With the Captain's vast tentage erected on Thursday evening along with the stato's number crunching equipment, we travelled 20 minutes down the road to have a meal with Lewis Collins and the good lady V. Admittedly we were taking a risk exposing two tenths of the Sports Casuals team to unspecified diseases, yet we believed time spent in the company of the great man would be both indispensible and inspirational (that and a comfy bed, showers and a hearty breakfast). Sadly, some collateral damage was incurred by the Captain, largely through the infusion of cheap Filipino rum and a flavorsome cigar on the back step - all the good motivational and tactical advice disappearing the moment my spinning head hit the pillow...
Max, Jo and I took advantage of sunny Friday weather to squeak around the track in a couple of leisurely hours. I was slightly shocked to find double and triple downward pointing arrows on the course, with technical sections that were nowhere to be seen last year. A couple of sections had to be practiced, particularly the hairpin bend, to ensure that they were rideable or, in the case of a novice, to be avoided at all costs.
After a relaxing Friday night around the BBQ, we awoke to the more expected miserable grey weather. Panaracer Spikes were dug out of the car and hung on the workstand; waterproofs unpacked - we know the drill! The team talk gathered the squad together for the first time and the rotation order was devised through a process of over-polite negotiation. Tactically I decided that we ought to spring out of the traps and surprise our fellow RB teams with pace and agility, putting the Guvnor and Alan out first and second, backed up with some consistent lappage from Sarah; swift one's from Malibu Mike, the Ken sans kiltage and Russ.
News of Heathy's big spill put some pretty big sticks in the spokes of their team at dusk and the realisation hit home that this is still a dangerous sport - the curse of not riding Retro had seemingly struck! As Mike settled in to his heckling and Malibu trackside, we drove into the night with our LA resident rabbit coming out of the gloom, handing over to a fully retro-lit Max. I took the opportunity to hit the hay around this point, anticipating another sub two hour lap being clocked. No sooner had I bodybagged myself in quiltage when the rains came crashing down. Last year's experience lingered heavily - I pictured Max carrying his RC100 around the course, knowing full well that it would be 75% unrideable.
Nevertheless, the alarm went off at 1.30am and I readied myself, wheeling the Alien down to the now empty Heckler's Corner. The lone candle flickered in the wind, the rains had now subsided and I counted the number of bikes being pushed or carried through - 1 in every 5 was unrideable, with at least 10 coming through with no rear mech. Time ticked on, no sign of Max. I began to expect the worst - not a precious RC100 with such terminal damage??
Then, at 3pm, the familiar face hove into view. "Dinnae bother going out..." he said, "...it's all over for the team." I thought he was merely saying that I didn't need to feel pressured into riding in the s**t - what he was trying to say was, that in a tumble, he'd lost the handover wristwrap, thinking that we would be disqualified! After a quick discussion, we decided to simply ask the organisers for another and, sure enough they obliged and we were back in business!
Before I had left the arena I knew I was in trouble - the tyres clogged before the first singletrack and hill, making the bike almost unpushable. I changed tactics, telling myself it was a bikecarrying race so as not to be defeated so early in the lap and, sure enough, I began to overtake the people still trying to ride their bikes. With over 15 riders passed a weird positivity crept into my head, even when my lights failed (as I'd lent them to the Rabbit earlier, I guess) the full moon popped out over the obelisk.
At last I was on my bike, rolling down into the arena and up the Kenda climb - I thought I had it licked, until my front tyre suddenly deflated at the Red Bull tent. Discussions with Sarah earlier in the day about carrying spare tyres came flooding back - I'd advised her against it and now I was to be punished!
A frustratingly long trudge back to the handover with the occasional pathetic attempts to ride on the flapping tyre; with sympathetic grunts from riders passed earlier only adding to the disappointment! Nevertheless, the sun was now up, the team had kept going through the night and each step forward, regardless of how slow or tortuous, was keeping the Sports Casuals in the hunt!
