Rather than the usual “goodbye” or “see you” for some reason I can’t help saying “keep it real” or “don’t sell out”. Hopefully I will stop it soon, but no doubt will move on to something equally annoying. Anyway, it started me thinking that it is actually a nice thing to do and while I don’t mean anything by it, maybe I should be taking my own candid advice. So, seeing as I race for Retrobike, I have the dilemma of riding old skool, whilst when it comes down to it, actually wanting to win. Perhaps this concept isn’t completely incompatible, but it could take some doing.
So, to come clean right from the start and seeing as this is meant to be a race report, I do have a history of competing in quite a lot of mtb from since around 1992. I would even go so far as to say that I have been consistently mediocre for quite a number of years! Anyway, I officially retired in 2005 after a successful year in the Masters category (if you are remotely interested I can bore you with the details) and ever since then have frankly found mtb racing, well lets say, not very exciting. The thought of pedalling around the same course against the same people for years on end would just about tip me over the edge. Perhaps the flame wasn’t quite extinguished though. I absolutely have to keep fit, and therefore I have dabbled in the odd race since – I may be best known to Retrobike users as the strange chap doing the run and first lap at the start of the Mountain Mayhem in an usual outfit. I most certainly remember the pain of the Raleigh Lizard last year and having my helmet mounted tiger tail stolen on the 1st climb.
For the last couple of years-ish I’ve decided to have a go at the Masters category at the 1st British Mountain Bike Series (previously NPS) at Sherwood Pines, in Notts. The 2010 event was ok, but a bit of a cold plus not that much training does tend to equal a mediocre result. Which is what I achieved. As it is the National series and fairly local, it has to be the one to go for and therefore thought I’d try again this year. But which bike to choose? I’m sorry to say that despite having a lovely Bontrager Race Lite with Sids and Magura rim brakes in the garage….I went for modern. It’s the conundrum of keeping it retro or selling out and having a better chance of winning….
Now when I say modern, its not exactly cutting edge, but I know I cant fool anyone that my re-sprayed Commencal (year 2005) with disk brakes and no-tubes wheels is remotely old school. It is white with pink decals though. Plus, it could have been worse – I didn’t choose my carbon Scott Spark.
Now back to the race. I admit, I did a bit of pedalling in the winter and I’ve already owned up that I have done a bit of pedalling in the past. I even went as far as doing a couple of warm up races in the weeks before (1st and 2nd, yes I am boasting), which was a confidence booster. I promised the Guvnor a race report, but how to write it without it reading like “me, me, me” – which they all seem to do?. Here goes, but you may have to read between the lines a bit…
Using the hill…
As I knew I would be gridded having raced the whole series last year I didn’t practice any starts prior to the race. I didn’t get gridded on the 3rd row like I thought I wouldn’t and didn’t go off like a drainpipe up a rat. Nor had I pre-ridden the course. Twice. If in doubt, sit in. The plan was not to stay in contention from the start, so I didn’t make the front group. I rode around at the back and felt terrible, with no support from my girlfriend or mates, no gels or drinks. I most certainly have never won any bike races at Sherwood Pines. A lot of pedalling in the forest ensued at a slow pace. Fortunately, the chap in the lead didn’t puncture at any stage at all. I attacked off the back of the fella I was racing with on a downhill (my speciality) and managed to close up a gap, which couldn’t be maintained for the last couple of laps.
Well you can (just about) work that one out from the podium pic. Ah…the glamour of British MTB racing. Pretty much everyone had gone home and the prize was a generic medal type thing that presumably will be given out at all the other rounds. So…a fair bit of training, expense and quite a large amount of effort on the day not to mention selling out and riding a modern bike resulted in an admittedly fairly chuffed feeling when crossing the line, which rapidly diminished en route to the podium!
That may not be it completely for this year. There is the small matter of the Mountain Mayhem 24hr coming up. Suggestions accompanied by loans of equipment/bikes for the run and 1st lap are more than welcome– PM’s to Superstrong – the crazier the better! I do have a selection box of moustaches in stock to add to the mix as usual. See pics for previous years. Whatever i’m in and on will be taken round at full speed.
Following the Mayhem, the NPS story has led me to consider what really can be achieved on a retro bike. I suppose it would depend on the bike, the course and my legs and luck on the day. It would be nice to give it a go though, maybe at least once this year…so wheel see, any suggestions welcome.
Post Script – Selling out again!
That’s correct, this time the Spark was taken out for a trip around the Ritchey Bikefest race at Bristol in the 6hr mixed pairs race on Sunday 5th June, accompanied by Fern also on her ahem matching pink Spark. The intention being to “enjoy” the race and not go too nuts. There was a bit of a mix up of categories – we were announced as winners of the 3hr pairs whilst still on course racing for 6. This led to us thinking we were 18 seconds off the lead with just 3 laps to go. Followed strangely by my thinking we were about 10 minutes down with my 2 laps to go. So either a good chance or rapidly fading chance of the win! Cue rapid intake of gels and flapjack and riding the last 2 laps like Contador after a decent steak. Practically seeing double at the finish we were called onto the podium for the win…when it was announced we had won by 2 laps!