Chronological retelling of something not very exciting rarely makes interesting reading. But – in line with my aims of ever lowering the bar – that’s the way the Clic24 is being Hedgehog’d.
If you can’t be arsed to scroll down, here is the adjectival summary: late, rain, beer, tent, snore, hot, arse, stop, start, crash, bleed, beer, hurt, beer, stupidity, sleep, stiff, apathy, quit.
Long, rambling, amusing. Pick two.
Event finally hoves into view after a SatNav sulk abandoned us in the middle of Bristol. At 5pm on a Friday night which mocked the shortest route algorithm. Unless you have a helicopter. Arrival puts us in mind of refuge crisis, as a tented village spreads randomly across the field.
Pick spot miles from the course but on flat ground and with shady spot for keeping liquid nurafen cold. Unload tent. Open beer. Comment on lovely evening weather and dry ground.
Attempt to raise tent in the manner of Snake Charmer. Tent refuses to go vertical. Retire to safe distance and crack open a second problem solving beer. Squint at approaching cloud and wonder how waterproof a flat tent may be.
Second attempt at tentage. Drizzle starts. Carry on regardless.
Rain becomes thunderstorm. Retire to car. Send Jason back out to fetch more beer.
Tent build completed. Start on Gazeebo. Nig and Dave arrive and create amazing tent experience within two minutes of parking. Darkening skies hide my darkening expression.
Find Mike putting final touches to his giant erection* This extension to his already capacious motorhome seems a bit rich for a man riding solo. Assume he is renting out space to tentally challenged competitors.
Start time for All-field Snorathon. Having just retired slightly tipsy from the beer tent, I blast out my best work and am unilaterally declared a) winner and b) most bloody annoying person at the event. Tents either side blown down by sheer volume of snore. But they’ll get their own back.
Dispose of loan beer trying to remember not to wee on someone’s tent/bike/person. Try to forget why camping is so shit. Fail.
Curse 40 year old prostate. Arse surf out of tent for second time. Receive dewy wet bottom. Clout head on handlebar. Return to tent.
Curse 40 year old brain. Repeat as for 02:00 but this time remember to pee.
Birds singing, sun shining, Eyes open, Alex grumpy.
Wander into muesli and healthy food festival. Barge past carbo loading race monkeys, secure breakfast bacon and egg butty. World becomes a better place.
Attempt to prep bike. Advised against it by long suffering pals. Settle for kicking tyres and attaching number board. Amused by antics of serious teams in play around us. Talk of tactics, synchronous wearing of identical race jerseys and grandstanding of virtual knobs makes me smile. Raid Nige’s tool kit only to find great big fucking drill lurking malevolently at the bottom of the box. Worry about purpose of that.
Pre-Ride briefing. Course sounds great, forecast is superb, lots of smiles and sunglasses. 500 riders seem to be split between race whippets on an early chaser for the summer of endurance events and some better fed/less serious individuals. Despite none of our team being exactly lardy, we’re firmly in the second group. Until we get out on the course.
Dave fails to step backwards quick enough and is ‘volunteered’ for the inaugural lap on his first ever event. He looks shocked but stalwart.
Dave – in a stunningly audacious move – breaks his bike, so neatly avoiding starting with the crowds. First reserve Nig is harvested from his loafing chair and helmets up.
Milling commences. Nig wakes up sufficiently to pull funny faces in the queue for the start.
Event begins. It’s not a race because much of the course is on bridleways. Over the next 24 hours, a few teams forget this but that’s ok because our team is deaf to any shouts of “on your right“. However all four of us have a honed racer’s elbow should anyone try an inopportune passing maneuver.
First rider back in, having dispatched 14k in less than 35 minutes. Blimey.
Nig returns with a slightly muddy bike and huge grin. Course is ace, riding cockage is low, and the views aren’t bad either. Because laconic is something I can only think of as being a spirits mixer, I’m properly nervous as I fumble with helmet, shoes and gloves.
