Sleepless in the Saddle – 5th August

Singlespeed Category – Godiva Trailriders 1st and 2nd

With my ribs still a bit sore from the Alps fun and games, my slot in Lump’s All Stars team was taken and the plan was to pit crew for Rob who was doing the 24 hours solo. Steve Day was also racing and we’d be camped next to him so there would be several willing hands to keep the bikes and riders going.

The race started at midday, but I was working, so I headed over when I finished. Driving up the A38 I was chasing a very black cloud that was emptying itself at an alarming rate. As I got to Catton Park it was obvious that it hadn’t been spared. Everything was soaked, and looking at the riders coming into the changeover area, the course had got a real soaking.

Now Catton Park is notorious for it’s mud, it’s OK when it’s raining, and immediately afterwards. But once it starts to dry it becomes a brown evil mess that will stick to anything. Add in a bit of grass and you’ve got something that will clog your wheels up within a couple of feet.

I popped to see the GT team HQ, and a couple of riders who’d just finished their laps confirmed that the course was soaking, but still mostly rideable. I headed over to the solo riders area and found Rob and Steve’s camp, and Bev one of Steve’s helpers gave me a run down on when they’d gone out, what kind of lap times they were doing and so roughly when they were expected back. As a pit bitch it’s important to know when the riders will be back. I got a piece of paper and used a similar system to the one I’d worked out at 24 hours of Exposure.

6 Columns – Lap Number, Time In, Last Lap Time, Time Out, Calculated Time Back, Error, Comments

Using this it’s really easy to keep track of how things are progressing. Error gives an indication of if the rider is slowing or speeding up. Comments is for stuff like ‘had a puncture’ etc, the rest are pretty obvious. One thing that is very important is a reliable timepiece….

The guys came and went, with the bikes coming back in worse state every time, eventually all we had time to clean was the chain, gears and brakes before the riders were ready to go out again. The cleaning process was simply to pull the mud and grass out as best we could and then use a bucket of water and brush to try and get as much mud off as possible.

It was now almost dark, I’d worked out that Rob would be back at about 22:10, and he suddenly appeared, it was only 21:35…. what? My watch battery had packed up! What did I say about reliable timepiece! I’d not got any of the bike cleaning stuff ready, had no clean water…. but it didn’t matter, Rob announced that he’d had enough and didn’t see the point of trashing his bike. He’d seen several bikes with rear deraillieurs torn off because of the mud, and anyway he’d had to walk over 50% of the course.

Steve pitted, and said what a mess it was out there, but as he was riding a singlespeed (ie no rear deraillieur) and leading the category he decided to go out again. Over an hour later he was back, no way was he going out again this evening. He’d had several big offs and had some nice grazes on his shin and an lump on his knee to prove it.

Once the riders were showered we sat in Steve’s caravan and chatted till someone noticed it was 02:20! Time for bed, I’d expected to be up all night pit crewing, so only had my sleeping bag. I tried lying in the back of the Astra but it hurt my ribs, so ended up sleeping in the driving seat. I think I slept, I sat watching riders lights going by for ages, then opened my eyes and it was 4:45

I tried to get back to sleep, but couldn’t, so at about 05:45 headed off to the GT team HQ, where I found Pav waiting to go out on his night laps. It just shows how long the laps were taking, as working on dry lap times he’d expected to be heading out at about 04:00

Back at the solo area Rob was up and over at the queue for the bike wash, he’d decided to call it a day. The course looked just as bad as last night so he washed his bike and we headed off a sausage sarnie breakfast. The next couple of hours were spent just hanging around with the sun occasionally breaking through the clouds. Bored, I jumped on the fat ‘pit’ bike and rode up to a few spots on the course. Talking to the marshals and looking at the condition of the riders it seemed like most of the course had dryed out past the ‘evil’ mud stage.

When I got back to the solo camping Lump was there with everyone. I told them what I’d seen and heard. Lump just looked at me and said “You’re gagging to get out there and ride, I can see it written all over your face” He wasn’t far wrong. Now for me to have ridden would be wrong, I hadn’t paid my race entry fee (although I have put a lot of money in Pat Adams the organisers pocket over the years) and using Robs number board and chip would  have given him laps he didn’t actually ride (even though he’d stopped riding the night before so was way, way down the field) So what I say happened next didn’t really happen….. honest

Steve got me a helmet, gloves and GT race top and off I went on the Mukluk, riding with normal boots on and flat pedals was ‘interesting’ but the course was really good, the occasional mucky bit, but nothing too bad, and the soft conditions really suited the huge amount of grip the big tyres gave. Within a quarter of a lap I’d worked out that if I got a decent pace on I could do two laps and cross the line just after the midday finish

I saw Rob next to the track and shouted that I’d do two laps. Getting back after lap one I was desperate for a drink as I’d not taken my bottle, and Rob asked if I could get round and not lurk (hang around in the woods just before the finish at midday so you don’t have to do another lap) so he could do a lap on my Mukluk. OK, no problem….

Another lap, I was flying, although my legs were really starting to feel it. It would be interesting (if this were true) to see what my lap times were, I’m sure lap one I was faster, but I could be wrong….

Getting back after lap two I got stopped at Singletrack Magazine’s ‘lurkers bar’ where I was tempted by beer and cookies being waved in my face. I said I had to do another lap, but he still pushed a beer in my hand before wishing me good luck. Over the line and back to our pits… now for a clandestine rider changeover between Rob’s Van and the caravan. I handed over a sweaty race top and helmet to Rob. A few instructions on querks of riding the Mukluk, and the compulsory “bend it, you mend it” agreement and he was off…. about 3 feet…

“It’s got flat pedals on….!”   “Yeah, that’s how I rode it with my boots on”. A frantic change of pedals to SPDs and he was off. Soon we counted down the race clock to midday and welcomed the GT riders that had been lurking at the bar home, Steve Day ran over the line several minutes later having broken his rear wheel spindle in his effort to get another lap and stay in 2nd place on the singlespeed category. And about 30 minutes later Rob returned announcing that he’s going to sell his Surly Pugsley fat bike (that’s more designed for touring) and get one that’s more race orientated!

I’m not sure exactly where some GTers finished, but the GT Singlespeed team won their category with Steve 2nd, and in the male pairs Tony and Bruce came 5th.

But hey, it doesn’t matter anyway, as we’re all winners really………

Ride – #130     Bike – ’12 Salsa Mukluk

Miles – 16.9     Total 2012 miles – 2734.2

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