The weather couldn’t have been more different to the last time I arrived at Bedgebury.
If Im honest, I really thought that after my last race the weather today would have people wanting to race in their droves, the quiet car park when I arrived made me think otherwise. Perhaps it was too warm? But, as I set up my bike and prepared a large amount of water bottles for the hot race ahead I was, once again, really looking forward to the hour (and a lap) of suffering ahead.
Signing on, collecting my number and chatting to those around was, as always, warm and friendly, almost as warm as the weather which was pushing the upper 20’s in degrees. The kids races had started and soon the shorter course was a mass of parents cheering on youngsters all having a great time racing their bikes in the sun. The people from BoarsOnBikes CC put on a great race with helpful smiling marshals happy to point you in the right direction, and it’s thanks to them that the day is such a success.
I took a quick sighting lap and the course was pretty much the same as last time, just without one loop which was a lake last time and I think was still in a bad way. My tyre choice was the Schwalbe Rocket Rons ready for the dry conditions, and the speed difference on the lap compared to my last race was predictively much higher.
Arriving back at the HQ I decided to check my tyre pressures, odd I thought, the rear seemed pretty low, a lot lower than I’d pumped into it, but not flat. To save my race from a potential flat, and my own mind from worrying to much through the hour I whipped the tube out and changed it. Rather than stepping back and watching, hoping I didn’t get it fixed in time for the race two racers came over and helped me out, and within minutes I was ready to race.
At the start I took a quick look around to see who I’d be racing, a couple of new faces looked ready for business and getting a good start as always was going to be key. I adjusted my gear to get a good sprint from the line and waited. Because of my result last time I was called up onto the front row of the grid. Nice, I thought, I could get used to this… There was the usual safety briefing and then it was a quick wait for the off.
I WILL START YOU SOMETIME IN THE NEXT 15 SECONDS… PAAAAAAAAAARP
Clipped in and spinning the legs I was keeping up with the two riders I knew were going to be going for the win. As we hit the first section of single track I think I was running in 4th and I knew that the pace was going to be high, but after the first couple of laps I thought the pace would drop slightly and I could sit in and take a drink… Oh no… I was wrong.
The top riders were stretching out their lead but three riders were still behind me in the line, as we started another lap and hit the fire road one of them jumped and another rider appeared from no where and suddenly that moment I was hoping to take a drink I was out of the saddle chasing as the fire road ended I’d managed to latch onto one of the riders, the guy that appeared from no where was gone like a laser guided bullet to the front of the race.
I was really pleased to have raced here before, weaving in and out of the trees felt easier and I was into the rhythm of each lap a lot quicker, the small hill section and the open trail sections were still my stronger point. And it was here I was able to push on and make some time up. The lad in front of me suddenly pulled up with a mechanical, I had no time to see what his problem was but it looked like race over, so with four or five riders ahead I knew my race was going to be with the rider behind me… And what a race it was.
Through the trees he was all over my back wheel, often touching it, and some amusing banter emerged between us, often through gasped breaths in the slower sections. He was brilliant in the trees and tight singletrack often catching me, trying to get past. I held firm elbows at the ready.
My plan was to push on over three laps on the sections I could open up on. Each fire road and on the small up hill section I stepped on, and soon, as I looked behind me he was gone, over three laps I worked this plan and as I came to the fire road and felt I had the gap to take a drink with the first swig he whizzed past me… BOLLOCKS… I shouted. I sprinted onto his wheel and held it through the first tree section. I then worked my way past on the uphill (it’s not steep but it’s the only incline on the course so describes it best) and pushed on once again.
The guy who attacked me on the fire road (the lazer guided bullet) was stopped with a mechanical, it looked like a puncture…
The final lap came quickly and with this one rider still keen to snatch my place I took the last lap as my last opportunity to make my mark on the race. The bell sounded and got out of the saddle to cheers from the people watching and went into the dark pine lined single track. I still didn’t know how much he had left so went for broke and decided to empty the tank.
I sprinted down the fire road, almost loosing it into the bushes on the left handed before the single track, I weaved and ducked my way through the trees and I could hear the rider a couple of bike lengths behind me. At the sharp right before the single track starts to incline I hit the gas hard, my legs hurt like hell but I knew this was where I had to really push it or loose my place.
I didn’t look around until I reached the home straight, I glanced over my shoulder, and I couldn’t see him. I’d done it, and it felt so sweet, I crossed the line and clenched my fist. It was my first real race, I wasn’t trying to make up time on other riders I had to use tactics and I was super pleased with how it turned out. All the training was worth it as I finally managed to hold my own when things got tough.
I want to thank the rider I raced against, chatting to him after I found his name was John Kelly and we both decided it was what he described as a real ‘ding dong’ indeed it was. Cheers John.
I sat down next to the bike and started to take take in some much needed fluids, parched doesn’t describe it. By the time I got home I’d emptied five bottles. Thirsty stuff.
I’d managed to take fifth overall, beaten by three juniors and one vet I was well pleased. But the surprise for me was that it meant I was first Senior… First… Me… So I got up onto the podium with a big grin on my face and enjoyed a clap from the people there. Magic.
I’ll be missing the next round of the series as I’ll be on holiday, but I’m hunting for the next race and can’t wait to get out there again. See you on the trails.