John W and Dom are racing the BCBR over the next few days:
It’s the aftermath the first day of racing and it’s been quite a challenge. The weather has changed from wet and cool to roasting hot and humid and those of us from cooler climes are finding it tough going!
The start was self seeding this morning and my intention was to be at the front of the 3rd wave of 10 on the basis that the pros would be in the first, the over ambitious in the second and the fast guys with a more sane attitude in the 3rd. Not sure what happened but I managed to get into the 2nd after being quizzed by a young lady of sizable but compact proportions who wasn’t easily convinced of my ability. Maybe it’s the hairy legs in a sea of oil slicked hairless pins?
Anyway, the whippets are let off the leash and we follow 5 mins later. There’s 2 or 3km of tamac followed by the same of gravel, both wide enough for 2 cars plus. There is the inevitable jockeying or position as we hare off a top speed and tuck in behind those with more adrenalin than common sense (not me for a change). Before we leave the tarmac I see a wheel appear between me and the guy next to me where there’s no space for a bike. The bars attached to the same bike scuff my shorts and the wheel tunrs through 45 degrees but the guy somehow stays on. He’s given some advice in words of one syllable by all around but a couple of minutes later he tries the same manoeuveur on another pair and this time his front tyre parts company with the rim with a bang and he’s down taking at lest one other rider with him. I spoke to a teammate of one of the innocent victims and it seems that he has severe gravel rash but nothing worse. As for the eejit, I don’t know.
Things settle down on the singletrack and indeed people seem to be over cautious with lots of stop/start as people are riding too slowly to clear roots without unclipping. There’s another logjam as someone finds out that the wooden bridges/boardwalks are still slippery due to the abundance of recent rain but no harm done.
It’s apparent fairly soon that the technical level is higher than that in Ashton Court or even the black run at Afan. There are some steep downhill sections where it’s hard to get far enough off the back of the saddle to prevent going over the bars (a dropper post would have been a good idea Matt – thanks for the advice, which I didn’t heed!). There are also plenty of foot high logs across the trail which the full-sus guys seem to fly over. I’ve been picking up speed to clear the roots but have a massive endo on a downhill log which hung in the balance between flying over the bars and landing safely for what seemed an eternity but fortunately the latter ensued.
The glorious singletrack through the woods ends too soon and we are onto a gravel road for the big climb of the day. I’m making good progress and make sure that I empty both water bottles before the 1st feed station at the top which pretty much marks the half way point. Although the heat on the shadeless climb was sapping I stupidly elected to fill only one bottle on the basis that I would save 750g and it was mostly downhill until the next feed station in another 15km or so. This might have been OK, but looking down for my full bottle a few km later i find that it’s gone! As the temperature climbs and with it the humidity I really began to suffer. Cramp in my calves when I was out of the saddle (alleviated by dropping my heels) and quad / abdominal cramp which was impossible to clear either by freewheeling or pedalling on.
A flatish section presented the opportunity to re-pass some of those who’d got by me on the technical bits and well for a time. However, concentrating too much on dropping those I’d passed and not keeping eye out for the pink ribbons that mark the route had me 5 minutes up a detour (a steep one inevitably) before I realise my mistake. Feeling more than a little foolish I backtrack to find the course and bump into others who had made a similar mistake. By this stage cramp is a constant companion and I tackle the steep climbs on foot to minimise the pain and help stretch out.
The second and last feed stop comes as a blessed relief and I drank a couple of litres of electrolyte drink and filled my remaining bottle as well as grabbing some gel blocks.
The second “Enduro” section is a pleasure as the reduced physical exertion seemed to help my cramp. These sections are timed separately and represent the most technical sections which form a sub-competition (like the sprinters of king of the mountains jerseys in the grand tours). I’m in no danger of being anything other than poor to middling on these due to lack of talent and having an XC hardtail but the course chopper picks me up for the closing stages as I emerge from the trees which encourages me to let the brakes off a little more. I’m filmed exclusively for the following few minutes until I tag onto the back of a bigger group in the regular singletrack that follows where we were all filmed for a few more minutes. It was just like the Tour de France, honestly! The only downside was that as I exited the Enduro section with its marked finish I assumed that I’d finished the whole course for a short while and just tootled along; but hopefully that bit will be edited out…..
The final few km are a procession as passing was impossible until the last km. The finish comes as a blessed relief although standing astride the bike with both legs spasmed with cramp and an expression that was anything but a good advertisement for their event had the ever-courteous Canadian staff somewhat lost for words. Fortunately the stiff upper lip prevailed, possibly due to dehydration as well. Surprisingly typing this is causing hand cramp so despite drinking ridiculous quantities of isotonic fluid I think I need to drink some more!
The good news is that despite the above I seem to be only about 20 mins off the leader of the 40-plus competition, who happens to be my tent buddy, a very amiable chap from Tennessee called Pete. He seems to be fresh as a daisy….. Needless to say the overall winner is way faster than either of us to the tune of an hour or so. Gulp.
Dom has completed the course with tales of woe largely dehydration related but will live to fight another day.
I’m hoping that the warm weather will mean that it’s little warmer in the tent tonight. My skimpy sleeping bag was far from sufficient last night, even when wearing a fleece jacket and trousers. It’s a bank hol here tomorrow so I’m not expecting to be able to put that right any time soon. Oh well I’ll just wear all of my clothes!