Obstacles

A trip to Staffordshire today. I think. Possibly. It was in that general direction anyway. Maybe it was Cheshire. Wherever it was it ended up at a very pretty (posh...) village. The sort of place that our sun bleached, road crud encrusted van with it's spotty paintwork and collection of slightly-muddy-from-the-last-time-they-were-used bikes hanging off the back didn't fit in...

It had taken longer than I expected to get there, with a seemingly endless amount of roadworks, but get there we did - at about the same time a leaf I'd become fascinated with arrived, having kept up with the van along the motorway. Windy then...


A thousand layers were required in order to keep warm, with the cold Northerly wind stealing any heat it could get to. Luckily the ladies at sign on were well protected in a haybale and cow filled barn. Yep. Cows. First time I've seen that. The tea room just round the corner was less 'farm' and more 'tea room on a posh village', so no worries keeping warm in there, just a mild concern that filling the place up with mud might not go down to well... This was a very different venue to normal!


A few practice laps releaved a course that looked long, but actually didn't take ages to get round. Given how many places I'd driven through to get there were covered in snow the farmland field ground was surprisingly dry. I wondered if it would be a one bike race. Then the mech hanger on the old Giant gave up and snapped randomly. For a few (possibly slightly swear wordy) seconds I thought it would have to be, before remembering that I had a spare hanger in the pits! Hurrah!

A heat stealing but still pretty efficient bit of mechanicing in the (still in the wind) pits got the bike back in one piece, but very much in a "use in case of energency only" condition with a twisted mech. Could be worse...


After a warm up at the van that took a long time to live up to it's name in that bloody wind I hopped on the other bike to race and decided to drop the tyre pressures a bit. No problem there, until I tried to close the valve on the rear wheel and found the valve had somehow seized open! Hoping that the air pressure inside the tyre would keep it closed (and with no time left for any more faffing anyway) I headed down to the start with my fingers crossed.


A half decent start gave me a chance to pick my own lines round the first few corners and try to open a gap on everyone nice and quickly. Somehow Ian Taylor managed to ride through the entire group of riders and onto my wheel in a shockingly short amount of time and we set about slogging it round the fields, with me making the most of every corner while he sat watching. You can tell he's a very polite lad as he didn't once burst out laughing...



(Thanks to Steve Bowman for the pic)


A couple of laps in and I became aware that I was getting a lot of feedback from the back end of the bike about any stones/rocks embedded in the ground. A lap later I was aware that I was getting more sideways than I usually do in the corners and all of the solid surfaces felt a lot like a carbon fibre rim... The open valve on the tyre obviously wasn't airtight. Bugger.

I swapped to the 2nd bike, shouting at Ben and Angela in the pits to put some air back in it ASAP as I didn't want to spend too long on bike number 2. They couldn't hear me for the howling wind, of course, but I think they got the gist as I only had to do one lap on the back up bike - which turned out to have a few skipping gears, so some soft pedalling was required to keep it all intact - before I was able to change back. Phew! Big thanks to the pit crew extrodinaire :)


I heard the last lap bell just as I realised I was getting quite warm (racing in thermal shorts/leggings/two baselayers and a jersey!) and, thanks to a lot of course side encouragement/advice/heckling had got a bit of a gap. A concerted effort to stay upright for a whole race paid off and I managed to cross the line 1st. Happy days!


Huge thanks to everyone who went out on a damn cold day to organise, marshal, officiate and race with me, once again it was brilliant. Hopefully no-one will ever get blasé about me saying that because each time it really is ace - properly nice people being awesome. And massive MASSIVE thanks to Lee @ Transition Coaching for his non stop cleverness, dedication and hard work to keep me thrashing about as quickly as I ever have.


Next stop Ipswich for the Master World Champs. Hopefully with fewer bike related problems and another fast race against more ace people! :)