The first race of 2008.
This was always going to be a bit of an experimental race, only 4 weeks into the new training programme so a bit of a yard stick for measuring progress so far.
I know 4 weeks is a very short time but the change of routine has been so great and the new workouts introduced i was sure that i would notice some difference.
The second experimental part of this race was my first time racing a singlespeed. This wasn't particularly through choice just filling the gap between selling the old bike and receiving the new and to be fair alot of people race singlespeeds and i certainly love riding mine so i was just a little curious to see how i would get on.
The third new element to my racing was better preparation, anybody that races will know that as you go to more and more races you get that bit more prepared and organised each time, you pick up little tricks from other riders in what they bring and how they prepare and eventually ( i assume) you get to a stage where like clockwork everything runs smoothly.
Saturday was a day spent just cleaning the bike down and checking for wear, replacing the parts that need replacing and then taking it out for a spin for an hour just to double check all the work.
After looking at my tyres, conti cross country 1.5's, i had decided that swapping them over would be a good idea as my bike is mainly a commuter and the rear tyre was looking a little worse for wear. I tracked down some Maxxis 2.1's in the back of the garage that looked to be in good condition and stuck them on, also the extra cushion of air would be nice with the bike being fully rigid.
Last thing Saturday was to prep all food and bottles, bike rack and bike on car and car fully loaded.
Sunday, race day...
Got up at 6.00am, already had my clothes laid out ready to go so getting ready and eating was a straight forward quick affair. Big bowl of cereal for breakfast and a bottle of Allsports Winter Training Fuel int he car door to drink on the way there.
Got to race venue for 9.00am, unheard of that i get to a race with a decent amount of time to spare as I'm usually getting changed as I'm signing on whilst fixing my number to my bike and filling my pockets with food:).
First person i see there is Paul West, Transportugal 2007 fellow competitor and all round teller of some very amusing tales:) After a leg stretching walk and a chat back to the car and get kitted.
Still 45 minutes to go till start, excellent.
All kitted bike off car i stuck on the ipod and found a quiet corner of the field we were parking in, mixed it up with some general riding and some race efforts to get nice and warm whilst listening to some motivational music.. mainly thrashy metal, no eye of the tiger here:)
Back to the car and final check of food and tube/inflator etc... ride over to starting area in time for another 10 minutes ride before entering the 4 hour starting pen.
I was nicely positioned just behind the front row but just behind some familiar faces from previous rounds.
With 2-3 minutes to go i got to meet Charlie Wigfall for the first time, my team manager for next year, nice to meet him finally after so many emails and a few calls... looking forward greatly to this year and having some great support.
With one ear on Charlie and the other on the starter came a big shock when the horn sounded, everyone in pen instantly jumped for there bike to then realise it was the start of the women's 4 hour:) false alarm
After longest minute in history start sounded and we were off, well everyone else seemed to be off as i spun like crazy on the singlespeed... people were passing me left and right and the first section of fire road seemed to go on forever till we dived into the first section of singletrack and i could start to work my way back up.
Course on the first lap was pretty awful, it was a dry day but the previous week of rain had created some epic mud... tyres were not doing there job well clogging up and leaving me sliding around.. the thing with singlespeeding is it relies on a good amount of traction at all times as it is possible to turn big gears but only when your tyre can grip the surface and actually move your forward.
I think it was on the first lap that i could see the back of Luke Smith (Whyte Racing) and a faint hope that i was catching up to a well positioned group as Luke is no slouch and always resides in at the top of field.. unfortunately it was Luke Smith but it looked like he was having a bad day and well off the pace... saw him for the rest of the race in the feedzone obviously supporting the Billy Jo Whenham (Marin), how much support Billy Jo needs is debatable as the guy is an absolute machine.
After a few laps the course had packed down in alot of places due to the volume of riders but there was definitely not the usual flow to the course that Thetford usually as and i was relying on having only one gear.. i think i touched my brakes once a lap to make turn into bombhole and the rest of the time if you stopped pedalling you just ground to a halt.
There was one particular section that after 4 laps i just opted to get off the bike and run the 100m or so as it was quicker than the slow motion grind that i had adopted to try and gain some traction through the mud.
On lap 5 i saw that friend Matt (Barton) and Paul (West) were catching me up.. working together no doubt:) and on lap 6 Matt with my scent in his nostrils went for the kill and got up to me bringing Paul with him.
I managed to ride with them for a short while till we got to my running section and then i could just see them for the remainder of what turned out to be the final lap.
Just as i was in the final 300m i got caught my another competitor and although i jumped onto his wheel so i could nip back my place on the line i had to watch him simply changed up a gear and put a few metres into me leaving me spinning helplessly:)
6 laps of the 7.1mile circuit completed in just over 4 hours, Paul (West) just nipped inside the 4 hour deadline and could have done another lap but opted against it as gains would have been nil for the extra 45minute effort.
All in one of the hardest races i have done to date... put alot of my training to good use though and bought me some valuable experience.
A 10th place finish, more than happy with this result and looking forward to getting back to geared racing.
Pictures can be seen a Joolze Dymond's site listed on my blog.