November has been another month of not much in the way of bike riding, due to home and family commitments taking up every weekend. In fact, it’s getting to the point I almost feel like a fraud to call myself a mountain biker. Combining that with relative slef-induced financial hardship caused by entering not just this race, but the Ard Rock enduro and the National Enduro Championships since the last pay day and it was all feeling like actually riding a bike was getting to be a distant memory.
However, the good thing about committing a Sunday to a race is that no other plans can get in the way! Though with a touch of a shitty cold the week before nearly put a snotty spanner in the works. I woke up at 6:15am on race day and spent about 20 mins faffing around, almost trying to think of an excuse not to race. To be honest, I was over the cold hump, peak crapiness was gone and there was nothing really to stop me going…but it was cold, wet and dark outside and the race was going to be muddy of course. It wasn’t really stoking my MTB fire. I could, almost wanted,to just go back to my nice warm bed and get some much needed sleep and have a nice relaxed day…but three thoughts eventually crossed my tiny lethargic mind: 1) I’ve already paid for this, and I’m not wasting my hard earned cash!; B) if I stay home, there was a very real chance we would all vegetate on the sofa all day, and 3), this is the first chance I’ve had to ride at the weekend in weeks FFS!
“Grab yo’ shit Andy, man the f*ck up and get yo’ ass out the door!”
Round two of the Woodlands Winter DH Series was over at Gawton Gravity Hub’s other venue, ‘Tavi-Woodlands’ aka Chipshop and today’s race was taking place on the ‘Avalanche’ track. I’ve not ridden at Chipshop for several years and wasn’t even sure if I’d ridden this track before so learning and riding a new track was going to be good. Thanks to my fannying around at home and stops on the way up to get cash, grab a coffee, grab a double Sausage and Egg McMuffin (breakfast of champions…well, maybe Pie Eating ones), I only just had enough time to walk the track before practice opened. It looked fun though with some durrty roots and berms to begin with, a fast jump section in the middle linking to the big feature of the track, a large huck drop-off into a steep landing and left-hand berm, followed by some flowy corners and another quick rooty pedal to finish.
Practice went well, it was an easy track to learn and I. Was. Loving it. As my Southwest Syndicate team mate, Lawrence, said at one point, there’s nothing like that muffled sound of tyres and suspension working as you skim across roots at full whack. I don’t like cricket but I know they harp on about the sound of leather upon willow all the time in their silly white knitted clothes, whilst hitting the occasional ‘tallywhacker’or ‘googly’ or whatever they do. Anyway, I guess our version is the sound of triple compound rubber upon damp pine roots. Ahhhh, ’tis a beautiful, beautiful acoustic. It felt great to be out there, getting my standard mud moustache on (see cover photo…note to self, have a shave before muddy rides), slapping berms, roosting turns and talking about times and lines again.
So when Masters were called for first race runs, I jumped straight into the queue to be one of the first down rather than waiting for my allotted time…for two reasons: A) it was cold waiting around, and more importantly, 2). Ash Mullane was scheduled to go after me – and I didn’t fancy having one of the fastest racers in the southwest potentially buzzing my rear tyre towards the end of the track. My first run went well except for a minor moment near the top and I banged in a time of 1:19:603, good for 3rd overall at the time (ok, after only 8 riders had gone down). An hour or so later, my second run felt a fair bit faster…I made no real mistakes and was sure I carried more speed through a couple of key sections so when I crossed the line, I was confident it was a quicker time. I checked the screen..1:20:909. WHHAAAA??!!! 1.3 seconds slower?! How?! Mind blown. I had absolutely no clue how that run was slower, but the numbers don’t lie, so my first run time ended up being good enough for 15th (of 39) in Masters so not too shabby.
So given my choice seven hours earlier was either to stay in bed and vegetate or ride my bike and gravitate, I obviously made the right call. A few more busy weekends coming up, including the small matter of getting married and then it’ll be time to get some regular riding back on, ready for Round 3 in January, again at Chipshop.
It’ll still be cold, dark and wet outside but next time I won’t be so hesitant to drag myself out of that warm, comfy bed again…maybe.