This season as racing goes has been a bit up in the air… I started my training plan back in October with a view to peak around about now for Wildboar 24 then later in the year when I naturally seem to go better.
When I heard that Wildboar 24 had been cancelled this was a bit of a blow as it effectively meant I would waste a good period of fitness and a lot of work would have gone to waste.. I did a few local events but nothing that was really my forte... to remedy this I needed to find a good honest endurance event to go test the legs.
There was nothing ‘local’ so the net was spread further a field and the only option seemed to be Set2Rise.. a night 12 hour endurance race with rave reviews on how good the course was last year but over 200 mile drive I had originally discounted this as just too far and too costly to get involved with.. with nothing else available I had no option but to go check it out.
Quickly texting fellow racers I found that I would at least know 2 other people there… fellow Genesis rider James Leavsley and the fast female Fi Spotswood... they had decided to race solo and mixed pair respectively.
The day of the race the weather was amazing… hot with clear skies… the drive down was nice and relaxed as the start time wasn’t till 6pm.. I arrived at 2.30pm.. tons of time to spare so got seat out car and began eating.. this race was the first trial of the ‘Paul West Diet For Champions’ feeding approach.. West has continuously chastised me for my bad eating habits and poor race feeding so I gave this one totally to him and followed his instructions to the letter.
James arrived sporting shorts and flip flops and looking decidedly like he had thrown his bike and kit into the car without much prep.. as it turned out he had thrown his bike and kit into the car without much prep, Still awaiting delivery of his team bike he was using an old hardtail which was held together by chance and luck I think… was great to have a few hours in the sun just chatting and eating before we had to do any prepping or racing…
The Solo pit area was gradually filling and it looked like a lot of people were riding singlespeed.. some really nice bikes around too with Tim Flooks sporting what looked like a ti Independent Fab … I put my bike together.. Decided that one light would be enough as I had the Light and Motion Seca Ultra so I donated my Stella 200L to James as a helmet mount.. I was gambling that the big battery and running a lower output would still give me plenty of light and mean I wouldn’t have to change.
Kitted and ready an effort at a warm up was made.. Circling a nearby tarmac area… then a roll to the start.. En route bumped into Fi .. She had done pre ridden the course and was raving about the quality of the singletrack and the harshness of a tarmac steep climb.. all in thought it sounded like a fantastic course.
The start was tarmac and slightly uphill and as the clock ticked over to 6pm we were off at a fast pace.. I was spinning out my gear and James was mis shifting just in front of me.. His bike was grumbling after 30 seconds.. It didn’t look good.
The course was amazing.. After the start we hit a grassy downhill.. Then into the woods on some wider tracks.. We then popped out onto field again then through a short wood to the first steep tarmac climb… once you had done this you were rewarded with a twisty singletrack downhill.. this eventually ended with the start of the long climb on the course.. it was up and down on a field before turning right and hitting a steeper section that went from grass to chalk to tarmac to wood and then back to tarmac.. I had to walk the chalk section every lap but I think it was the quicker option… the climb was long and the tarmac section steep but I seemed to have developed the ability to ride at a cadence of 10rpm on the singlespeed.
After this climb you hit a totally flat out grass downhill… this was purely blind faith as to get the most out of it you had to go with no brakes and point and go.. the level of faith on this increased as the darkness set in and you could only see a few metres in front of you… this left you with lots of wooded sections left and a slightly uphill grass climb upto a fantastic view ( when it wasn’t dark) of the surrounding countryside.. the singletrack was tight and i body rubbed the same tree every lap trying to squeeze extra sped and contort around it… even fully rigid this course was a total blast… somehow they have managed to coax all the trees to grow their roots at right angles to the trail so you can ride straight over them without them wiping your wheels out.
I started leading the singlespeed race but lost this position mid first lap… I figured myself back in 3rd by end of the lap so just settled into it… I had planned on a 12 lap race but laps seemed to be going by quickly and I had done 4 before it was really dark enough for lights… with lights on it was clear that my single light choice was more than adequate with the Light and Motions throwing out plenty of light even in the lowest setting.. My feeding plan was easy enough to follow.. Bottle every 2 laps and then a gel or energy bar every lap… I never felt hungry and energy levels never faltered.. I felt consistent as the laps went by.
During one of my midway laps I caught sight of James ahead of me and I had somehow managed to catch him up.. This was unnerving as he is a top class rider and riding gears so I shouldn’t have been this close to him.. as it turned out he was having a nonstop mechanical issue with his gears which eventually led to his total retirement from the race.
Everyone on course was friendly and clearly enjoying the course and conditions… on Lap 9 I noticed I was sliding further back on the saddle so got off to take a look and discovered that my saddle had worked loose.. I retightened it to ride a few meters before it happened again… balls…. I had to balance on the centre on the saddle and climb out of it.. as I got back to the start I tightened it again and went to check out my position in the singlespeed race.. 2nd!! .. no way I could stop riding so made do with my balancing act on the saddle for the remaining 5 hours of the race…
On my 12th or 13th lap I was caught again by the solo race leader Sam Humphrey (Charge Bikes) .. Luckily I was caught on a flat section so we got to have a chat.. He said he had a few dark moments during the night but was winning convincingly and looked strong
The final lap was always going to be the best… the race was nearly over.. I couldn’t be caught by third place and the sun was out and we were riding in daylight again…
I have to be honest in saying that I don’t enjoy every race I do… riding round in circles grinds you down… but this was a great event… the course was possibly the best I have ever ridden and well organised.
I eventually finished 2nd overall and I reckon I was about 15 minutes behind first place but as I hadn’t managed to catch him by 11.45 hours point I called it a day.. I am happy with my ride and my bike and although the talk at the end of the race was no more riding around in circles racing I can’t help but just have a little look and see what other races are out there…
Big thank you to James at Genesis for getting me a bike that works so well… Jim at Alpkit for my super warm and comfy pre/post ride clothing and Paul West for making me adopt his feeding strategy which although I hate to admit it worked flawlessly.
Pictures courtesy of Adam @ photo-it.com and some unknown facebook member.