A few years back I rode the Whinlatter Challenge... I rode it singlespeed and fully rigid and I remember it being a pretty tough day on the bike... this time I turned up with suspension forks and gears and hoped it would be an easier day.
The event was as always well subscribed with well over 300 riders taking on the challenge of 2 laps totalling 30 miles .. lot of climbing and the reward being lots of switch backed descending that every good trail centre should have.
The start was crowded.. as always I assumed my crappy starting position well back off the front row, good chance to have a chat though and relax into the event.. I have such a varied calender of races and challenges this year and after a winter of cross racing I have eased up on the pressure of racing as there always is next week or next time if this one doesn't go your way.. with that attitude you don't waste energy worrying or placing yourself under undue pressure..
As the race started I got to work cutting my way up through the field.. a small comedy moment as I went well off line to do some overtaking but found myself on a mini pump track running parallel to the fireroad :( oops
The start climb brought back memories of Salzkammergut Trophy with an epic long climb to really try and thin the field which it did.. the pass wasn't flat out from the start and the climb did its work at restoring the natural order.
Fireroad climb flowed into switch backed singletrack climbing which gave into fireroad descending firing you into singletrack descending ... this was how it was for the whole course,, the climbs were plenty long enough to get into a rythmn but never steep enough I had to come out the 40t on the front.. years of singlespeeding have done their work in reducing my cadence to be able to push any gear :)
I was loving the course .. Loving the descending which is unnatural for me.. the Sanderson Breath was so much fun.. steel hardtails lap up this kind of flicky singletrack descending and I found myself looking for the lips to lift the bike off the floor or the slopes to nose wheelie down... probably not the most productive approach to racing but you gotta enjoy your riding.
After my nutritional error at Hit the North I put a few extra snacks in my pocket but 2 hours in found myself hungry and with nothing left to eat so I just settled in for a suffer till the end.. this is definately lesson learned and I will be stuffing my pockets with food from now on in.
I finished in 2 hours 43 minutes... 17th overall .. not the finest result and there is room for improvement but a good course, a good first race outing for the Sanderson and more lessons learned...
Thank you again to Ed Rollason for the images, great to meet you on Sunday Ed :)