of a problem as my questionable fitness, horribly chafed arse and lack of motivation but a problem all the same.
Frank ripped round in 35 minute laps and I was worryingly nervous wobbling out onto the track with real racers. Through the first singletrack, I was determined not to blow all my stamina in a single lap. I really didnâ€™t have much to waste. New sections of trail had been laid using some kind of kitty litter where the erosion of a very wet May had made them unridable. They were still pretty much unrideable at speed as anyone who has ever tried staying on marbles would attest but at least we werenâ€™t getting muddy. There were a couple of super flowing downhill sections up to the bombhole which put a big smile on my fizog. This smile soon turned to a frown as a whole new section of course opened up thatâ€™d been unmarked the night before. Through the bombhole, down a firetrack and then a nadgery little descent to two steepish drops. Arriving unexpectedly at the Bristolian Mincing Event, I was forced to pause as a whole raft of expensive suspension bikes inched down with all the speed needing to hunt down a lettuce.
With my component nemesis â€“ the SDG saddle â€“ rammed into an ample midriff, these were navigated with an aplomb missing from any section where the trail turned uphill. On subsequent laps, I attempted to launch the Cotic off the lip and catch some phatish air on the way out. Until I nearly fell off, at which point I stopped being a showoff.
Remember those two easy climbs? Well theyâ€™d hidden a third one which laboriously zig zagged ever upwards finishing at the â€œbastard bridge” spanning the bombhole which needed a committed spin to best the steep and long up ramp. After a few laps, this hazard became almost as hated as those riders cheating with full suspension bikes. I mean it is cheating isnâ€™t it? By lap five, I was seriously considering slipping a copy of the Beano down my shorts before the saddle rammed important south based body parts up my intestinal tract.
Some lovely singletrack finished the lap where I delighted in chasing and catching a few of those dual spring cheaters. Again until later laps, when options included picking up the bike Cyclo Cross Style and either humping it over the bumpy sections or tossing it into the woods and claiming itâ€™d been kidnapped and Iâ€™d need to retire.
Sadly the bike was flawless all day and given a proper rider would have churned out multiple fast laps. That proper rider probably wouldnâ€™t have needed a massage and a bacon sandwich after a massive effort to complete two laps either. This one did.
Coinciding with the start of the football was the end of my motivation. Itâ€™s obvious that Iâ€™m not prepared to endure when fun, slackness and beer are the alternative. Iâ€™m not going to train to get better nor is my competitiveness going to diminish in line with my performance. So itâ€™s time to stop. For good.
I set out on a lap knowing it was my last one. The downhill sections were familiar enough to be ridden hard and fast. The few riders who were passed soon steamed back in front while I removed a hand off the bars to burn effigies of their complex tubes and funny shocks. I actually quite enjoyed the last lap. Especially when it finished, that was the best bit. I felt old on the course, battered, bruised and knackered being overtaken by irritatingly looking fit riders who I secretly hoped were riding in fours not pairs. If not, I’ve really been kidding myself.
My friend Mike, who supplied me with a much needed round of â€œracing chocolates“, rode a staggering seventeen laps on the following day having warmed up with a shit load more than me on the Saturday. That put him some seven laps behind the winner. Clearly I am mingling with alien chameleons from a far galaxy who have four lungs, a couple of hidden legs and a complex metabolism able to serially digest carbo-snot.
Assuming serious mental deterioration somehow triggers an urge to enter another of these pain games, then feel free to shoot me dead. And if you donâ€™t, itâ€™s not a problem, one more race will probably do for me anyway. Itâ€™ll be a mercy killing.