Wiggle Enduro 6 – 5th/6th May

Smitty looks out on course, waiting for the handover from Seb

The original plan was to take the Carver set up as a singlespeed for the 6 hour pairs race on the Sunday and the geared Paragon 29er for the night time trial on Saturday. But while at work on Saturday afternoon I had a change of plan, I’d take the Mukluk. The new plan being to possibly race the fat bike in the night time trial, or if the conditions were bad use the Carver.

On arrival I was immediately stopped by a marshal and advised to head for higher ground on the campsite. I saw some of the GT contingent and headed for them. Smitty immediately spotted the Mukluk on the bike rack and said “It’s a mudfest, you might as well leave that on the rack”……and from the feel of the car sinking into the campsite I thought he was probably right.

I’d experienced Catton Park mud at it’s worst back at Sleepless in the Saddle in 2008, the stuff stuck to everything! The thought of a pair of almost 4” wide tyres picking up mud and clogging frame clearances was not too appealing. Maybe bringing the Mukluk and leaving the Paragon was a stupid mistake, and to be honest I really should have known what to expect with the dismal weather we’d had.

I headed off to put the tent up, while Smitty and Seb went off to do a lap of the course. About 45 mins later the tent was up, Odbod my pairs team mate had arrived, then they came back. The Mukluk was off the rack and I could see Smitty having a look and keen to take it for a spin. I offered him a go, and he went off round the field on it, and then did a bit if the final section of the course. I was expecting it to come back clogged up, but it didn’t. A bit of pick up on the tyres, but not much.

Smitty however was wearing the usual silly grin that first time fat bike riders always seem have. Everyone else had a go, and the bike kept coming back clear of mud, with the riders grinning from ear to ear. Maybe, just maybe it’d be OK on the time trial……..

With about 2 hours to kill before the start I thought I’d take the Mukluk out on course and see how conditions were. The initial plan was to ride a short section, but about 45 minutes later I came under the timing bridge having completed a full lap.

Night Time Trial

Unsuprisingly I was the only rider of a fat bike! My start position was 4th, but due to two ‘no shows’ I ended up starting second. All the other riders that were milling about seemed to be at least 10 years younger than me, and riding some very light looking kit…… A bit of a contrast to the 46 year old on a tank! Oh well, too late to back out now!

The first rider went at 20:30 with me next 30 seconds later. The track commentator made some comments about big wheels, but by that point I was that focussed I don’t really know what. I was chanting a mantra in my head “Can’t finish last, can’t finish last……” I rolled up to the start line with 20 seconds to go and managed to track stand till the starter shouted “go” (Fat bikes track stand really easy)

I headed off out of the arena, up the first couple of climbs the bike felt great, and so did I. I’d spent the 15 minutes prior to the start riding round and I didn’t suffer my usual first five minutes of a race warming up. Up onto the ridge behind the camping field the course turned back on itself. And I got a good look at the lights following me. Several were already together, someone was either fast or slow. Hopefully slow, and hopefully slower than me! Looking behind the rider was catching me, but not as fast as I’d expected.

It was now flat, and singletrack lay ahead, followed by a tight wooded section. It’s the same layout as used at SITS so I was confident through there. My only issue being the Blackspire 808 bars I’d fitted on the Friday evening…… They are wide, very wide. On my practice lap I’d clipped a tree or two, at race pace I was hitting the bar ends on just about every tree, several times I hit then that hard I don’t know how I stayed on.

I cleared the trees and got onto a gravel section. Looking into the trees I could see several riders lights. It was hard to tell but the rider behind didn’t seem to be closing on me…… “Push on,, keep it rolling” I kept telling myself. Round a hard left and through a water splash………. The front wheel veered hard to my right, and suddenly I was riding a bike that was no longer there.