As we’re not racing, our changovers are leisurely affairs. None of this waiting in the transition area and exhorting your team members to ‘bring it home‘ for us. It’s more a case of freewheeling back into the den of gazeebo inequity, turfing the next rider out of your chair and nicking his beer. So I’m left to ride off to the start on my own.
Finally get out on course determined to take it easy.
Hastily park bike up by campsite wall. Hurdle wall. Fetch Camelbak. Tut. Ignore ridicule of team mates. Return to bike having narrowly avoided ripping off testicles on unseen barbed wire.
Congratulate myself on dampening competitive fire as riders pass me on the first hill. Meander through some pleasant singletrack in relaxed frame of mind. Pontificate on the thought that maybe this isn’t going to be the horror show I’d been setting myself up for.
Spectacular Crash. Round off spikey rocks by impacting serially with fleshy parts.
Shakily remount after fixing puncture and randomly kicking non working bike parts.
Receive second puncture.
Stuff split tube in pack. Count spares. Comes to Zero. Count again. Still Zero. Wearily accept what will happen next.
Pssssssttt. Dump bike. Kick bike. Kick Rock. Swear. Bleed a bit more. Channel anger into ripping tyre off the rim with bare hands. Add skinned knuckle to ever increasing injury list. Refuse offer of spare tube from friendly rider. Reasons unclear. Patch tube. Pump tube. Glare at tube.
35 Minutes into my first lap. Completed 1 mile. Left hand has amusing swelling making bar holding, gear changing and rear braking challenging. Shorts rubbing on abrasions where my thigh used to be. Feel my event has not got off to the best start.
Ride into bushes. Totally fail to navigate a simple corner. Calculate total number of successful corners navigated on a mountain bike is about one million. Assume bang to head may have something to do with inability to steer. Try not to worry about it.
What a fantastic course! Forget injuries and enjoy dusty singletrack, rocky chutes, roots, stream crossings, mad plunges down narrowing rock gulleys, and twisty delights around every corner. Assure (the bloody magnificent) marshals all is well in Al-World and chant “It’s only a flesh wound” in Monty Python Style whenever concerns are raised over red leg.
Hit the 2k gravity payback fireroad climb. Grind up chatting to many people having a great time. Top section is pretty steep but the reward is a stupendous view across the Mendip moors and further across to the Irish sea. Final descent is an arrow straight, white knuckle skim over baby head rocks, finishing with a eyeballs on stalks braking zone between the end of the track and start of the road.
Complete road section back to start. Anxious faces of team mates await my return. Jason heads out while I try to explain my red and purple flashes. Limp to St. Johns who patch me up with iodine, ice and infinite plasters. They recommend Nurafen for the swelling so I up the medical ante adding codeine and lager.
Oh yeah, that feels good.
Struggle out of chair and pump 80 PSI into front tyre before it finally seats with a loud pop. Wish I’d done that last night. Boys are wondering if I am going out again. Honest appraisal of current condition suggests the jury is out, but the charity donations are niggling me more than the injuries. Giving up after one lap is so bloody lame. Bollocks to that.
Jason returns with happy tales of a great lap. Dave – having thrown significant cash to fix his broken bike – takes a turn. I take another beer and soak up some life affirming rays.
Swap bikes. Still not at all happy about that tyre but this doesn’t stop me lending it to Dave for his first ever night lap! Bit hurty but once I’m past the crash site, physically and mentally loosen up. Pass a few, get passed by a few more. Serve up the international sweary digit as delusionist who shouts “middle” on an doomed attempt to squeeze between me and another bloke having a chat.
Let Lance Armstrong clone through. Suggest politeness rather than volume would ease his way through the backmarkers. Reciprocal sweary digit received.
Notice few muddy bits are drying out with the high traffic, which is good . Not so good is the one line being grooved into the course.
Complete lap with same number of bruises I started with. Celebrate with a beer.
