What a great way to spend a wet weekend in the Wiltshire. After the disappointment of having to withdraw from the epic and spectacular 24 Hours of Exposure with illness, I decided to cheer myself up by heading West to try my first 12-hour solo at Set2Rise, an event that I’d heard nothing but good things about and one that lived up to its billing.
Upon arrival it didn’t look good; forecast was for drizzle but riders were coming back off practice laps covered in mud and the skies were looking ominous, the odd shower acted as suitable forewarning. Spirit amongst the riders was high though, everyone had great memories of last year and much umming and erring energy was going into both kit choices; to gillet or not to gillet, and tyre choices; mud, knobbly or semi-slick. I must have got changed three or four times as everyone was, much to all of our amusement, reacting to everybody else.
Once I’d donned my spangly new Leisure Lakes kit, with some much needed new, super comfy Endura shorts (I find flawless for “one set of kit” endurance racing), I went about setting up the pit. I was self-pitting and my setup of bottles with my food for each lap attached, all neatly arranged on a child’s play table (complete with butterflies and snails) got some rather curious looks from everyone around me.
And then we were off. The pace on the first couple of laps started fast but gradually the course succumbed to the now frequent showers and for a few laps I’m sure I went as far sideways as I did forwards. I was running in second but a few silly mechanicals saw me drop from the wheel of first to the clutches of third. Summer tyres proved to be an optimistic choice, but luckily my Santacruz Tallboy was more than enough bike to keep me pointed in the right direction until the night, when the rain stop and we all got down to the serious business of racing. This is where the real work began and my big wheels enabled me to maintain my early lap times, undo my early errors and roll into the lead.
At this point I was able to unleash my secret weapon for the weekend, the great guys at Exposure Lights had leant me the one and only prototype Six Pack for my bars and prototype Diablo Mk2 for my helmet, and I must concede these gave me a real advantage as not only are they insanely bright, but they are so quick to fit and I just need to swap my head torch once through the night, the bar light went the distance and didn’t need to dip my lights to a low setting once. Truly astonishing.
As darkness fell the course really began to dry, corners that were tippy-toed around praying the front wheel would hold were now leant into with ever widening grins, turns and corners became swoops and whoops, with the odd wet patch just to keep us on our toes. The combination of bike and lights enabled me to keep my daylight speed through the night, even with tiring legs and I quickly built a lead and relaxed into my rhythm, always looking forward to the next piece of singletrack.
This course really was a lot of fun. Well, except for the gargantuan climb that someone put in the middle of the lap just to make sure that the riders really had to work for each and every lap, and toy came into the final singletrack without any doubt in your legs that you’d been trying. Despite this everyone that I passed on the way was having a great time with more than enough great trails to keep us all amused for the whole night and make the climb worthwhile.
By dawn it was clear I had a lead that I was confident of holding onto so I took a bit of time to enjoy the sunrise, riding the sunrise lap was something I always enjoy and suddenly those aches and niggles that seemed to accumulate in the night, seem to melt away, and I settled into really enjoying the new really very grippy singletrack for my last couple of laps.
Finally, on my penultimate lap, I got news as I passed through the pits that my lead was “lots” so I took my time over my choice of food for the final lap, unclipped the lights that had seen the night laps dispensed with alarming distain, and have one last crack at getting those tricky little bits right that had caught me out for most of the last 14 laps.
I finished my last lap with a smile as big as when I started the first. What a great course, and an event with a fantastic vibe. Congratulations are well deserved for all those that finished and who helped make it a great weekend, particularly those who survived the slippy-slidey in the rain. What energy I had left was then put into chatting to my fellow racers swapping “and then my front wheel just disappeared” stories and generally agreeing what a great time we’d all had.
All that remained was to go and collect my prize from the great guys at Charge Bikes and SPAMBiking, who put on a great event, of a shiny ne Charge Duster frame.
What a great way of spending a rainy bank holday weekend. I don’t think I saw a frown, or stopped smiling once. I for one can’t wait to have another go at that course in the dry next year, but I had so much fun, I’ll be back even if it rains.
All that’s left is to say a special thank you to SPAMBiking and Charge for providing a great course and an event with an excellent atmosphere and I must make a special mention to Leisure Lakes for providing me me with a simply stunnin SantsCruz Tallboy as well as Exposure for letting me use the lights which were simply beyond compare.
Finally, here’s a full list of the heroes and heroines of the weekend:
1st Robert Dean Leisure Lakes Bikes
2nd Gerald Tudor
3rd Robert Holbeche
1st Kathy Beresford Tunnel Hill Trolls
2nd Amy Duck
3rd Sarah Peters
1st Prentice&Prentice Lumicycle
2nd Buff-Feel The Ride Buff-Feel The Ride
3rd Cleverley&Styrin Mudmunchers JT
1st Bowers&Mahe Mule Bar Girls 1
2nd Mule Bar Girls 2 Mule Bar Girls 2
1st Evans&Buchanan Castle Bikes / Syncros
3rd Rembaalski&Paterson West Drayton MBC
1st The Strudels Mule Bar
2nd Progression Fitness Progression Fitness
3rd SPAMBiking Team 1 SPAMBiking
1st Charge Bikes Team 1 Charge Bikes
2nd Bath Uni CC Bath Uni CC
3rd Gregory, Pettifor, Cordingley & Thyer
1st Stephen Day Mule Bar
2nd Roy Sheppard
3rd Pete Williams SPAMBiking