|Waiting on the start line.....|
Pic: Joolze Dymond
Another great weekend's great fun racing, success snatched from the jaws of disaster and yet another 12hrs racing in drivetrain and rider ruining rain.
Learning from our first attempt, this year Gavin and I had a spare bike and, crucially this time, a top notch pit crew in the form of Gavin's wife, Ros, and (now of the KMP) Julie Greengrass to take care of us both. We were lucky men indeed. We also had better lights this time, I had a pair of MaXx-Ds from the great guys at Exposure and Gavin had hooked up with Troutie and was testing some ultra bright prototypes in return for feedback and a podium. No pressure then!
|Ready to go, at the head of affairs|
To add to the pressure, this would be our first race by ourselves for next year's sponsor; Leisure Lakes. Not wanting to repeat last year's mistake I made sure I was one of the first half dozen riders on the start line and was sure to set off in the middle of the front row behind the lead out quad bike.
It seemed like I was stood there an age, but suddenly the quad appeared, a quick smile for Joolze on the line and we were off!
I stamped on the pedals and made sure I was at the front of the lead pack. After half a mile it seemed remarkably quiet. I looked back and about ten of us had broken clear of the main group and had established a sizeable lead. IA huge grin appeared on my face, I was at the head of the race, riding away from the field and I had gears to spare. We crossed the start line yet further ahead of the main pack, I recognised at least three soloists in the group and there were several other categories to account for as well as mens pairs. Race on!
|Quick smile for the camera and then racing!|
Pic: Joolze Dymond
I settled into the group and as the pace gradually would up and made sure I didn't do anything silly. I was doing "some" work it has to be said but it was comfy. I was swooping and wooping like my life depended on it around Thetford's many corners. Then, half way round the lap, SNAP! My pedals jammed, my chain had snapped! Damn.
I quickly flipped the bike upside down and reached for a quicklink. The chain needed the chain tool fetching to remove the damaged, broken link. I did it as fast as I can as hundreds of riders streamed past, the main group was now upon me. Quick link in I set off. I got about 100 yards before it was clear all was not right. I had twisted a second link badly when the chain jammed. Chain tool out again, I removed the offending link, reconnected the chain, now miles down the field and set off, adrenaline coursing through my panicked body. I'm sure I used more energy shouting through the field as I waited patiently for the passing places to appear between the singletrack that I was previously enjoying. I made it round in 30th place (in category, not overall). Disaster, we'd got the worst possible start.
What happened for the next 10hrs was not pretty Gavin and I hit each lap like it was the last, do or die to make the top 10. Then we set our sights on the podium. Julie and Ros were doing all they could to keep us going, making sure we were warm, checking and fiddling with our bikes between laps and making sure we were taking on calories as we shivered, cold and wet, between laps.
|Broken, tired, but hanging on to 3rd place like my life depended on it|
4 laps to go and we were in 4th. Now or never time! It transpired than on our next laps both Gavin and I actually threw up, such was the exertion we put into the laps. They were two of our fastest. this is why I love racing with Gavin! :-) 2 laps to go and 3rd was ours, the gap behind was small but we were going round faster than the guys we'd overtaken and were now looking forwards only. The gap was too big and Gavin brought us home a "comfy" 3rd place. I think we must have been the two most relieved and happy riders to have ever been beaten!
|Two very happy finishers|
Another epic battle, another deeply satisfying podium finish, another horrendous lot of weather through the night. Dusk Till Dawn, it's a tough, tough race, but one I'll definitely do again.