*Well ok not an actual race win but a victory in a long running SS grudge match in which I lose mostly.
My whole year has been based around this one event that I didn't even know where or when or if it would even happen. Convincing my neighbourly nemesis to even race is hard enough let alone on a Friday night when the curry house or a Scottish Munro is calling.
It happened though. The local kids Go Ride series (with tagged on adults race) announced the dates and the plan was afoot. Slowly but surely crank up the pressure. Commute more and more each week. Ride home, go for the TNR, then ride to work. Shave ones legs and wait for people to notice. Casually mention all those Strava KOMs I've been picking up and then make sure the SS gauntlet is thrown down and others take up the bait and ensure Joe's attendance.
Preparation was going smoothly. No illness in the previous 2 months. A big block of riding over 3 weeks previous to the race and I rompted home on the final commute before the race. The bike was fully prepped and cleaned. All my race kit including shoes were clean with brand new matching helmet. I was ready.
Unfortunately I didn't romp to work the next day and was feeling decidedly ordinary. Ah!
Like a proper amateur I had taken the Friday off to fully prepare and rest but with 2 young children this was probably my first mistake as rest doesn't happen. I woke up with a wooly head and wooden legs and started to worry. A couple of short rides to school and I was slowly coming round so it was time to open the can of Whoop Ass with Joe's name on it.
Of course stirring the hornets nest and handing this over on the start line will only make him faster.
A bit of history.
Lightwater Laike - 3 victories for Joe (could be more)
SSWC - 1 proper beating from Joe in Aviemore even though I "cheated" like a good un. What's that Grant you need a hand with a puncture. Oh look the race has started ;0)
SSUK - 1 No show at Hamsterley from Joe and a disputed victory by me at Dalby. Apparently 2 punctures means it doesn't count but we won't mention I passed him before he'd even bent down to fix the first one.
Back to the current year and I've done very little MTBing this year but I've done a LOT of commuting. More miles and more time on a bike than ever before and my confidence was high until that ride to work on Thursday.
It's been nearly 20 years since the last race in Errington Woods and I've been through only once since then but all the old and plenty of new singletrack is there still and even with the overnight rain the course was holding up well. Plenty of time for a bit of chat and adding to the pressure while the proper (kids) racing was going on.
Gridding myself about 15th (of about 65 in the over 16s) knowing I would be giving it everything up the fireroad climb as it's singletrack for quite a while at the top I didn't dare look back as I followed Ian through the slow starting geared riders. Into the singletrack and after eventually passing the less technically adept rider halfway through the section I got my head down to ensure I could utilise the mobile road block if Joe wasn't far behind. Passing the finish line at about the 2/3 point of the course and my only bike setup mistake reared it's head. I'd forgotten to reduce the tyre pressures from the Bivi the week before as I started pinging off the greasy roots on the flat singletrack at the bottom of the hill.
By now I'd realised my body had come round to racing and wasn't going to collapse on me and I romped up the steep section of the fireroad past another rider and then paid for that badly as the slope lessened but my legs started to complain. The last 2 laps I walked this short section and more than made up for it on the easier slopes. From here on it was a lonely race with a few glimpses of riders trying to catch me as the route doubled back on itself and spotting the current SS series leader on the climb as I was on my way down.
As it turned out Joe had got lapped making my "win" emphatic. Well apart from the not actually winning bit as I was 25th and not even 1st SS as Ian stole that from me quite convincingly in 20th.
As ever a big thanks to Dan Small of British Cyling and the lads from MTBGuisborough who did the work on the ground for race organising. I know how much of a ballache it is and don't envy anyone who takes on the task.
So now thoughts turn to cross season which starts with my "home" race in 10 weeks.
Can we order skin suits?
VC Velocake North East England representative