This is the sixth time I have participated in this event since 2000.
This year, as last, I met up at the 9 am start with my old pal from UMIST, Robert. Robert has a ‘hybrid’ bike but this year has just returned from a cycling holiday and is equipped with proper shoes that seem to integrate with his pedals; and he proudly displays shiny new kevlon lined tyres. I should have been better prepared than last year, when I only just made the start, after arriving from San Francisco at 6.30 and only left Manchester Airport at 7.30 am. But then the bike was all ready for action, whilst today I had a hangover and I had opened the shed door to discover a flat tyre. So I set off nervously having deployed my only spare inner tube before the start, in the knowledge that it had only been repaired, with difficulty, a few days earlier.
Robert showed his superior fitness and with his skinny tyres shot off into the distance, so it was something of a surprise when he overtook me shortly after the first support point. This comes soon after a sharp rocky descent where many people dismount. I’d overtaken lots of folk here, but hadn’t noticed Robert – concentration and care is required. This section has frustrated me in the past as with the onset of suspension and disc brakes there should be no need to walk down here (though I do excuse Robert, who has neither of those gadgets nor a proper mountain bike). But today, as last year, those walking stepped aside pretty quickly and graciously.
The weather was excellent and the slithery trails mixed with a few road sections gave a varied and interesting trip. The 27 mile route is mainly off-road, sometimes quite ‘technical’, and includes about 1350 metres of ascent. There are usually 200 to 300 participants and each year we see more serious racers – the event must have got onto a mountain bike race calendar. Last year’s winner took just over two hours. This year I finished in 3 hours 15 minutes, 7 minutes behind Robert. Very satisfactory, as we’d both done our best times and felt good, despite a few things (speedo, water bottle) dropping off my bike. Our suspension-less machines looked rather out of place amongst all the fancy equipment on view. But these people probably race every weekend, whilst it’s our only mountain bike event of the year.
(The picture was taken at a support point in 2003 – we didn’t take cameras this year.)