What’s this? A mountain bike race? Surely not!
 
Daren Austin-1
Photo courtesy of Kevin Sheldrake Photography
 
Anyway for those that are unfamiliar, the very popular Gorrick 100 Enduro took place today. Format is sign on for 7, 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1 lap of an eight mile technical course and race. Laps are timed and start times are staggered so all finish together (or thereabouts).Commitments meant that I had quite a dash to Deepcut (Windmill Hill for those that know the area) and signed on for three laps with about a minute to spare. Just to make it a little harder, I line up on the start with 38 other rides and notice that I am the only rider on a steel singlespeed. Well at least I win my class – if there was one (there isn’t for this race).

A quick briefing – dont drop gel wrappers, then off we go. There is a mad dash for position, which owing to 32×17 gearing means I can’t compete for, before a long flat section. and some deep mud. I pass a couple of riders, but the contenders are away already. Perhaps I’ll pull some back on the climbs.

The course is technical, rooty, fairly dry with some soft patches and a couple of deep mud obstacles. There are some very good drop offs, long swooping sections and lots of twists. The pace is relentless. Passing is generally hard on singletrack, but slower riders tend to move over and are always thanked. Half way round I have a puncture. Running tubeless (and not well sealed), I ride a few miles until it is obvious that the rear will need looking at as the rim is bottoming out on every root. I stop and top up with a full CO2 cartridge and finish the lap. There are two very steep short climbs that I run up (SS has it’s privilidges) with following downhill sections. One large drop off has a chicken run and I have to work Tuesday. I take that run! Some of the full suspension bike handling is very impressive and I can’t stay with them on my modest skills and hardtail. Come the next climb, it’s payback time.

First lap comes up and I take a gel. Second lap and I’ve warmed up and am going well. The odd thing about these races is that you can spend a long time riding on your own (if you are out of the top placings). Lap 2 is no exception. I hit a small tree stump half way round and crash unspectacularly. Back on and no damage to bike or body. A few poor lines and running up the two steep climbs plus one extra steep obstacle. I pass a couple of riders on a long firetrack towards the end of the lap. My fixed wheel spinning allows a maximum speed of 15 mph. Not bad, but not really competitive. 1:50  and another gel.

Final lap and I’m still on my own. I eventually catch a rider and it is for position. He drops me on a downhill section and I catch and pass him on a climb. He confides that it’s his local woods. I pass a seven-lapper who says I am mad to ride a SS. Me? He’s the one looking haunted on his final lap! Cramp! Final long drag of a climb and both ankles start to lock! All that honking and not enough salt input. I stretch and make the climb for a sprint to the finish feeling pretty strong.

I’m 12/39 overall in 2:50:40 . Pleased with that. Laptimes are 56, 57 and 58 minutes. The fast guys are 43 dead. That’s what skill and a proper race bike can do. I don’t have that skill, but race fitness meant I never really suffered. But then I didn’t do seven laps either! Of course I wore my full TCC race kit, just to get us noticed.

If anyone fancies trying their hand at a mtb race, West Drayton MBC are running Black Park Mountain Bike XC14 on 1st June near Slough (including the London SS championships!). I hope to be there, drop me a line if you would like to know more. Black Park can be ridden on a CX bike. Most of the Gorrick series would be more challenging.

Kind regards,

Daren

PS I won’t be leading an mtb race next week on account of the Inter-Club sufferfest/TT.

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