Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Red Kite Winter XC Series Round 2: Sheryl Crow has a point

Star date: 24 November 2013
Location: Coed Trallwm, Mid Wales
Event: Red Kite Winter XC Series Round 2
Weapon of choice: Rigid carbon singlespeed
Greatest weakness: Choice of weapon
Result: 3rd

If it makes you happy
It can't be that bad
If it makes you happy
Then why the hell are you so sad

I really didn't enjoy this one.

It wasn't the trails, which were the usual rough diamonds. It wasn't the weather, which was cold but dry, or the organisation, which was slick. And it wasn't the après-ride company or the welcoming bosom of the log-cabin café with its £2-a-pop pumpkin soup and rustic bread. It was all me.

The course was the same as last time with the addition of a flatter, faster loop familiar from previous races here and the strategic application of a few barrowloads of gravel to make the muddiest rootiest techiest section more rideable for the less gifted and able. But this time I didn't enjoy the climbs one bit; I didn't enjoy scaring myself silly on the descents nearly as much as usual; I didn't even enjoy splashing through the ford. What a misery.
CAC Photography: Red Kite Events - XC Winter Series - 24.11.2013 &emdash;
First lap. Still clean and trying the go-slowly trick to keep feet dry. Didn't work. 
Photos: Carol Corbett

Obviously I shot myself in the foot by choosing a singularly inappropriate tool for the job, the mountain biking equivalent of a penny farthing. No gears was fine (until it wasn't). No suspension was a surmountable challenge (I'd sent my suspension forks to the doctor, who sent them back saying I should've sent them to the undertaker). No front brake after half a descent (due to a fluid leak) was another matter. Add in almost no front wheel on the second lap after it made a sudden bid for freedom, and distinctly limited vision at times due to persistent mud-in-eye issues, and I was pretty much out of control on the descents. Beware the one-eyed trail snake!

Of greater concern, though, was my sluggishness on the climbs. My legs felt heavy from the off, and I struggled on both the big climb and the little climb on every lap. In the car on the way home, I came up with a number of reasons why this might have been. The best by far was that maybe my thermal tights were too tight, robbing me of power on every pedal stroke as they only reluctantly stretched over each knee...

It's crystal-clear from Strava, though, that the reason I felt so bad is simply that I was going so damned fast. My climbing times were among my best ever at Coed Trallwm despite the energy-sapping tackiness of the fireroads, and so were my descending times in spite (or maybe because) of the absence of brakes and suspension. Runaway winner Gareth Payne set a ferocious pace from the start, and after losing him at the top of the first hill I went on to spend the remainder of the race having a right old ding-dong for second place with Abergavenny rider Tim Rose. Every climb I'd pull clear, and every descent he'd use his downhill racing experience to catch up again.

CAC Photography: Red Kite Events - XC Winter Series - 24.11.2013 &emdash;
That's how you do it.

Only after a last-gasp effort to drop him on lap 4 did I finally manage to make it out of the ford without hearing the dreaded splash as he piled into the water behind me. Finally I'd done it, I'd broken him, he'd given up on second place, and I went on to cross the finishing line well ahead - only to hear the bell for the final lap. Oops. This almost-90-minutes-plus-a-lap-for-the-leader format does my head in - I always seem to get it wrong.

Not only did I think I was finished - I really was finished. I could only half-ride and half-walk the final climb, watching Tim disappear into the distance. And then, to add insult to injury, well actually injury to insult, or more precisely bruised hip to bruised ego, the front end washed out suddenly on a tight right-hander on the extra loop and dumped me unceremoniously on the deck. Ouch.

It's definitely half-empty

I was really disappointed to come third. I know, I know, most people would be more than pleased with that. Such as everyone who finished behind me. Ordinarily so would I, but to lose second like that after two hours of hard slog was galling. Of course, it wouldn't have happened on a proper bike.

With luck, though, my glass will be brimming over with festive spirit at round 3 on 22 December and Mr Happy will be back. Even I can't take a race too seriously that close to Christmas. In fact I'm looking forward to it already.

Read another take on the race from Tom Stickland here

Gareth Payne 01:46:26 19:36 21:15 21:28 21:47 22:18
Tim Rose 01:53:52 20:33 22:31 23:00 23:45 24:01
Chris Schroder 01:56:50 20:30 22:31 22:37 23:23 27:46
James Pritchard 02:04:10 22:15 24:19 24:43 26:01 26:50
Jim Tipp 02:06:03 25:50 25:21 25:26 24:20 25:32
Peter Lloyd 02:06:14 22:38 24:46 25:06 27:04 26:39
Daniel Philips 02:07:51 23:02 25:00 26:03 26:36 27:07
Stephen Aucock 02:13:27 22:54 25:12 26:42 27:43 30:55
Peter Carter 02:17:23 24:17 26:27 27:21 28:15 31:01

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