A lot more bikes had been through than earlier, and now 20 metres after the splash was liquid mud…. And fat tyres do not like liquid mud, they aquaplane! Get up, grab the bike and off, checking myself and the bike as I rode. A short flat section and back into singletrack where I knew the Muk flew. The next section was a long up, down, up, down, wide not technical and finishing with a long gravel section……looking back now I could see the rider closing me down. And worse still the two sets of  lights behind him were closing too…….. “Oh, bollocks, my game is up, they’re going to start reeling me in now…… Can’t finish last, can’t finish last……..”

The first rider overtook me, I tailed him into a bombhole, but he powered out the steep exit. The tyres on the Muk didn’t have the grip to do it (I’d tried several times on my practice lap) so I had to push. A quick look back and the two other riders were on me. As the second went past I was getting back on the Muk. Singletrack again now, the rider in front couldn’t gap me, infact in places he was slowing me down. Into a wide off camber section that lead to more tight single track. I took the high inside line and pulled level, then just as I got in front the off camber mud made me drift across him off in a kind of block pass.

The next section of singletrack was Muk heaven, soft mud that normal width tyres were sinking into. I could see the next rider in my sights had his bike on his shoulder and was running. The Muk however was floating over the soft stuff and gaining on him……”Come on, pedal!” I was on him as we dropped into the open. Now for a long section where they had the advantage. My target disappeared into distance. Looking back I was suprised how much distance I’d gained on the second rider, but with my tiring legs he pulled me in and eventually went past.

Still out in the open riding on grass I knew I was loosing time, soon I could see another light. This section was alongside a field, a gradual soft mud/grass climb. The Muk was quite happy, but it was taking it’s toll on my legs. Mentally it was killing me, as were the lights behind me that were gaining on me at an alarming rate…… Had I slowed that much? “Can’t finish last……” Soon he was with me, and just as soon he was out of sight.

Looking back now I could see several sets of lights in the distance but nothing too close. More track along the side of a field, head down, try and ignore the pain. As I disappeared into the last section of woods I looked back again, they didn’t appear any closer. The final section of singletrack down through Bluebell Wood rides really nice anyway, and on the Muk is was superb. I popped out of the bottom with a big grin. Now just the long grassy slog to the finish. Fortunately there’s a narrow mud path just wide enough for the Muks tyres and I used it. Glancing back I could still see no lights, but I pushed hard anyway, it was just me versus the clock now. Sub 40 minute lap? Crossing the line I forgot to look at the time, and spent a couple of minutes trying to breathe……

Time – 00:39:23.     Position in Male catagory 11th of 17

Ride – #70     Bike – ’12 Salsa Mukluk

Miles – 12.1     Total 2012 miles– 1580.1

Main race day dawned bright, but cold with a frosty dew on the ground. It hadn’t been the best nights sleep I’d ever had. A night time visit to the loo, the cold, a slowly deflating air bed, and cramp in my right calf had seen to that. Still It could have been worse, 13 bikes had been stolen overnight. 6 from the Wiggle trade display, and 7 from Thule bike racks. It seems the thieves had got either a Thule master key or an assorted bunch of Thule keys as the locks hadn’t been broken, but unlocked.

A full English breakfast at the event catering set me up for the day, along with some cheap energy drinks. Soon we were setting up our pits, with everything we needed for the 6 hours of the race. Enduro 6 is a ‘parc ferme’ event, everything you need must be in the pits at the start, if you’ve left something in the car when the race starts it might as well be parked in Outer Mongolia, you’re not getting it!

The start came around all too soon. With an 800m run to start the race we decided that I’d do the run then immediately hand over to Odbod who’d ride the first lap. No mention of this stratergy had been made in the riders meeting so we (and a few others) had opted for this tactic.

Wiggle Enduro 6

Just as I got to the start line it was announced that the runner had to do the first ride……. great! Too late to change, oh well, I wouldn’t be sprinting! At 10 we were off, out of the arena and up the first hill………. I don’t do running, tried it once and it didn’t suit me, so those 800m were hard, and felt more like a couple of miles.