With JV inspired by his manic 'Eye of the Tiger' heckling sessions, he was ready to restore the balance with a gritty breakfast run on the now drying dawn course. I, meanwhile, was debating with Mrs K on whether it was worth her while even going out. I hadn't wanted her first race to be in such dismal circumstances, thinking that she would give up her infant cycling career in an instant she hit the off camber soap!
Fortunately she decide that the pressure of telling all her family and friends she was riding was just too much to bail out! I shod her bike with the skinniest, most pushable tyres and shod Jo in walking boots - figuring that she wouldn't be doing much pedalling! She left around 7am - I watched her down the Start/Finish straight like a nervous parent watching their child go on a school trip...
Jo then handed over to Steve, who had patiently waited in the wings to run his singlespeed Bontrager. I was relieved to see that the elation we all feel just from completing, let alone competing, was in Jo's face. We were both chuffed with her achievement and the team was still in business...
With another fast lap from Al we bathed in the luxurious sunshine, escorted by a Malvern Mistral, ripping up gazebos everywhere. The course had gone 360 degrees - from a sodden muddy slush puppy to an almost dusty hardpack in the space of five hours - weird! The other RB teams had wilted under the metronomic pressure of the SC's and the threat of a freakish performance from one of the Soloists had either been pebble-dashed in the Philipines or was on its way back home in Dad's Landcrusier...
Our inspirational guru had arrived at trackside to observe the outcome. As a reward no doubt, he invited me to cycle with him on a victory lap - I was of course honoured to do so, respectfully allowing him to 'own the hill' whenever the opportunity arose. We span round with Jango for a most pleasant circuit in an hour and forty five, stopping to review the weekend, take photos and, in the case of EE, sup three Red Bulls from their dispensary on the hill. A highlight was seeing the Retrobike possee on the Kenda hillside, like meercats in the sun, cheering us on. For me it was an opportunity for closure, the frustrations of my walking lap of nine hours previous was Etchasketched into oblivion as we rode three abreast into the finish straight. I then chatted with Mrs Pat Adams as I gathered the team medals, thanking her for all their efforts on what must have been a trying few days.
All-in-all the Malverns yet again served up the drama we seem to need to make the achievement feel greater! Our scratch social team had gelled marvelously - with great support from and for each colleague - my thanks to you all. The RB social side was an equally impressive affair - with the Heckling Tent, the Slinky Soundsystem and the JBD SwapShop being personal highlights. I hope that the social racing idea really catches on and that we have at least two big teams able to compete on level terms next year - the excitement and banter created by that would be something to really look forward to!
The Captain - signing out.
http://www.retrobike.co.uk/gallery2/mai ... emId=44285
1. The Guvnor - 01:04:52 Fat Chance
2. Alan Ti - 01:02:14 Independent Fabrications
3. Sarah Wu - 01:37:49 De Kerf
4. Malibu Mike - 01:31:39 Specialized
5. The Ken - 01:33:39 GT Xizang
6. Russell - 01:20:51 GT Zaskar
7. Green Rabbit - 01:44:49 'Jonathon'
8. Retroking Max - 03:13:11 PACE RC100
9. Mr K - 02:16:07 Nishiki Alien
10. The Guvnor - 01:31:31 Mountain Goat
11. Mrs K - 02:43:42 Jamis Dakar Team
12. Steve PSD - 01:11:39 Bontrager SS
13. Alan Ti - 01:09:42 Independent Fabrication
14. Mr K - 02:12:58 Nishiki Alien
A note from our team stato:
As 30% of our TN category competitors finished behind the RB Sports Casuals compared to 15% and 13% respectively from our other RB teams - that makes us the strongest RB performers completing the event!
Although the SC's finished 7th out of 10 in their category, if we had put in our optional fifteenth lap we would have made the top 5 - that's our goal for 09 right there....!