“30 seconds to start,” says the announcer. I need to go to the toilet, but 30 seconds to go isn’t the time. Instead, I check my jersey is straight, take a glug of energised water from the bottle ands make sure I’m in the right gear – don’t want one too low or too high – anything to take my mind off the growing nerves.
“Ten seconds to start.” I turn my head and take a glance at the other riders around me. There are some real fast-looking guys sitting on some seriously bling hardtails, and further back the riders who make up the majority, on bikes ranging from cheap to expensive, and many joking about the race for last place. Most are here for fun rather than points, which is great.
“Five seconds to start. Four. Three. Two. One.” GO GO GO! We’re off, accelerating down the fireroad, riders banging into each other and handlebars clashing like deer antlers in battle. The track’s barely wide enough for two bikes but the desperation to overtake has some riders cutting through the undergrowth lining the track. Up ahead I can see four riders side by side, on a track that is barely wide enough for three. Carnage is ready to erupt at any moment.
Cleanly through this manic start, all the riders begin stringing out on the mile or two fireroad, leading us into the first and biggest climb of the course. Heaving the bike up in the middle ring, round the 180degree hairpin and head into the woods. The course continues grinding along on fireroad for a while longer, before one little sod of a climb brings us to the start of the singletrack. The lack of rain in the days leading up to the race has meant the course is only slightly tacky – just enough to keep you on your toes – but the speed is still very high.
It’s now singletrack nearly all the way to the finish, through Wheal Sidney and over the Tabletop. Over some super slippery roots and drop down into the cauldron, slide through the trees and hit a short section of fireroad. Shift up into the big ring and try to carry the momentum up the next climbs. You can take a deep breath now as the finish is in sight, but first a rollercoaster through the bombholes. Out into the open, and the highlight of the course is the final zig-zag descent with two very sharp hairpin turns requiring a lot of faith in your tyre’s ability to cling to the dirt. A fast descent and we’re back at the start/finish area, ready for another adrenaline-fuelled lap.
You might think that with all five rounds of the Soggy Bottom series being staged at Newnham Park that the courses would all be the same, and therefore become boring. Far from it. The park has enough available trails to offer the organisers loads of options for keeping the course fresh and different from the previous round. In the first two rounds we’ve had none of the legendary cramp-inducing river crossings, I’m sure they’re saving the best for last…
The entry for this second round cracked the two hundred mark that the first round got close to, and again the Youth and Junior categories were packed.
In the hotly contested Sport category, John Smedley took the victory. The Bikinmotion rider took the lead from Hal Fade and Andrew Perrakis (Mid Devon CC).
Mid Devon CC’s Jonathan Locke took the Expert win from Pete Hawkins (Bigpeaks.com) and Jason Flooks (Certini) rounded off the top three.
One of the most popular categories, the Master’s class was the scene of some very fast riding. It was too fast however for Pete Dawe and Andy Carnell (Shred/Cove) who could only manage second and third respectively to the winner, Darren Shepard.
Almost as popular was the Veteran category as 27 riders battled for first place. Nick Evans (Yeovil CC) took the win by a slim margin from Neil Tubbs (Sid Valley CC). Carl Ward (Team Taunton) took third.
Mike Parker (Mid Devon CC), Dave Turner and David Drake took first, second and third places in the Grand Veteran category.
Another very strong turn out from the Bikinmotion powered riders had them taking many of the top spots in both the Youth and Juvenile categories. In the Youth, Hamilton Lacey led Dan Frost (Bikinmotion) home by just 3/100th of a second. Luke Harrison took third place.
Bow Jango Cann (Team CF3) spearheaded the Juvenile category again; taking the victory with four Bikinmotion riders hot on his heels, with the eventual winning margin being less than a minute. James Schofield led the Bikinmotion group home in second, with Zak Warwick in third.
The Team battle rolls on
The domination of Bikinmotion puts them clearly at the top for the team battle prize. Trailing 24 points behind is the Mid Devon Cycling Club. The big battle between the Chodski Indians and Shred/Cove got even closer, with the Chodskis bridging the gap and taking third place from the Shred/Cove team. Meanwhile JustRide finally scored some points to put them one place off bottom spot. Great.Photos by Simon Kirk at www.pbase.com/simonkirk/round_2. Series details from Inevent at www.inevent.co.uk. More action from JustRide at www.justride.co.uk.