Event is very chilled. Initial enthusiasm for mad charging seems to have mostly diminished. Still that did put two guys in hospital so no bad thing. Night laps are approaching and I’m having nothing to do with that. Riding a course that’ll bite back with about 50% movement in one hand does not feel safe. I reconcile my neshness with a firm undertaking to ride the dawn lap.
Head out on my last “day” lap. Fit lights just in case but my reward is a speedy 50 minutes of fun backlit by the setting sun. Dust motes hang in a windless sky and I remember enough of the trail to enjoy it’s challenges even more. Sufficient energy remains to sprint the road section and hand over to a slightly worried looking Jason. It’s his first ever night lap and his wide eyes show you just that.
Jason returns unperturbed with sanguine face back in place. Dave borrows the Cove even though it is clearly in a mean mood.
Dave returns! We’re all hanging around a rapidly cooling transition area, worrying. Nig and Jason are concerned that Dave may have had a bad stack in the darkness. Me? I’m wondering if he’s damaged my bike 🙂 His lap was incident packed, two snapped chains, a lost battery found only by sweeping black trails with a LED tailight, and an unhappy time fetching some crashed bloke off a fencepost. He’s laughing though so all seems to be well.
We all have a nightcap beer while Nig heads out for a final nightlap. Somehow we’re in joint 13th place (only total laps are counted, not times. For which I am grateful. Because if we were racing properly it’d be a bit obvious who is Mr. Slow).
Unknown to us, Nigel has gone completely bonkers and ridden three laps. His last one was a bit weave-y on the straight bits and a bit straight on in the curvey bits. He decides to finally retire before crashing.
“TOM, WAKE UP, YOU’VE OVERSLEPT!“. That’s my wake up call just there. The co-ordinated jersey’s from next door’s tent are pushing hard which is fine and making a shit load of noise, which isn’t. Yammering continues although this may be a response to a second night of my extreme snoring.
Spend quite alot of time getting up. Sleep has brought stiffness and the left side of my body is a retro-90s shade of annodised purple. Hobble about for a bit, struggle into riding clothes and wait for light to enter the world.
That’ll do. Fantastic morning, sun creeps over the distant hills, land is in shadow, sky graduating from pink to blue. Odd time to be riding a bike but beautiful none the less. First descent is akin to having espresso coffee fired directly into your brain at about a 1000 bar. I’m struggling a bit so dump the bike to take some pictures. The light has completely pushed back the darkness and the course is mine alone for twenty fantastic minutes.
Meet Mike and Chris on the climb and switch to amble model. They are into their 11th lap and still looking remarkably chirpy. The final rocky descent really has only one line now, and it’s marbles if you stray off it. I try not to stray off it.
Finish the lap. Head for the (still warm) showers. Dave starts a circuit and I start another bacon and egg butty. Lots of tired riders wandering about the site and even more tired soloists still out on the course. Some manage 20+ laps and that’s just alien.
Dave is back. We head out for a second breakfast and you could cut the apathy with an eggy knife. If you could be bothered.
Jason is broken in an area a gentleman doesn’t discuss. I really want to go out again as my energy levels are still really good. But there is too much stuff hurting, my limp is getting more comedic by the minute and I’m kidding myself really. Nig put in a big stint last night and he’s not that keen, while Dave has the look of a man who will go with the majority vote.
Strike camp. Most of the previous hour was taken dismantling the tent and attempting to force it into the ludicrously tiny receptacle from which it popped. Load cars, fetch event photos, watch – a little guiltily – those still furiously lapping.
Re-program SatNav to avoid major cities.
Find myself in centre of Bristol. Again.
So we did 21 hours not 24. We could have done more laps, but we could have done a whole lot less. My personal target was for five, maybe six, yet honestly I’m happy to have completed just four. On reflection, it’s hard to see how the course could be improved, the organisation bettered or the atmosphere more chilled.
The most important thing is we raised a good chunk of cash for Clic Sargent and that feels good. There is talk of changing the way the event supports the charity and that would be a shame. As I’m already hankering for another crack at it next year.
Some images of – mainly – blokes lolling about in the sunshine here
* You knew it was coming.