Mixed Pair, Saturday 29th September, Cheddar Bikefest.
The Saturday morning drive to the Cheddar 8hr bike fest had the usual Mendip fog and drizzle associated with early starts, bike racing and autumn. We arrived with the intention of riding a practice lap but too much faffing and chatting to Anthony White (2007 Mayhem solo winner) left us with just enough time to carry a box of food up to the start before the race briefing.
Rob Lee (race partner from Extreme-Endurance) opted for the first shift, namely to get a bit of a lead over our competitors. We had worked out a schedule based on 35minute-ish laps, written roughly on the back of a nutrigrain box. Little did I know that this was to change dramatically.
The Le Mans start was hilarious, as the runners proceeded over a series of BMX rollers before a harsh switch back and up a steep ramp to their bikes. Rob was 3rd off the run and just as I was geting ready to settle in to a nice 35ish minute lap routine, the first rider flew back down into the arena... after just 17 minutes. Eek! Rob followed shortly after and I knew our Nutrigrain ponderings were to be completely ignored.
After a few laps, Rob shouted 'I'm doing 6' which at this rate was going to take less than 2 hours. So a quarter of the way through, I was still at the start, twiddling my thumbs and watching the sweaty faces of riders returning time and time again. It was a weird feeling being congratulated for being in the lead when I hadn't even got my tyres dirty!
Eventually I went out for my first 4 lap stint. The ramp out of the transition zone got my heart rate up into the 160s straight away and then the climb started so it never dropped. Towards the end of the gnarly, rocky climb there was a steep section which in the dry could have been fine but tyres were slipping so madly that it was too much effort to stay upright and quicker to walk it.
Then the insane descent began through 'Witches Wood'. To my delight this is where I made up most of my time. The diagonal roots took a combination of skill and bravery to cross and on every lap I was caught out my something, but with a bit of confidence and a lot of brain-disengagement I managed to descend pretty fast. Apart from crashing into the bridge (and destroying it) on my penultimate lap, I kept the downhill smooth and lapped consistently.
The race proceeded and by 4hours we had pulled 10 minutes on the team behind us - only half a lap. Eventually Rob lapped their girl after 5hours and it was my job to just keep the lap times consistent and do the glory lap in less than 28 minutes. I cruised in to victory - my first ever outright win at a mtb race. Cheered on my Debbie, Russel, Zu Zu (and the cow bell) we collected our prize and drank tea while I waited for the night time trial to start.
The night TT was simply an exercise in being up for it. I was the only girl who entered so it seemed a sensible 20 minute investment for the sake of winning some rather snazzy new lights. (For the record, I was first girl home). Come on girls. get with it!
Massive thanks to Rob Lee for teaching me how to ride singletrack over the past month, for generally organising me and for getting our lapping perfect and despite feeling unfit kicking ass as only Rob can do.