Monday 6 April 2009

British XC Championship Ride Report

You know when you were little, and you paddled into the sea, and as you got further out the waves got higher and higher until one came along and lifted you off your feet and you had that slight moment of panic because you were a tad out of your depth?

As I waited for my race to start on Sunday, and was told that the Masters category was full of Pro/Elite riders who couldn't be bothered to contest Pro/Elite any more, I realised that I'd fallen out of a transatlantic flight into a spot some 500 miles west of the Azores.

On the start line I looked around. Everyone else was in sponsored kit. Everyone else's bikes seemed to be £3000 carbon full-sussers, with their names stickered onto them. I was the only one with a Camelbak. And a packed lunch.

As the race started I kept up for, ooo, ten or fifteen seconds. Then people started coming past me. All I heard for the first lap was "on your left" or "on your right" or "are you lost?". Things settled down a little, and then the Veterans came past me. And then the Grand Veterans. And then the people who normally drove mobility scooters. I was slightly cheered when one of the people who overtook me crashed on the gravel, the pain of others is a wonderful thing. I was more cheered when I decided to treat the whole thing as a training ride and allowed thoughts of stopping after two laps (out of five) to creep in.

And then, I finished my two laps. And carried on. The track was clearer, the singletrack swoopy, and I almost started to enjoy the ride. I'll stop after three laps, I thought. But oddly, I completed the third lap and carried on again, starting to think about completing the race.

Then I heard "leader coming through" and "on your right" and "on your left" and "can you move your picnic rug and flask off the trail please" and I realised I was being lapped. That wasn't the worst bit however. The worst bit was concentrating so hard on keeping breathing that I forgot to watch where I was going and ended up in a dead end. Those riders who saw me ride sheepishly down the fireroad and rejoin the course must have been confused, assuming that they had time to, what with all the going bastard fast and overtaking people they had to do.

So I stopped after four laps. I didn't feel bad - at least I wasn't so broken that I couldn't drive home. And I hadn't crashed (which I normally do each race, several times), or broken my bike, and the sandwiches had been very tasty.

Checking the results, the really crazy thing was I wasn't last. I'd beated the one-legged blind man on the unicycle, and nine others who must have had really really bad days.

So, my national XC career can currently be summarised in two words.

Not. Last.

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