Gorrick Spring Series
The first race was on February 18th at Swinley Forest. The temperature was
around 9C with a breeze that made it quite chilly. After signing on I went for a
practice lap with my friend Darren who was unable to race as he was injured
(again!). The course was very clearly signed and easy to follow. Unlike Yateley
Heath last year there was more fire road and the single track was actually wide
enough that you could pass a lot of the time. The course also had 5 major climbs
on it which were all 20% or greater gradient, the toughest being a long hill
about 400m from the start that reached 24%. On the singletrack there were a lot
of exposed roots which were very slippery. I wondered if I would fall off more
times than I managed in my first race!
After practice I went back to the car and took off my leggings, deciding to
stick with a long-sleeved top and long fingered gloves. Awaiting the start I
felt a lot more relaxed than at my first race. This was mostly due to the fact
that it was a long drag to the killer first hill and I knew that position wasn't
important and speeds would be low with no crashes. I was also not expecting much
from myself having been very lazy since Christmas, taking more than a fortnight
off riding completely and then only riding once or twice a week after that. It
was a shame as I lost a lot of fitness. I started in the middle of the 75 strong
field and was being passed by streams of riders on both sides for the first 200m
or so. This did concern me somewhat! However as the gradient started to kick up
a lot of people slowed right down and then the vast majority of them dismounted
and walked up the hill! (see video clip, right). By the time we had reached the
top of the first hill I had re-passed about 10 people.
I soon passed a few more people but then a really long lonely spell kicked in where I couldn't see anybody ahead or behind me and this lasted for a very long time. The course was excellent with some really nice technical descents and plenty of killer climbs. There was even one bit that used a downhill course with some berms and small jumps. This was my first race using SPDs (I had been using toe clips the previous year) and I was a bit nervous about falling but, to my surprise, I only came off once when somebody else fell and blocked my path up a steep rise. During the practice Darren and I had debated, with some others too, whether it was quicker to ride up the really steep bits or walk them. In the race itself the answer to this seemed very clear - every time I rode up a hill and crawled past a walker I never saw that guy again. I think there is the fact that you are actually climbing slightly faster, but also when the gradient eases your speed picks up whereas the walker stays at the same speed and doesn't normally get back on until the flat bit at the top of the hill by which time you are long gone.
I was losing a bit of time on the downhills as these videos of
me and a fast rider
show. Mind you, some people were going even slower!
Towards the end of the race I had a fun dice with another rider. He was stronger than me on the uphills but I was quicker on the descents. After passing each other a few times we finished about 30 seconds apart.
One thing I noticed at this race was that there were a lot of people with broken bikes. At the first race I did I think I only saw one person with a puncture whereas this time there were a lot people with jammed up mechs, broken chains and flats - maybe it was all the stones on some of the fire roads?
Result: 17th out of 75
Time behind leader: 9m 42s
Distance: 10.6 miles
Time: 1h 12m 13s