What a wicked weekend away!!
Got picked up by the jam packed GT wagon, consisting of Chris and the gang on friday morning. They were passing Loughborough as they wound up north on the slog to the land of Haggis!! I was dropped off at the youngest team mates Ed’s in Yorkshire with bike and bags, while the others cracked on to the Red Bull Minidrome venue. I spent the night at Ed’s and we jumped in the van in the morning with Ian (Ed’s dad) and Jon Hopkins (Aire Valley Cycles’ resident maniac)! The conversation on the way up was wacky as we two mad Jons are good at talking rubbish.
We arrived at the venue and guess what, it was raining, well it is Scotland! We got the Zaskars out and rolled over to the sign-on tent. We met Chris, who had done a sterling effort erecting the GT gazebo single-handedly. After comparing tyre choices and agreeing on the Racing Ralphs for the trail centre based course, we put on the Oakley Jawbone eye mud protectors and commenced the course reccie. It started with some quality single track climbs, leading to some uphill rooty sections which, due to the recent buckets of rain, had turned into hiking sections. The course was great fun with sweeping curves and testing sections, mixed in with fire road points to pass people on, and grab a much needed drink. On one of the rocky drop offs halfway round, I pinched the tyre and had to practice some early running skills, to get to the main arena. A quick blast of air and a fresh tube courtesy of Lezyne, and I jumped back on ready to get a proper lap in. DENIED! Apparently they need half an hour before the open race to stop riders from going onto the course. I decided to get the Muc-off out and clean the beast, as I didn’t want to get cold standing around waiting for practice to open again, opting to ride the second half blind on Sunday. We were staying at Castle Douglas, an interesting place, with its boy racers doing laps of the car park and Iron-bru and Jagermeister student drinks. We hit the bar for a drink and chatted in the Hotel lounge for a bit before retiring to the rooms. Unfortunately Jon who I was sharing with won the rock, paper, scissors and got the double bed… Damn you, paper!!!
Started the morning watching the London Nocturne repeat on TV. Was mildly amused by the lack of porridge in a Scottish hotel and had to settle with the Weetabix and scrambled eggs. We got back to the venue with the mosquitos deciding to come back out in force to take away more of my precious blood, as obviously the day before they didn’t get their fill. We met up with Chris and got all the gear ready, the 29ers sparkling and tuned to perfection. After watching the women’s race finish I decided to start warming up on the start hill. Though I spent most of the time chatting as normal, due to heightened nerves. We were all called over to the start line, I waited to be herded into the correct pen for number 29. I was called up to the grid opting to stay to one side as I had a plan for the start, well the same as everyone else no doubt!
Off went the start gun and the legs started churning the pedals, I got a good start going up the outside of the riders in front and working myself into the low teens according to the all the numbers on the other riders backs around me. Going into the single track I was shadowing Nick Craig (Scott Bikes) and stuck at it, running up the first muddy section – it was quicker than trying to ride it! I hopped back on the bike and found myself sinking! A loud crack later, and I was half a seatpost down… hmmmmmm…
My heart sunk; another national and another problem, I picked up the remnants of the post and saddle which had snapped at the clamp. I ran to the next fire road section with my my mind battling on the verge of defeat. With the post in hand I jumped back on and gingerly carried on around the course losing places at an alarming pace. By the time I had attempted the technical sections and limped back into the arena I had lost a lot of time and the leading Juniors had cruised on by. I stopped in the pits and Chris and Ian assessed the damage for a few minutes seeing if they could pull out the stuck piece of carbon and replace what was left of the post. Meanwhile I asked the UCI Commissaries’ if I could race without a seat. Apparently you are allowed to, a sure new weight saving tip for the future! As riders were still racing by, I told Chris and Ian that I would ‘get back on it, Rule 5’. I started to catch other riders with the comments of “you’ve got no seat post” from the crowd, thanks for the support as well by the way! I completed the second lap standing up without drink as it was pretty hard when you can’t rest. We tried again in the pits to rectify the problem, though I decided that it was pointless, so I carried on with the pain. I now realize how hard it is to race an Elite XC race standing up basically the whole way. The encouragement from everyone kept me going; also it was a good laugh, as I always like a challenge. I rolled in over the finish line in 27th ( 2 places higher than I started!!) 2 hours and 15 minutes out of the saddle, all I can say is that my legs are screaming today and walking downstairs is tricky. Congratulations to my awesome team mates Dave and Gareth for finishing 3rd and 5th respectively and Ed “the Shred” for finishing 5th in the Juniors, good job shorty!
After packing up the van and trying to walk of the cramps, whilst munching everything in sight, Chris and I set off to the Red Bull Minidrome in Edinburgh. We had a few friends racing in it and our friends Charge Bikes were part-sponsoring the event. We arrived after 2 hours of roller coaster style country lane driving in the GT Racing UK Van. It was an amazing venue; an art school, with statues surrounding the hall where the event was held. The atmosphere was buzzing, may have been partly due to all the cans of red bull. I was chatting to one of the organizers and before I knew it I had a number on one hand, fixie in the other and a helmet on. I was entered to do qualifying for the main event, I thought “why not?”. The crowd support was amazing when i stepped into the 30ft x 20ft mini velodrome, which was surrounded by safety mats. Luckily I was allowed 6 practice laps as it’s been a while since I rode fixed. It was hilarious trying to negotiate the turns, I have never done anything like it before, though it was so much fun, one of the highlights of my year so far. I was lined up and I had to complete 10 flying laps against the clock. I thought I went well though compared to the top riders I was a snail, I managed to get 70th out of 100 odd riders not too bad, though next time ill qualify for the final head to head showdowns. The head to head was brilliant watching the two riders trying to catch each other at high speed. I swear half the time I had my hands over my mouth due to the number of crashes and close calls. There were a few face plants as riders tyres folded even though they had 120psi in them, epic.
All in all an awesome weekend with some top quality guys and gals. I recommend doing both events, thanks to British Cycling for the amazing XC National series and Red Bull for the Madness that is Minidrome!
Thanks to the sponsors
GT Bicycles – Awesome Race and Training bike (Zaskar’s rock!) and loads of other bits and bobs.
Sram – XX Groupset, light weight performance at its best!
Schwalbe – for their amazing array of top notch race tyres
Accelerade – Nutrition
Lezyne – the best looking and performing Tools and pumps
Eyewear Outlet – Oakleys race and podium glasses
Muc-Off – simply the best cleaning products
Ultimate Fitness – Steve Middleton coach
Thanks Chris and Ian for the support at the race, hopefully soon I’ll get the result I crave!!! Roll on Langdon Hill in Essex for round 5!