Beastway Round 1 - Bike Magic

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Beastway Round 1

Last night was the first race in the ever-popular (amongst London villagers, anyway) Beastway series at the Eastway Cycle Circuit. And since BM members cover the entire spectrum of riders, we’ve got two reports, one from each end of the field. First up, winner Jon Webb…

My plan before the race had been to go flat-out from the start and try to drop everyone straight away. I was hoping that having taken the train and ridden to the race would mean I was well warmed up, but cold nasty rain for thirty minutes before the race had me sheltering indoors. I like it when it rains at Beastway, though. I know the course quite well which gives me an advantage when it’s slimy, so I wasn’t too bothered.

The race started and as usual Steve Hambling went straight to the front. I had been a bit over-optimistic in my choice of starting gear and got a little left behind, but soon sat in behind Steve at a steady pace. To my surprise Mike Jackson suddenly shot past both of us and quickly disappeared into the distance before I could follow. We hit the short road section, which turned out to be shorter than I thought – just as I had my head down getting up to speed I went right off course, through the tape. Rejoining in about 5th place I soon nipped past Marcos Schier and Steve, but Mike Jackson was well ahead, and was still pulling out a bigger gap. By the end of the first lap he had a good 20 second lead, and was still accelerating as we passed some unfortunate rider from the singlespeed race who’d binned it on the first two metres of offroad, breaking his wrist and a rib or three.

I wondered if I would ever catch Mike but he started to slow and I kept seeing him closer and closer as he grew tired, and then eased up when I got near. Once he slowed up I knew I would beat him. The course was getting a bit cut up and the grass had acquired a nice thin film of greasy mud by this point, but a bit of speedway-style cornering and a few sprints up the short climbs meant that I pulled out a good gap after another lap.

Then it was just a matter of keeping smooth and passing lapped riders cleanly. I think I only cut up one bloke, on the short corner drop-in to the road, but he didn’t seem too bothered, luckily.

The welcome final lap bell was rung and I eased up for a steady final lap, the rain was still falling lightly and I was absolutely caked in mud but the bike was still working well and I managed to cross the line in a fraction under an hour.

As ever, another great race from John and the Beastway Structureless Tyrrany.

And from the other end of the field, Marc Davison:

Who’d have thought riding laps around what was once a rubbish tip in East London in the rain could be fun? But it was! When I got there it started raining, so I’m standing around thinking, “WTF am I doing here? I’m slow, I’m unfit and just crap!”

Then Jon Webb gave me his bike to hold whilst he signed on and I felt useful. And short – his seatpost comes up to my nipple level! He showed me his freshly sharpened elbows – his arms are about as thick as my baby daughter Sian’s…

I’ve entered the Sports class on my Zaskar – I’ve got a singlespeed too but the SS race looked very hotly contested. We’re the 3rd group away. I’m stood at the back while the front lot sprint off on the initial Tarmac bit like the wannabe jeyboys they are. Then where the track goes off road up a little bank – Boing! – this bike goes flying up in the air. As I pass the bloke is lying face down and making some frankly nasty noises with a few peope stood around him (an ambulance was there in seconds).

I carry on, first bend and yep it’s slippy, hard pack with very wet mud on top. Carry on going, taking it easy to start with, just want to get the body going properly, pointless pushing too hard, there’s still most of the race to go. As I keep going, running at a nice pace, I start getting a feel for the way the bike’s taking the sketchy corners and it’s not too bad. As the lap progresses the people I started out with either pull away or – Wow! – fall back, what’s going on here? This shouldn’t be happening, but it is, which makes me feel a bit better. Making it up all the climbs on the first lap also makes me feel good. I’ve not blown up yet and I seem to be riding at the same pace as a few others. This has never happened before…

I carry on, enjoying it more and more as the race goes on, let the people pass with a cheery greeting, or a “Yep, go left”, give Jon “Pointy Elbows” Webb a few shouts of encouragement as he powers past and then nearly loses the back end in the mud. Part way through lap 4 the bell goes. Arse – I’d worked on the theory that I’d be doing 5 laps so I’ve held a bit in reserve, so I set my target and start putting the power down a bit more, pushing it a bit more into the corners. It’s fun. I finish feeling better than I ever have after a Beastway race! The weather is certainly a bit of a leveller and it keeps the number of people down, which is nice as you get a bit more track space. It’s amazing how many people can’t ride conditions like tonight’s, what are they, fair weather fairies? No doubt my placing will be rubbish, but, I wasn’t last (I don’t think), and I felt good about it so I don’t really care if I am…

As it turned out, Marc wasn’t last. Last in Sports, but 116 out of 133 overall. Full results from Jon to Marc and beyond here.


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