Winning races is something that does not come to me often. In fact, only three times can I recall winning in a riding history that spans two decades.
Try harder some might say, enter more events others might add. My philosophy for racing has always been based on “finish the race” first and foremost. I get a satisfaction from the course, the ride and the completion. Maybe not the most aggressive racing attitude I grant you but it’s stood me in good stead for years and I always enjoy the experience that way. I guess this is why the MTB marathon, enduro and sportive-style events are so popular, because it’s about your challenge at the end of the day.
Sunday’s Gorrick 100 was certainly a challenge. As the editor of Bikemagic said: “I can’t recall an event where so many people have been forced to pullout due to expired brake pads! Quite an experience.”
Not only was the race a war of attrition for your equipment but the chilled temperatures and constant rain for hours really sapped the life out of us from lap two onwards. Starting with full length legwarmers and armwarmers, I was better prepared than some, but one lap in it was time for the gillet. Two laps in and my ‘last lap gloves’ made an early appearance. Three laps in and the racing cap went on under the helmet: this was the savior and from then on life returned to my body, but not my bike.
I knew early on I was going to have to conserve brake pads as much as I could if I was to last the distance. Taking gentle lines and using all the old tricks in the book (head for the muddy bits to slow down), I tried my best to eek out what life I could from a brand new set of Magura brake shoes.
Through the pads and well onto the metal in four laps, I had got further than most. I was inspired by Nick Coley (Team Mule Bar Strudel) who was on a charge for the win in the 5 lap race. As Nick pitted for his last time and flew out onto his last lap I stuffed a second and then a third Jammy Dodger inside me and set about the chase thinking it would motivate me to ride faster rider who had the disadvantage of no brakes.
It kind of worked and we yo-yo’d on the 5th lap until my brakes also totally disintegrated. As Nick went on to win his race I pitted a few minutes later, contemplating the task of two more laps freeride style. No time for pondering, get on with the job and out I went, mindful of the task ahead. It’s amazing how little you really need brakes if you pick your lines. I think singlespeeding teaches you some of that. All the tricks of mud braking, berm riding and top tube hugging, foot down heel dragging were employed on lap 6.
There were very few riders on course and I had been out for almost 8-hours as I rolled in, grateful to be alive. “How am I doing” I asked, psyched to do my final lap. “You’ve won!” came the reply. I was a bit confused, shocked then very very happy. So few riders had been able to continue and it had carried on so long that he course had to be shut early and Gorrick were already sweeping the course.
All in all a more than memorable race for everyone. Gorrick put on a great course and the Bank Holiday turnout was a good as ever. It just proved how we can all still get caught out by a little thing called rain. Winning the race was great but I can’t help thinking I was more than a little bit the Jammy Dodger this year!
Rory Hitchens (USE Exposure)