Hell of the North Cotswolds – 15th April

The 28th Hell of the North Cotswolds starts under clear blue skies

The day dawned crisp, clear and cold. 30+ GTers assembled at the start ready for the 9am mass start.

After a slight delay the flag was waved and we waddled across the start line, and after a few yards we could ride. The start was lead by marshals and we rolled through Winchcombe to the bottom of the long climb the organisers use to spread the 1300 riders out.

We climbed the hill and then got onto the standard HONC type riding of tarmac and double track bridleway. It was at the end of one of these sections of bridleway that I punctured. As it’s not a race I took my time to sort it, good job really as there were two thorns.

Once back rolling again I soon caught up with Malc and then the newbie crowd, who’d stopped with Bashful who was having a nightmare with a knackered chain tensioner. I then rode with Nathan till pretty much the feed stop.

A strict 10mins at the feed stop and I was off, now riding with Stotti, Odbod,, AndyChann and Shandyman. Slowly the group got strung out and I must of spent a good 5 miles on my own. It’s nice to ride in a group, but equally when you get into a nice rhythm it’s great to get your head down and go.

About 11 miles from the finish I dropped down a fast piece of doubletrack. Halfway down there was a weird rip/crunch sound, and the saddle dropped back. I looked down and saw the seatpost had bent. This is not good! I carried on to the bottom and stopped on a road.

The carbon post had broken, and it didn’t tale much to pull it in two. Now I don’t know about you, but the thought of and 11 mile ride stood up above a jagged carbon stump didn’t really appeal. I managed to get the stump out with a pair of pliers, but the ragged end of the now very short post wouldn’t go in the seat tube. Through a combination of bashing it with my leatherman and scraping it on the road I managed to remove all the frayed bits enough that it would fit.

Just as I finished Odbod and Stotti turned up. I now had 11 miles to ride what in effect was a 29er jump bike. To start with it wasn’t too bad, alternating between standing and sitting worked, but pretty soon my legs were tiring. The up and down section along the side of Cleeve Hill was murder, and the final climb up to the top into a headwind ended up as a push.

The end was now pretty much actually in sight, so my legs got a bit of extra energy for the ride across Cleeve Hill. Once I hit the descent I was flying, I could see Stotti in the distance and was determined to catch him before the final descent off the Hill.

I got to him before it, and flew down the rocky descent, overtaking 4 slower riders on the way down. The mud at the bottom section gave some sideways moments, but somehow the 29er jump bike got me to the bottom.

The final road miles to the finish were murder, my legs had gone, riding sat on the low seat hurt, standing up hurt. I rolled into the finish and saw a group of GTers sat on the side. Lump took my time card and checked me in as I just about managed to stagger to the grass so I could sit down.

I didn’t realise how much a super low seat height will affect you. Pedalling on the flat is hard as you lose lots of power, any up hill sections and you have to either stand or drop down the gears and spin like a loony. Going downhill doesn’t get much better. You lose your point of reference. The first descent after the seatpost incident I dropped my weight back and almost sat on the rear tyre! Once I’d realised that, the next problem is because it’s so low, there’s no feedback from the saddle hitting the inside of your legs. Half of the time you’ve no idea what the bike is doing and so you can’t react if things start getting out of shape. It also means you’ve no gauge as to where your body is relative to the bike. It’s a real eye opener, even when you’re not sitting on it, your saddle is there helping you.

Ride – #61     Bike – Gary Fisher Paragon 29’er

Miles – 62.5     Total 2012 miles – 1398.8

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