FNSS Rd1 – 11th May

That’s Friday Night Summer series to those not in the know….

“What’s that?” I hear you ask…. (so taken directly from the FNSS website http://fnssmtb.com/)

What’s FNSS mean?
Friday Night Summer Series, it does what it says on the tin. A summer race series for mountainbikes. Sorry no Cyclocross bikes allowed.

Why Fridays I want to go out on the beer?
Good question, could be that Public places are quieter on Fri Eve’s as most people are out doing just that. It could be the fact that you and the organisers get a chance for a good rest on Saturday if you don’t work. The real reason is that this series was started by Road Cycling clubs getting together. They already had road stuff on Tues, Weds and Thurs and nobody wants to race on Monday now do they!

OK what’s it all about then?
The Friday night Summer series is a group of races organised by individual people, in 2013 it has it’s 22nd continuous year of running. It has the same central Insurance cover and one Uber head Honcho ..Neil Holman. This ensures a proper centrally organized setup and admin to enable easier accounting. But still all races are slightly different in format as each organiser adds his/her own touch.

How far’s a race?
The basic format is that everybody races together in one mass start on a 45 minute plus one lap format.  (due to larger race entries this can now be split into two starts generally Senior/Junior then Vets/Ladies) This method means no matter what level of fitness you are you will not race for much more than an hour. This means only about 13-15 miles for even the fastest riders, and each race starts no earlier than 7.15.

What if the leaders lap me?
When the organiser works it out he’ll shout out last lap at the leader as he passes, and then at all following racers. When the race leader returns to massive applause for the win; all the following riders are deemed to have finished, No mater how many laps behind they are. All riders crossing the line receive a finishing position and some series points. Note; smart riders will have worked out that if the leader is catching you towards the end of the race, you can save having to do another lap if he passes you before you cross the line.

Can I do it – I have no flash kit or any race license?
Anyone can race, all you need is a bike and a helmet, and no special bike or kit either. All Youths and Juniors must have parental consent. Mudguards, racks, toeclips, pink Emmelles, tandems, cut off jeans, we have seen them all and they add to the event. Nobody will laugh at you here, we’ve all been there trust me. There’s no need for any licence or club membership, just you and a bike.

So there you go, there are 13 rounds in the series, and your best 6 results count towards your final place in the standings. You can race as many rounds as you like, but less than 6 and you’ll not feature in the final standings. As usual, a combination of holiday and afternoon shifts mean I can only race in 3 rounds 😦 On the positive side, I can race in round 11 on August 2nd at Delapre Abbey, Northampton. The course there is simply stunning 🙂

So round 1 was at Borough Hill, Daventry. Originally home to a BBC transmitting station, and site of the first ever practical demonstration of RADAR on 26th Feb 1935. The course is a superb mixture of open grassland, fast woodland, gravel track and steep twisty woods. The finish being below the 600′ radio mast that dominates the site.


So, to the race…. I always struggle with the start, more in where to be in the pack…. as you just line up on a 4(ish) bike wide track. I’ve headed for the front before, but the fast guys leave you for dead, and mentally it beats you up, you almost feel like you’re going backwards. So I usually aim for mid pack. At Daventry I ended up a bit further back than I’d have liked (should have got to the start earlier!)

The seniors headed off first, and 2 minutes later so did we. Straight away I started passing people, in a tight bunch it’s not easy, and I knew I should have been 10 or 15 riders further forward at the start. Not much I could do now but get my head down and ride. Into the first lot of woods it was single file, but as it rides pretty quick  it wasn’t too bad.

Out of woods and it was onto a gravel track…. and into a headwind. On my practice lap the wind had almost stopped me dead here and I’d made a decision that on every lap I’d draft someone (ride in their slipstream) all the way along it. It worked, I hung behind a couple of slower riders all the way, and just as we were about to turn behind a hedge I accellerated past. Mental note – do that every lap if possible!

The next set of woods are quite tight and twisty and the pace slowed, with only one real line through the trees it was frustrating. All I could do was have a breather as we crawled along. The exit of the woods was a quick steep climb. We’d now  caught a couple of Senior catagory backmarkers, and they were trying and failing to ride it. Trouble was they were in the way so I had no choice but to pick the pick the bike up and run through the scrub at the side of the track.

Back on open grassland again I found myself catching two Rugby Velo Riders. Over the line, lap two. They were my target, so I pushed hard, I had to, out on the open grassland they were quick. Into the fast woods and I’d got up to them, and now heading onto the gravel I was right in behind them. Turning off the gravel I tried to overtake, but the headwind hit me hard and pushed me back. Now into the twisty woods… they were slower, but not slow enough to be able to get past. At the few overtaking points I’d spotted I could get almost level but hadn’t got enough to edge in front and take the line.

Out onto the grassland and I made my move, I was now in a Rugby Velo sandwich, but I lost my rhythm on the bumpy section on the run in to the line. Lap three, I was behind them both again. Halfway round the lap I spotted Dusty Dan a mate who was riding in the Senior class, he’d started two minutes before me, and he was catchable. I hung behind the Rubgy Velo guys, trying to gauge if we were going to catch Dan. At this rate it was possible. More position swapping with the Velo guys followed.

As we crossed the line the last lap bell rang, I could see Dan, he was close, but I was unsure if we’d catch him. I had to go now, out of a rough section I tried to be as close as possible behind the Velo guys. I was too close, they swerved to miss a mound, I hit it and was all over the place. I dropped off them…. “F**k! Agggghhhh! All that effort. “Come On!! Pedal!!!  Head down, I put every ounce of effort I could into it. On their tail again somehow, but slowly one of the Velo guys pulled away. Dan was close now, as we exited the woods he was there. I overtook the lone Velo rider and went past Dan.

Onto the gravel I had no one to draft. I pushed again hoping to drop Dan. But Velo man was there still. The bike felt weird, a puncture? I looked down and back at the rear tyre… it was OK. “It’s in your head! Push on!” As we dropped into the woods he overtook me. He was holding me up in the twisty stuff, but we were still catching and overtaking a couple of slower riders. Dan wasn’t directly behind me now, I had a buffer. Out onto the grassland for the final time, my legs were like jelly. Velo man pulled away, and a rider I’d overtaken in the woods crept past. A glance back and Dan was closing… pedal!!!!!! Another look back and he was closer PEDAL!!!!!! Across the line, chequered flag…. roll to a stop, lean over the bars and feel like I’m about to throw up!

1 hour 7 minutes 45 seconds…… Dan crossed the line 5 seconds after me! But in reality that’s 2 minutes 5 seconds 🙂

So I ended up in 38th place, not bad, my lap times were OK (15:12, 15:29, 15:20) apart from my first (21:45). It’s a longer lap due to the start straight, but everyone who finished around me had a first lap time about a minute shorter. I’m sure that was due to the traffic in the first set of woods, and if I’d started further up the pack I’d have managed a lap in the high 20s….. which would have put me up around 31/32nd…..

But I didn’t, and if I ate less and didn’t have the odd pint or two, and trained more, and had never smoked etc etc…. I’d probably win every race….

Right, next event, the Bucks Off Road Sportive…. 100k (62 miles) in the Chilterns…..

Oh, and I did have a puncture. I got home and my front was flat!



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