I always begin to look forward to the race weeks in advance, particularly the first hour and half. Starting from the windswept cliffs of Beachy Head makes the race feel like an adventure before it's even started and the three hours it takes the coach to get from finish to start before the off only reinforces in one's mind just how far this event stretches. A particular highlight for me is the ride along Firle ridge, at just over an hour in; riding along the ridge into sunset, with the Downs ridge visible and curving in front of the riders is a spectacular sight and one everyone should experience at least once. Me, I'm hooked and it's one I'll be doing for many years to come.
|MaXx Riders settingn off from Beach Head and heading into the twilight|
Standing on the start line the General Lee was getting it's normal unfair share of the attention when, as with all best laid plans…. Ian Leitch, my friend and Indy Fab rider (and the only man to ride the SDD faster than me) turned up, a last minute change of plan he explained. Damn, suddenly I had a real race on my hands, a ride into sunset was going to get double tough. What was worse was my secret weapon, the new Exposure Six Pack that I had been given the day before, straight off the production line and something I had hoped would give me an advantage over the field suddenly had an equal; Ian, never one to miss an opportunity to make his bike go faster and someone who has, like me, been an adopter of the extra speed of 29ers (my other advantage nullified), had one fastened to his bars too. Drat.
As soon as we were set off the tone of the race was set, 10seconds in and Ian and I had a gap, and it was widening fast, worrying about an early attack from Ian, I pushed on and before long, alarmingly soon in fact, we had lost sight of the whole of the rest of the field. This was going to be a long night in the office!
|Sunset came as we headed across Firle ridge - a special treat|
|Plenty of opportunity to gain (and lose) time during the evening - lots of climbs in store|
Pfut, pfut, pfut, pfut…. That could only mean one thing; puncture! I rode for a while, gently until the tyre became soft, popped some air in my front tyre and crossed my fingers. After a few minutes I was happy it had held maybe it would be my night after all. Pfut, pfut, pfut, pfut…. maybe not. More air, rear tyre this time. Not so lucky second time, you gotta love that flint and how ruthlessly effective it is at slashing tyres. My bike was popped upside down and I threw in a tube hoping I'd be strapping my pump back to the frame for the final time.
I reached the second feed station and after an enthusiastic greeting I was in and out in a jiffy thanks to some great work by what seemed like everyone there and I was set off with an enthusiastic wave off from the super cheery and enthusiastic guys egging me on to chase Ian down.
|Ian during one of his efficient stops, maing use of every second effectively|
|Quest Adventure's excellent feed station|
And then the final stretch: I left what I had left in my legs on the trail and pushed on QECP. I rolled down to the finish live with a huge, satisfied smile on my face. Ian and the guys from Trailbreak were there to greet me with a cup of tea and a burger that never tasted so good.
We chatted to the guys last finishes for the MaXx loop, swapping stories, tales of near misses, punctures, wildlife, feed station conversations, tumbles and heart in the mouth moments, we even explored our inner bike geeks 29ers vs. 26", the tyres of the Tallboy were thoroughly kicked.
|The MaXx Exposure is a great way to turn an evening's ride into a really enjoyable adventure|