Back into the pits and on the bike, great, that’s better…… Until I got to the first hill and a wall of geared bikes dropping down through the gears, and there was no way past. If you’ve ever ridden a singlespeed you’ll understand what a pain that is. If not, let’s just say, you need to keep your pedals turning at ‘your’ speed, getting blocked really is a pain.

The field was pretty bunched up and the next few climbs were the same. Soon I reached some of the nice tight singletrack, but once again I was being held up, and riding a really slow cadience was hard work. This was pretty much how the whole of the lap was. Even at Bluebell Wood, the last singletrack of the lap were I expected a good clear run at the climb I got stuck behind someone.

My lap time was shocking at 00:51:29 (I didn’t know the exact time on the day, but I just knew it was bad) OK, it had been the first lap, which is usually full of bottlenecks, but just having one gear had really been a problem. I suspected it may have had something to do with not having ridden much singlespeed over the last few months. One thing for sure was the lap had been a real pain in the arse, and worryingly the slow speed/high torque crawls behind geared riders was causing the cramp I’d had in the night to start again.

I could rest for a bit now as it was Odbod’s turn.

In just over 41 minutes he was back, looking pretty fresh. Out I went, first hill was clear but the next few I kept getting held up. And when I did see a gap I was struggling to accellerate through, without getting the cramp to the point where it was about to grip. I pushed on round the lap, slowly I was beginning to get cramp in the left calf too. Even technical singletrack was tough as the stop/start nature of it was just aggrevating the cramp.

I tried to work out what was causing it. I’d made sure I’d kept hydrating, even after the night time trial, and today I’d done the same. OK I’d had a couple of post race beers but that was nothing new. I had really pushed it last night though, I mean really pushed hard…… Maybe I’d just overdone it.

Whatever the reason didn’t matter now, I was almost at the end of my second lap, was hating every second of it now, and I was starting to get stitch, something I haven’t had for years! What do I do? The though of another lap like this was not a pleasant one, especially as I know from experience, stuff like that only gets worse as the race goes on.

Into the pits, hand the baton to Odbod and sit down……..

The lap time of 00:47:11 tells it’s own story……

So, what to do? Odbod knew I was struggling and I’d hinted at a possible change. The Mukluk was in the pits as a ‘spare bike’, we were entered as ‘Godiva Trailriders SS’ but as there was no singlespeed catagory, so we could always adopt the name Godiva Trailriders Fat and Single……..

Ride – #71A     Bike – Carver 96’er (Singlespeed)

Miles – 12.4    Total 2012 miles– 1592.5

Soon my numberboard was on the Muk, and just over 41 minutes after he went out Odbod turned up (Mr Consistant)

I took the baton, made sure he didn’t mind about the change, and off I went. The flexability of gears made a hell of a difference. I’d feel cramp coming on an change gear and the change in cadience eased it. Even the stitch was easing off. I could now enjoy the race again (as long as I kept listening to what my body was telling me)

I spent lap 3 chasing people and overtaking them reasonably slowly, so they could see the wheels on the Muk. Then putting in a burst to drop them…… Great fun! My legs were tired, but as long as I didn’t go too mad I felt like I could have ridden all day.

My lap time was 00:43:42

Another 41 minute lap from Odbod and he was back in the pits. Time to talk tactics, do we try for 2 fast laps and maybe get over the finish just before 4pm? It. Would mean finishing the race at about 4:40. It would have been me out there. Even though I’d got the legs to do it, the fact we weren’t exactly challenging for a podium and I’d got a busy evening visiting my Dad in hospital meant I was up for two easy laps to finish. Odbod seemed more than happy with that plan.

So I set off of a kind of parade lap, taking it really easy on the climbs, attacking all the singletrack sections and stopping a couple of times to talk about the Mukluk.

A steady 00:48:20 final lap for me.

Odbod went out and did a similar lap, lurking in the woods till 4pm, crossing the line a few minutes later.

Final position in our class 54th out of 108

Ride – #71B     Bike – ’12 Salsa Mukluk

Miles – 11.5   Total 2012 miles – 1604.5

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