Santon Down and it’s time to blood the Ragley in its first proper mountainbike race, I was looking forward to this. On the back of two hard training weeks training and some killer sprint intervals the day before,I had no expectations to do well, It was just a chance to check out the bike on familiar terrain.
Rolling up to the start with about 2 minutes to go I was then a bit cheeky and just rolled through with BigRing when he got gridded and took up a place on the front row. With 4 hours ahead it wasn’t really necessary but I had a plan. I wanted to see if this apparent super accelerating frame was as good as it felt, at least off the line.
The hooter went and kapow as we funneled into the doubletrack I was in the lead, the 38T front ring proving no handicap as I looked around to see what was happening. the proper fast boys were in the other lane, I eased off a touch and let three of them roll through and tucked in behind Slash as we hit the corner. The track then climbs but I had no interest in hitting the singletrack at the top with the leaders and strarted to chill. About a million riders came past, teamates and friends exchanged hellos, a few comments of “have you blown already” made me laugh.
And that was it for a few laps, heart rate below 150; Check, riding no pressure on the pedals style I could still feel the previous days lactate burning in my legs. Now time to concentrate on the ride, and initially all was not good! The TD-1 super responsive rear end comes at a price, it sure is a harsher ride than the Pegasus. I have to say i started to have visions of being a physical wreck at the end of this one.
The course was super compacted and fast with only one really muddy bit, the rolling nature meant you could not just sit in on the bike. The seatposts here take a good hammering and if your just sit on your cheeks so to speak its a really impossible place to ride smoothly. The track demanded short bursts, pumped sections and pushing a higher gear than normal so you just hover on the seat, not realy the cruising style I was trying to adopt.
First lap round and I was with Rich Muchmore who was actually 2nd in the series, this raised my spirits and we chatted for the next lap while watching two Milton Keynes riders along with a few others up front of us. In about 6th at this point I was doing ok holding myself back on the few drags and actually found cruising back upto people on the flat sectins into the wind real easy.mmmmmmm
On the third lap the 2 hour leaders passed us and Rich tucked in and flew off with them, again I just chilled fair enough I can’t cope with that, Dave shouted I was sixth and I kept telling myself to stay at the same pace. Lap 5 was bizzare; I didn’t do anything different infact I went a bit slower but I quickly passed Rich and another rider he was with, caught the first MK rider and could see the 2nd one up ahead. Slowly riding at the same pace I got closer and closer, looking at the watch it was approaching the 3 hour point, exactly when I was going to pull the pin and see what I could do for an hour. Simon Cannings/MK kept looking round, he was obviously worried, I had to laugh, was he trying hard to stay ahead i was still cruising.
After a fluffed bottle pick up, I’d stopped bugger, Simon had got a gap again, at this point I went for it, proper out the seat honking into the first singletrack. I passed him almost imediately and then gave it full berries up the climb, there seemed to be no response and I gave it everything for that whole lap. Suddenly it was like I was on a different bike, now I was hovering over the seat, instant response, pushing the corners. No doubt about it the steering is pin sharp and fast, bites you back when you get a set of short humps wrong though. The direct short forked front end reminds you that theres no flexing here.
Coming through the pits again I’d worked out in my mind that I was in third, grabbed a bottle of Coke and shot off again for the 7th and final lap. I’d put nearly a minute into Simon on that lap but looking back it wasnt even as fast as my third lap which is really bizarre to explain. I kept catching glimpses of Simon at the bombholes on that final lap, I thought I’d mentally broke him but he made it bloody hard as the legs started to go, I eased up on the finishing section but he still did great to pull me back to 10 secs at the end.
2nd…….what did you say, The plumz guys met me at the end, I’d come for a ride round and only gone and got 2nd on the Ragley…….get in.
Writing this days afterwards I’m shattered but not as I thought. No great muscle pains in the legs, arms, back and particualrly the backside. Was I judging the ride unfairly as uncompromising, It ceratinly didnt batter me as much as I’d feared, perhaps the lesson is don’t pussy foot around on a stallion, let it rip.
My 7 lap times were; 34:50 – 35:21 – 35:54 – 36:51 – 37:15 – 36:36 – 37:11 for race total of 4hr13:58
Slash did his first lap in 29:15 – that guy is an animal and nearly lapped me!