Helen Findlay

My adventures in Middle Europe and The Colonies. This blog contains my own views and opinions and does not represent those of my employers, or any other organisation with which I am involved. Remember, just because it isn't Singletrackworld, doesn't mean it isn't shite !

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Battle of The Somme

Was away down in England last weekend for the British Cross Country Mountain Bike Champs. Travelled down with my friend Kieren from the Edinburgh Road Club. I was entered in the Masters Category (30+) and Kieren in the Seniors (20+).

The weekend started well, we had a good trip down and stayed in a village called Iron Bridge, the main tourist attraction of which was the (wait for it) first iron bridge ever built at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Hard to believe now, the main source of income seems to be tea-shops.

Kieren's brother Tom and his mate Adam came up from London to meet us. On saturday we went for a practice run about the race course, which was dry and fast and looking good. Adam and Tom hired some bikes to take part in the Open/Fun category early sunday morning. They immediately started beer-loading as preparation for the race.

It was probably a good tactic !! On sunday it absolutely chucked it down, and turned the entire course into a muddy hellhole worthy of a Wilfred Owen poem. Adam had pulled out of the race with a "hamstring injury" but Tom carried on and managed his two laps, the course being still rideable at that point.

I set off about 12.15, and managed one lap actually on the bike. The rain continued to get heavier and the course got muddier and more churned up as more riders went over it. Lap two involved a lot of falling off, sliding and running down steep bits carrying my bike. Was seriously considering pulling out, and was preparing my speech for the club committee (who had given us financial support to race) as I want through the changeover area.

Nae luck !! Was spotted by James Ouchterlony, best rider in Scotland and general all round nice bloke, who yelled out some encouragement as I went through. Couldn't give up then without looking really stink !! So I soldiered on. It was frustrating, was feeling good and fit on the climbs but just couldn't stay on the bike long enough and got wet and cold on the rest of it. Then I heard the start gun go for the Senior Mens race and it was all over for me. Put in a big effort to at least get to the last descent before they caught me, and mostly managed it. Spent the rest of the 3rd lap getting out of the way, which involved a fair bit of running alongside the course, so I could keep moving and stay out of danger. Snotty bunch they were too, only 3 people said thanks to me for getting out of the way. Elbows out next time...

So anyway, after 2hrs 54 mins (nearly three hours !! Spare it !!) I finished in 6th place out of 13 entrants, so pleased enough with that under the circumstances, but reckon I could have done better under better conditions. But I guess a race like that brings out the more skilled riders, which is only fair.

Tom finished second to last in the Open, but was a pretty heroic effort for his first ever XC race and having got in at 4am after drinking loads of cider the night before. Adam and Tom both reckon they will train up and come back next year....

Kieren finished 33rd out of 65 entrants in the Senior Men, which was a pretty good effort with major chain suck and only the big chain ring. The above-mentioned James O got 3rd, which was a brilliant result for him and the Scottish Team.

Off now to pack my mud tires permanantly in the back of the van...