Sunday, 21 August 2011

BigRobRacing's BigDogBlog

Saturday saw the arrival of the most eagerly awaited mountain bike event on the calendar, Morvélo's Brighton Big Dog, a 6hr race around my local woods; Stanmer park. The course is always a blast and this year my brother and Grace would both be racing in pairs teams too. It turned out to be a truly fun day out in the sun.


My preparation ha not been ideal, two 24hr races and a week off work ill in the preceding four weeks. It was true to say I was a little concerned about the state of my legs going into the race. So, when Grace's team mate called in sick on the morning of the race, it took me about three milliseconds to confirm my place in the "Stanmer Starlets" pairs entry. With me pleading illness and Grace coming off the back of consecutive 12hr night shifts we weren't looking too much like a deadly ninja riding combo and I began to relax and look forward to a fun (but hard) "day off" on the bike.


Big Dog start, I'm in there somewhere! 
Pic: Dave Hayward
With my brother and his team mate, the ever enthusiastic Yorkie, found, my parents, who were putting in a spectator only appearance, met and "camp Dean" firmly established, it was with the  sun blazing down that I lined up for the start. As a result of a little too much chatting, for the first time this year I was late to the start and found myself in the middle of a huge field. I was so far back that you can't even see me in the start photo! You can, however, see Josh Ibbett not getting dropped at the start for the first race this season though, congratulations Josh!


I headed out for a double lap and the course was just about the best I've ever seen it, the trails were dry with the few showers earlier in the week having damped down the dust. My Tallboy absolutely railed round the course and I barely stopped smiling, but there were a couple of grimace moments up the short sharp climbs, particularly the notorious "Badgers" section (that felt much longer later on in the afternoon!) where I would have killed for the stiffness and light weight of my Highball.
neeeoooow! at play in the Stanmer singletrack
Pic: Dave Hayward
I handed over to Grace who, despite her pre-race protestations about the course being super technical, went round more than comfortably under an hour, smashing some 15 minutes off her pbest practice lap time. It's not for nothing they call her "Competitive Grace"! I really could have done with more of a break though. The laps came and went, as did Mum's apple cake between them. Each lap the tired legs were soon forgotten at the top of the Badgers climb, as I hit the singletrack again. The course is simply fantastic and, best of all, I get to ride it and the rest if the extensive Stanmer singletrack with my friends most weeks.


Big Dog's spectator pleasing bomb hole
Pic: Dave Hayward
At the end of my penultimate lap I headed to the timing tent to do some maths. There would be time for me to get in a double for my last stint or, if we were quick, one more lap each. My tired kegs decided for me and, at the handover, I gave Grace the good news and came round to hand her the baton with 55minutes to go. No problem. Then I checked and her last lap was a 56minute lap. This was going to be a nail biter!


6pm approached all to quickly and a 5:55 she wasn't in sight then, at 5:57 I caught sight if her distinctive fushia TNF jersey emerging from the woods on the far side of the field. "Pedal Grace, Pedal!". I needn't have worried, her head was down and the pedals were spinning, the marshalls, who had been an outstanding feature of the race all weekend, had been egging her on. She crossed the line with a comfy 2mins6seconds to spare. High Five!


There were big smiles all round, lots of chatting with friends about the course, those damn climbs, swapping of stories of near misses and clipping trees, comparison of bruises from tumbles and near misses and, best if all, beer being handed out on the finish line. What a fantastic day and a fantastic event. I can't wait until next year already/ We made our way home with the obligatory memorabilia, Big Dog mugs clutched firmly in our hands with perma-grins attached to our faces to get ready for the traditional seafront post-race party.


Thanks to my parents for coming to support us, and well done to my brother and Yorkie, who finished despite Yorkie's front wheel resembling a Pringle at the start of his last lap and a quick return to the pits being required for a speedy bike swap.


What a special day organised not for profit, but for the love of the sport, by some very special people. Thank you Morvélo and friends.
Obligatory, and now traditional, merchandise: "Drink Puppy, Drink" mugs. This year's colour was green
Smile for the camera!
Looking a bit more serious here

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