Cold porridge is never particularly appealing, especially when it has turned into a cement like blob and I’m dehydrated after a night on the town. But, I forced it down while Helen blasted up the M11 and then needed an emergency coffee so I could swallow it. Helen was awestruck with how sophisticated Little Chef has become since the 1970’s, expecting everyone to be eating beans on toast while creating masterpieces on their Etch-a-sketch’s. She too got on the porridge band wagon (food of champions) and we skilfully wasted valuable minutes when we should have been finding our race venue.
On the map it looks like the road goes straight on through Brandon, but oh no it doesn’t. Stress levels rising I realise we should have gone left and so after u-turns and head scratching we are back on track and arrive at the course 45 mins before the start. After queuing for race packs and a bit of portaloo action minutes turn into seconds and our proposed warm up lap turns into a 10 minute spin.
On the start line I think back to my last gorrick race and how I tried to keep up with the front runners. Their pace from the off was ballistic and so this time I did the same and just rode a fast as possible, flat-out, which seems mental considering you have to ride for an hour. At the first bend I’m in front, second bend I’ve got a gap, into the singletrack, where are they I’m thinking? I’ve managed to drop everyone and I’m on my own: weirdness.
Next I catch the tail-enders of the previous starting group, they are easy pickings (although don’t quite get the concept of “on-yer-right” with random swerving). I go through the first lap finish line in first and am starting to think this is easy. What an idiot. Things get harder when I get caught behind a quicker group, younger category of riders in a long singletrack section. They aren’t quite quick enough and I know I can’t sit back and wait so have to try passing each one by hitting the heavy undergrowth to the side. This is hard work and really I should have just called “rider” and got them to give way, but, I think it’s my job to not affect their line rather than force them out the way. It’s race etiquette but doesn’t do me any favours and really, cos I’m in a different cat, it wouldn’t do them any harm to let me go through. Tricky-dicky.
Next thing I know, on an open section of track, 3 guys blast past. Oh dear, my huge gap: now I can take it easy and pootle game is up. Idiot. I speed up but can’t catch them. These guys are fast. I feel confused. How can this have happened, why weren’t they this quick before, why did I start going so slow? Maybe they didn’t get caught up like me, maybe they have just paced it better?? My head goes down and I think I’ve blown it. I start thinking that perhaps 4th place isn’t so bad in a defeatist manner and worry about dropping any more places. What will I do if FBC catches me? As I’m looking for a suitable stick to shove in his spokes, I go past one of the 3 bullet boy rivals with a puncture. Whoo-hoo, unlucky sucker! I sportingly think and suddenly feel a new lease of life. Time to start my claw-back.
Third lap and second place guy is in sight and I’ve noticed that I’m faster through the singletrack, he’s faster on the wide stuff. Not easy elastic band stuff. There’s a bomb-hole coming up, where you have to get off and run up a sandy loose not really ridable section. I really go for it: unclip, leg-it up, jump-on and get a sweet clip-back in moment, just in front is number 2, ha ha.
Next singletrack section I make my attack and keep pushing as hard as possible, I quickly get a lead and this time I’m not getting caught with my pants down. I enter the final section where there are classic Thetford furrow like, bum-bashing whoops. Standing-up and pumping them is hard but really pays off. I can see the finish and know I’m safe, not far in front is the race leader and I feel a bit gutted that I didn’t give him a better run for his money. Still, second place is by far my best ever result in a 35 rider race and I’m over-the-moon to be honest.
Not far behind come FBC and Slam-Dunc in 8th and 9th positions, top 10: respect! But, shock-horror: Hels-bells-fels blows our brains out with a number 1 position, victory in her womens category. Putting us boys to shame and stealing my thunder. Well done.
After practising our victory salutes over a cup of tea (think mine came off best!) we enjoyed our podium moments of glory. To warm down Helen and I rode the Thetford red trail, Dunc two-fingered the idea preferring to rush back and iron his socks.
Song of the day on the way home: The bones of you, by Elbow: magnificent!
I decided to celebrate by getting completely trolleyed on my new favourite drink Aspalls cider in the Cuckfield in Wanstead. My over-inflated head is now suitably dehydrated back down to size.
It was great, everyone should do the next one