Sunday, 15 August 2010

Two Tall Boys on Two Tallboys - BrightonBigDog

The BrightonBigDog is my local race, is organised by my friends and is run around my Tuesday Night Nightride favorite trails and staple routes, so it's always a three line whip in my calendar. This year, tired from the recent race schedule, I wasn't sure a solo was the best plan but was pretty sure my legs would be good for a fast pairs entry so I teamed up with the UK's other Santa Cruz Tallboy riding endurance soloist, 6'3" Josh Ibbett, to make team "Two Tall Boys on Two Tallboys" a team name we were rightly proud of :-)

I had local knowledge to give me an advantage but Josh was in the final weeks of recovering from a separated AC joint picked up the the BC bike race a couple of months earlier. We were going to have our work cut out though, the race was won overall last year by the winning male pairs entry, beating all of the teams of three, by two elite XC boys, and they were back to defend their title. Stanmer Park's course is legendarily full of sweet singletrack so we were dying to let the Tallboys rip and see if our endurance legs and singletrack speed could give them a run for their money where we lacked the raw short course speed. The weather was supposed to be damp, but we were reasonably happy the extra grip of the 29er wheels would offset that and allow us to get away with some faster tyres.
Stanmer delivers great twisty, singletrack through the trees with constant ups & downs
Josh has some real XC speed for an endurance racer, with a good few years of shorter racing behind him, so with that in mind I set off first on the first lap for some reason. I guess I got excited at not having to run for a Le Mans start, and came round the first lap, unsurprisingly, a couple of minutes down on the leading pair. The pattern was repeated when Josh came round from his lap. We were down on the lead but definitely in the race.

It had started to rain by now, but I faired pretty well on my first lap so set off once more on my (intended for extreme dry conditions) Small Block 8 tyres. Oops! The first lap had me riding the course after only a few riders had been through, but now hundreds of laps had been done and the rain had turned it into a complete quagmire. Add some silly tyres and an optimistic rider with dreams of a podium finish and you've got a recipe for lots of sliding around! I handed Josh the, now very muddy batton, yet further behind the lead, it wasn't looking good for a famous victory!

The disaster struck. Josh was unable to ride around the increasingly Somme-eque course and was forced to walk big sections, not normally a problem but his shoulder wouldn't let him push the bike properly. He eventually came round having, like me, lost further ground on the lead and this time to inform me that his race day was done. I was going to have to finish off.

Eurgh! Not perfect for semi-slicks
The mud started to take hold of the course
I had had the foresight to bring some mud tyres  (although not enough to fit them!) but they were now on my bike and suddenly I was away! I rode round the lap without getting off or crashing once, it was a revelation. I used as much energy calling through the riders walking and sliding their mud covered bikes up the climbs as I did riding & was suddenly having a lot more fun!

It was too little too late for Two Tall Boys on Two Tallboys though. We would eventually finish 2nd in the men's pairs category, victim to the defending champions, but we did gain the satisfaction (distinction, even) of beating all of the make teams of three. Josh's arm recovered enough such that he could drink unhindered at the after race party and we got our podium moment and some big smiles to wear on our faces. Best of all we got a "podium kiss" by's very own podium girl, what more could a racer want :-)

On the podium, a job well done
The event weekend, despite the weather and unseasonal somme-esque conditions, was fantastic, the organisers hit a really great atmosphere, the course was great and we drank to all of our riding heroics and to next years greater achievements, yet to come at the traditional after race party in town. 

Here's to next year's BrightonBigDog


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