Welsh Series Round 3

5 Apr

Due to disappearance of Mojo (more on that later) and a recurring wrist injury first picked up at Coed y Brenin I’d been off the mountain bike for 5 weeks recovering. I’ve been putting some big miles in on the road and been holding on in some pretty rapid chaingangs recently so training hasn’t been going too bad but I really needed to get some saddle time in off-road and I’d held out on the wrist as long as I could.  It was time to enter a proper XC race, my first in a very long time.  In fact if we are talking proper XC race I haven’t done one since the NEMBA series back in my teens.

I’d also just built up a rather spanky new race weapon: a Carbon Whippet from On-One that had actually arrived a few weeks before but due to moving house and injury combo I’d been able to practice some rare self discipline and put off finishing the build so I wouldn’t ride it.   Now it was finished though and I was ready to baptize it in the fires of battle (or at least a soggy North Wales Forest) at Round 3 of the Welsh Mountain Bike series which was back at the scene of the crime in Coed y Brenin.

So, just to recap, that’s first ride back from injury, first XC race since forever, on a brand new bike I haven’t ridden yet on the very trail that smashed my wrist up in the first place. Very fitting and not in the least bit foolish.

I thought how hard can it be though and filled my boots with carbs, forgot to do any riding on Friday and Saturday and showed up there itching to go, but not knowing what was going to hit me on Sunday afternoon.  Quick practice lap and I didn’t like the fast rocky fireroad much or the big rock slab singletrack much and winced every time I hit anything hard but the bike was quietly doing its thing while being extremely stiff and light but still a little bit comfortable.  Its not a shouty bike, it was just getting on with the job, no fuss like.  There was a bit of flex from the short front end in the tighter turns but most of that could be put down to a flexy stem and the fact I haven’t been able to bring myself to take the saw to the carbon steerer tube just yet. There wasn’t a murmur of twist from the back end though and when my legs were fresh, it just went.

The race start was great, my legs were brimming with energy for the first half a lap and despite being gridded five rows back I almost made contact with the Elite field up the long first climb.  On the descent I decided to stay off the brakes and hoped to skip across the loose rocks but that went badly wrong and I wobbled awkwardly at speed into a rocky gully like I was in a 70s comedy film.  Fortunately I wobbled out again and only lost the one place.

In the next singletrack section I got a little stuck behind a Columbia Bikefood rider before numerous thwarted overtaking attempts saw me eventually getting frustrated and taking a rather shady line on the inside of a berm and cutting him up.  He took it well though and I shouted sorry and hit the gas to make the move stick.  All that work was undone though when I gave away a handful of places where the course split around a drop and the faster exit from the ‘chicken line’ we’d looked at in practice didn’t pay off and my mate Si profited at the second split though he took the slower line and we nearly took each other out as the course re-joined and we both tried to occupy the same bit of trail.

The next little climb was slippy and rooty and a rider ahead stalled, as did Si behind him and the effort of trying to keep the bike moving with my wheels slipping over the roots meant that I’d soon out-pedaled my lungs and by the time we got to the top of the section I could barely breathe.  I had nothing left to give chase with and had to watch Si pedal away.  For the next two laps I backed off slightly into a more comfortable pace.  There was something I couldn’t put my finger on that made it difficult to push hard, my position on the bike was awkward but there was also a slight chill over the surface of my muscles and a sensation of impending cramp from within. I labored on and on lap 4 took a gel.  Things started to get better and I was reeling people in they were appearing to get tired.

At the start of lap 5 I caught a Cookson’s Cycles rider and he picked up the pace and took my wheel.  I attacked a couple of times thinking he’d be tired and I could shake him off but my attacks lacked any depth and each time he got back up to me and so we had a little chat instead.  Over the top I gained a few bike lengths and got a gap down the decent but then my chain bounced off and became tangled up twisting the links through 90 degrees and stopping me for almost two minutes.  I lost several places and finished up on a rather sedate last lap with not enough time to catch anyone and rolled over the line 13th overall including the expert and elites categories.

It would have been nice to finish hard but all in all not a bad effort.  I went fast for a bit, hurt for the rest and thankfully the wrist appears to be mended so I’m happy with that.

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