Study the picture. Find the fun. Imagine what happens. Laugh at Al.
On entering a slimy pit of mud sliding down a Herefordshire hillside, jaunty banners and long faces insist this was indeed the spot for a prestigious 24 hour mountain bike race. What? Really? This ankle deep mud? Those tyre flailing cars digging themselves into the saturated earth? Just there you say? Right.
We were lucky enough to whip the massive tent of impossible assembly into some kind of shape, before the inevitable storm, centred directly above Eastnor, exploded in moisture. Huddling inside, I was pretty damn glad there was nothing left outside to get ruined by the rain. Only during a brief respite did it become horribly apparent I’d failed to close my drivers door. Now the experience of the next 36 hours is available both inside and outside of my car.
A quick slither into the signing on tent lined us up like reluctant prisoners being informed that soon they’d be standing on their heads in the ooze. That’s going be pretty much the default position of any rider attempting something ambitious like riding a lap. A lap I decided could wait until tomorrow on the reasonable grounds that there was nothing to be discovered today that’d make any difference.
Already the bike sports thin mud tyres and a mild infestation of mudguards. That’s the ugly stick of course, there is NO WAY I’m going to subject the ST4, with it’s expense of multiple bearings, to the disastrous mechanical collateral damage a single circuit would clearly inflict. And even with a decade of bike gear packed*, the prospect of a full on mud enema with added crashing scored a big fat zero on the joyful stakes.
Instead I asked a mate how the course was riding. It’s not riding he told me. It’s pushing. That section over there (waves in the direction of the notorious Plasticine Wood) is absolutely unridable. Get off at the bottom and climb up. If you can. And all the descents are basically sideways assuming you’ve sufficient energy to get back on the bike. As you’ll be carrying it up half of the climbs. Oh and watch out for a fencepost right in the middle of the last descent. We’ve asked St. Johns Ambulance to set up there.
“Oh come on, it’ can’t be that bad” / “It is” / “It CAN’T BE” / “it’s worse than you can imagine” / “I have a pretty vivid imagination” / “Twice as bad as that. Maybe three” / “Oh Fuck” / “You got it”
We had this conversation shivering under the headline sponsor’s banner while rain blew in sideways and looked for something dry to wet. It didn’t find much. Maybe the ludicrously optimistic ‘short sleeve summer race jerseys’ being punted out to exactly no-one. Still lots of brake pads, mud tyres and more brake pads being locust’d to an increasingly desperate flange of brown-legged riders. The bloke selling the pressure washer was doing a roaring trade as well. He did his absolute best not to look smug, but never got close.
My 2 wheel drive not really a 4×4 at all got me in and out through some superb driving** – especially when compared to the endless beseeching arrivals begging for a push. Rear wheel drive is it? No offence but if you’re going to keep burying the throttle, I’ll be fucked if I’m standing behind that. It’d be like squatting under an incontinent elephant. I might drown.
At least I did get out. Those left camping are enjoying the whole first world war trenchfoot experience. Including several of their number on suicide watch, and a spattering of self inflicted injuries to be spared tomorrow’s battle. I shall be going back even as I’m known for running away and making excuses when things get tough. Or even mildly unpleasant. But not this time.
Absolutely my last race. Too many horrible days and nights riding to get fit. Too much bloody mindedness to quit before the start, even tho it is going to be unfathomably shit. Too lazy to think of any decent excuse. Too damn stupid to know better. That’s one lap we’re talking about. After that all bets are off.
As I loaded the car, the rain started again. I started laughing. It has gone beyond silly now. In twelve weeks, we’ve had two of summer and ten of autumn. At times like this, knuckling (or possibly bending) down and taking it like a man is where it’s at. Hardship to be had. Obstacles to be conquered. Stiff upper lip to the fore, a spring in ones step and your hat at a jaunty angle.
And a full cheeseboard with two decent ports of course. A chap has to have some luxuries.
Wish me luck. I’m going in.
(for those with a lack of imagination, try here)
* I had to dig out the fashion crime items from my early riding career. No matter, they’ll be brown within a single minute.
** after I worked out how to turn the traction control off which was amusingly swapping between driven wheels at about once a second while I stayed absolutely stationary.