Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Cannock Chase Winter classic

After competing in the Cannock summer race Dan and I signed up for the winter version.This time we were going to compete in the geared fun category. I can't say we had done a lot of specific training, a lot of riding had been done but I don't think either of us is in tip top condition.
The weather forecast was for rain showers and high winds, thankfully the rain didn't turn up but the wind was gusting to 40mph and the tall trees were bending right over as we arrived at the race HQ in the centre of Cannock Chase.
Cannock can be very muddy when the weather has been wet and it couldn’t have been much wetter here in the Midlands than it has been for the past few weeks but as Dan and I started our warm up and scouting lap it became evident that the organisers had done an amazing job at keeping deep mud to a minimum without sacrificing the technical nature of the course. Cannock trails are known for their narrowness through the trees and this route was no exception, there were sections that you can only get a 740mm handle bar through by wiggling it from side to side, a steep drop which had rocks on the left side and a smoother right side but this had the penalty of you being in the wrong place for the sharp right turn at the bottom of the drop. There were a few short sharp climbs, usually through trees with very tight turns and lethal exposed roots and there were two bomb holes one of which had a very steep exit which needed a lot of momentum to be gained to get over, but all your speed was lost at the entrance as it came just after a 90 degree turn exiting some narrow tree lined singletrack

There was then a frankly soul destroying climb back into the start finish area via yet another bomb hole which was fully exposed to the raging wind. The start/finish line was packed with people and there was a foam shower on the line every lap!
The guys from Garage bikes were also racing and they gave us tremendous support, cheering,  offers of chocolate hand ups and the promise of cake at the finish.
The race started just after 11am and 81 of us sprinted into the first corner and basically the race was won and lost here, I really need to inprove the sharpness of my elbows!, actually it was a very friendly race and there were no ego’s on show, every person passing was polite and every person I overtook moved over after a shout of “left” or “right”. There were a few sprints to gain position on the fire road sections (they were quite short with no time to recover or take a drink) and I felt I was doing ok on the first lap, but in reality I had lost so many places queuing after the first corner it was always going to be tough to make up the places in a race that was only 3 laps of a 3 mile circuit. If the race had been longer I think I’d have picked more people off as they got tired, there were a lot of fast guys but as the last lap started I started passing those that had gone off too hard and were fading, I’m not a quick rider but I do have some stamina over longer distances, ah well, that’s my excuse and I’ll stick to it. I came back into the arena with the cheers of the garage bikes crew ringing out to a 52nd place out of 81, dan placed 39th a great result as he had a stinking cold.
The NWAlps branch of Velocake is supported by beerbabe products and Judy and Roy greeted us after we finished eager to know what the course was like as their Fatbike race (which Beerbabe sponsors) wasn’t far from starting, my F.R.O. (for racing only) pack worked a treat carrying tube, tool and levers.
After the euphoria of finishing diminished we joined the Garage bikes lot for some of the best cake I’ve ever seen and tasted, these guys know how to race!

Also as we left Beerbiker Roy took me to one side and handed me a beer, a beer only available from the Belgian trappist brewery and comes in a 10.2%, that made me feel like a winner! I decided not to crack it like champagne and save it for when I could appreciate it more.
I want to thank Judy and Roy for their support (and beer!) and the girls and guys from garage bikes for the fantastic support they gave both Dan and I, a shout must go out to the race organisers, it ran smoothly, the course was great and it really wasn’t their fault thet the coffee ran out and the vendor went home!
Next time top 50 for sure!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When does the abridged version of this post come out? Too many words for me to read. :P