Delapre Abbey. A barmy hot night, several 24 degree hot days of heavy work, and a killer 18 hour breakdown session till 3am on Tuesday all conspired to make this one tough nights racing.
For those reasons I was dreading this race, but looking forward to it as it’s a big skill track and one where I should do well. The pre-lap showed this was going to be fast; firm woodland singletrack for over 3/4 of a lap and some jumps thrown in meant it was going to be fun. In two spots ramps had been built over fallen trees, most riders took the slower route round, practice showed the faster line was to fly! Forks bottoming out meant a pitstop tune was going to be needed before the start. The smelly water ditch was back, this year filled with sticks and hitting it hard caused my first tyre burp on the Crest rims. Shit, was the Stans running dry, too late to worry about that but pit tune was growing. When checked I had 19psi in the rear , amazingly it was still hard to tell visually and only just noticeable on the ride back. 28PSi for this track.
Over 182 riders meant two seperate starts, this was going to be tough as with that much singletrack catching the slow seniors would mean bottlenecks. The benefit as always is knowing who your up against from the start. Front row of the grid this time meant an easy get away, still only running the 1×9 with a 32T put me first away, but as I hadn’t practiced the start loop I was a little unsure where to go so I eased up and let Smiffy take the lead. This time I did run out of gears and by the woods entrance I was about 5th, Smiffy, Slash, Martin Eadon and Mike Winters were pulling a small gap, This grew up the climb, then disaster Andrew Waller/CATS and Steve Moore cruised past me, I had no answer all I could do was try and hang on but they had the singletrack jump. Even jumping where they rode round only gained me back what I’d lost.
Breathing through my ears into the fast singletrack twists and turns all I was thinking of was recovery, soon we caught a few riders who all seemed to have stopped and got out of the way, Mike was long gone as I caught Waller and had to tail him waiting to pounce. Coming down to the ditch there was some sort of chaos; slower riders were walking Waller hesitated, and I can ony think Steve binned it. I nailed it hard and pushed hard up the climb afterwards. out onto the field for the lap end and suddenly I could see the bright yellow top of Mike. Pushing hard I crept up behind in stealth mode…..just as the supporters club shouted out my name; so of course he responded. Lap 1 down and only 30 secs down on Smiffy so not to shabby after all.
Up the climb for lap 2 and in Mike wheeltracks I waited for heavy leg syndrome to allow him to power off, didn’t happen and he took a drink. So I waited untill he had the bottle to his lips and as soon as he started glugging I put down the hammer and powered past. And how, it worked a treat and soon I had a decent gap, a bit of nettle rash overtaking and hitting the jumps past a few more and I was flying. Martin was next target, then I realised he was a Grand Vet, hell I was third now but no room for complacency I’d seen the leg power Mike had last week. So it was I put 20 secs per lap into Martin for the next two laps and third was mine.
I caught Martin, but backmarkers and again running out fo gears on the downhill drop gave him the sprint. That and the fact that the chain got a bit out of control on the mental fast downhill swoop down the road side wood means that 2×9 is the recommended gearing for future races here. One ring for the singletrack and one for the downhill/loop through the finish. Two Stans burps/flats causing DNF’s for others showed the roots can win sometimes.
Slash cruised away again, Smiffy 2nd so 3rd gives me a stronger position in the series points, only another 1pt over Mike though who held 4th with Steve coming back for 5th.