Hit the North was a new 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.12 hour race organise in the Manchester/Bolton area, limited to 500 riders (solo, pairs, 4 man teams).
Mr K captained the Retrobike Sports Casuals of Chorlton team of 4 and I went with him to ride the course the day before. Rain for most of the week - this was manchester in summer - had left the course very soggy with loads of standing water and the practice lap was not a roaring success (at one point I declared "I hate mountain biking, it's s***" and made plans to sell all my bikes). The 8.4 miles seemed to last forever and I, for one, was not looking forward to race day, even less so when it hammered down all night.
The Saturday dawned, showers continued and I "took one for the team" on the first lap. All reference to the Somme was banned (for one there was insufficient poetry to make it appropriate although it was reminiscent of the Crimean) although we secretly hoped that an impromptu game of football might break out. We were s*** out of luck.
Team tactics were to do multiple laps to avoid stiffening up in the wind and steady, hard showers. With adrenalin/Red Bull plus the pressure of other riders, the course and I rode much better than the previous day.
But by the end of lap 2 I was drenched and covered in what I hoped only looked like baby poo. The course had a variety of surfaces (setting concrete like mud, heavily water logged grass, gravel, sandy mud, road, pave etc) and, although not hilly, a few tricky bits including an 'unrideable but for the madly skilled few' bombhole, an 'unrideable but for the madly skilled few' chicken run and a few steep, rutted and tram lined gullies that tested the nerve and cantis to the limit.
Despite riding the second half of lap 2 out of the saddle with a softening to flat tyre I was ordered out again for lap 3 by Captain K. Thankfully my work was done by 2 p.m. and heckling duties awaited. The number of people leaving the campsite was amazing - what, a mountain bike race with rain and mud? No thanks.
On and on it went, the solo riders looking increasingly bedraggled. Satisfyingly, on 17/18 year old bikes, Mr. K and I were losing no time on the modern riders on their £3k 'rigs'. This may have been due to the combination of not being able to stop if we wanted and all being equal when pushing through treacle although I prefer to see it as vindication for the quality of older bike and rider.
Results are still awaited so no idea how the Sports Casuals fared but with 10 laps tapped out with military precision and so many people withdrawing who knows how high we might have finished.
A top event serving pie and peas plus proper beer from a barrel, hopefully to be repeated next year with a bigger RB contingent.
Mr. K will be along later no doubt with a much clearer, pithier perspective and some photos.