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Whyte Winter Series Round 2

Before the race

Having my work Christmas party on the Friday before the race wasn't the best build up, I spent most of Saturday constantly drinking water to try and rehydrate myself. I've also been trying out a new carbohydrate loading technique but I won't bother telling you about that until I know for sure it's had a positive effect. It's certainly much easier than eating pasta with every meal prior to the race. I'll make a mental note to maybe write something about it by the end of the Whyte Winter Series, providing of course that it's worth writing about and has made a difference. The bike seemed in good shape although there was a slight rub on the rotor when I leaned to the left, possibly as I'd been trying to mix and match brake pads to use up some old pads. I may live in Yorkshire but that doesn't make me a tight arse. I'm a tight arse because I'm originally from Lancashire, a very important difference!

During the race

When the race started I put in a sprint to get a couple of positions off of the front of the group so that I could keep an eye on who was up front in case someone tried to slip away on the singletrack. I was pushing quite hard when we headed under across the official start line and unfortunately my right foot became unclipped and with the force of momentum I smashed the back of my calf onto my chainset which was annoying at the time as I almost lost my balance and came off the bike but I'd later find four holes on the back of calf - a nice chainring tattoo!

Within half a mile of the start it was fairly clear that there was another rider who was well up for a race, rider 907, who was on my tail heading up the first climb so I let him lead the way into the singletrack to see how quick he was intending to go and how he handled the inevitable backmarkers from the 2 and 4 hour races. When we caught the tail enders it was clear that he wasn't going to hang around and was making passes as quickly as possible, taking the odd risk and riding round, through and over obstacles to try and get a gap on me. The ground was frozen solid but with the early morning sun and hundreds of riders ahead of us it was already cutting up badly in places and it was about this point where I wondered if I should have pre-ridden the course so I knew where I might get a chance to pass and hopefully make it stick.

  • It may look nice and sunny but there were rumours of polar bears running round nicking peoples scarfs
    It may look nice and sunny but there were rumours of polar bears running round nicking peoples scarfs

It wasn't long before we arrived at the first and thankfully only queue, the appropriately named brown bombhole. It was a 15-20 foot bombhole, pretty steep and quite muddy in the run off area in the bottom of the bombhole so it was quite tricky but perfectly ridable as long as you had your wits about you. As 907 had pulled up and was queuing I saw no reason to make enemies and push my way to the front and had a brief chat and shook hands with my opponent, Andy, who told me he was the guy who chased me at round 1 and finished second. Clearly he was after a better result today and he told me that he'd not been aggressive enough in his passing at round 1, which was probably why he was pushing on through the backmarkers fairly quickly. Don't get me wrong we could have taken more chances but we were riding hard enough and for the guys we were passing it was going to be a long day so no point in taking yourself and someone else out in the first few miles.

  • Fortunately for the pit bitches the feed zone was bathed in sunshine throughout the race
    Fortunately for the pit bitches the feed zone was bathed in sunshine throughout the race

Eventually we got to the bombhole and dropped in, riding through and up the opposite side of the bombhole before taking a hairpin round a tree and back in to the bombhole twice and then climbing out the other side. Back on the fire road the pace went straight back up and Andy pushed on again. I decided to nip in front of him before the next singletrack section as I had managed to stick with him so far and I wanted to see if I could get a gap on him using my technique of passing when I can pull away and have a nice empty section of singletrack all to myself whilst the rider behind struggles to get past (hopefully) slower riders on slow sections of the course. Several times I thought I had managed to create a gap but I soon heard Andy behind me thanking riders for letting him through. Towards the end of the lap I decided to let Andy take the lead and I could get a breather, clearly neither of us were willing to be dropped!

  • Towards the end of the lap, the 'Trog Pit' was slippery, swooping singletrack...cue big grin :)
    Towards the end of the lap, the 'Trog Pit' was slippery, swooping singletrack...cue big grin :)

The second lap started with me holding a 1 second lead over Andy in second place. The start of the lap was similar to the first lap, but thankfully without the queuing although an enforced rest wouldn't have been a bad thing! Around a third of the way into the lap I decided to let Andy lead for the rest of the lap, I'd keep the pressure on him and then put in a do or die final push near the feed zone which started approximately 400 yards before the finish. I thought this was a risky move but as Andy was pushing the pace to the point where I almost fell off his back wheel at one point and he got away, he didn't look tired at all and only looked to be going faster and faster, I thought I should conserve a little and play it a little strategically and hope he blew himself out a little towards the end of the lap. I also thought going for the sprint finish would be good experience as I imagine is an important skill to have and isn't really something I've had to do before in a race. It would also be quite exciting for the spectators watching so why not?

I was really feeling nervous towards the end of the lap and I was breathing like an asthmatic pit pony, despite knowing in the back of my head that I shouldn't show any signs of exertion or discomfort, as it only boosts your opponents confidence to see you struggling. We came out of the final singletrack section and I could see the Thetford MTB Racing flags which lined the finish straight and I got myself ready and into the right gear for my attack. By this point my front mech wasn't changing too sweetly so what was supposed to be a surprise attack must have sounded to Andy like a horse falling downstairs behind him and when we turned the final corner and I went for it, for the first couple of seconds I felt like I was stuck in thick mud and was passing him in slow motion and I expected him to rumble my game and just take off ahead of me. I suddenly realised that I was peddaling flat out, swinging the bike all over the place and had what felt like the most ridiculous grimace on my face as I tried to breathe through my ears as I gave it absolutely everything. If Andy passed me then I gave it everything and was beaten by a better man on the day. I kept checking behind me, paranoid he would pass me at any point and at the same time just hoping that no spectator or rider stepped out from the crowd onto the course. I came through the end of the feed zone, into the finish straight and crossed the line hardly able to believe I'd won another race. It felt brilliant but I had absolutely nothing left, a thrilling end to an exciting but knackering race!

  • Towards the end of the race the four hour riders were clearly suffering due to the conditions
    Towards the end of the race the four hour riders were clearly suffering due to the conditions

After the race

I spent about half an hour trying not to throw up, I guess the days of me finishing races and still looking fresh are behind me now! I did have some Recoverite with me but I didn't take it, my stomach didn't feel upto it, or in fact any food or drink other than water to stop me cramping up. Legs didn't feel too bad, it was my breathing which I was struggling with towards the end of the race which sounds obvious but I would have thought my legs would be in agony. I was exhausted by the time I'd driven home but had no specific pain anywhere aside from the four nice neat holes in the back of my calf where I had smashed my leg onto my big ring at the start of the race.

Things to change

More miles required actually on the bike, rather than being a soft lad and doing them in the gym. Change training to six hours in the gym and six hours (2 x 3 hour sessions) on the bike per week. Get upto Dalby Tuesday and Thursday mornings, it should be nice and quiet.

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