This weekend was the 5th round of the SRAM Singletrack Mind Series. The course for this round was the twisty-turney Rydal single track.
The Rydal course offers around 9km of singletrack, fitted into something like a 2km x 2km square space. Needless to say, to achieve that feat there are a LOT of corners.
Corners around trees, under trees, over rocks, off-camber, bermed, rutted, grassed, dirt - if you can think of a type of corner, Rydal has 10 of them!
Going into this race I knew it was going to be a long day on the bike - between still recovering from the Scott 24hr, and having a nasty case of man-flu all week I was not going to be 100%.
The race started up a little fireroad, and this was enough to string everyone out and let the faster team riders lead us into the singletrack. After the first little section of singletrack there is a 300 m section of slightly uphill fire road, heading up it was a few team riders, Ed and then myself - all closely packed.
At the last possible moment before heading into the singletrack, Ed did the dirty move of jumping in front of the guy in front of him - interesting. Luckily he did not get the gap in the tight singletrack, and as soon as we hit the 2nd fireroad ot the course I moved back in front of Ed.
After a few laps, Tommo bridged across from being stuck in the start traffic and so that is how we were for the first 5 hours or so. I set the pace on the front, and occasionally Ed and Tommo traded places.
It was pretty tight going in the singletrack, and once we started lapping the slower riders it was definitely tricky to get all 3 of us around together.
At the 5 hr mark I was feeling ok and getting prepared to keep up this pace for another 3 hours, but this is where my luck all changed ...
Coming through transition, I missed my bottle pickup - meaning I had to stop and grab another bottle. This put me on the back of Ed and Tommo. No real drama there, it was nice to see Ed setting a slower pace and it was a bit of recovery to sit in.
Coming to the end of the lap, we hit a little uphill grind, and in the process of getting around a slower rider my chain jammed up. Crap!
I quickly fixed it up, and figured I'd lost 20 - 30 secs which should be easy to make up. I punched it hard through transition and soon came across Tommo but no Ed - ahhh, interesting again - Ed has done the dirtiest roadie trick in the book and launched his attack on my chain suck!!
So with a Stomach of Anger I gave it everything to bridge back that gap. I could see Ed working hard to stay away, but after about 15 - 20 minutes I'd covered the gap and was just 2 bike lengths behind him.
But no sooner had I got there when I got a big stick straight through the rear jockey wheels. This took another 30 seconds to clean up, and Ed was off again.
I started the chase again, but this time both my front and rear derailleurs were stuffed. The chain kept dropping out of the big ring, and the rear slipping. Soon enough I lost the big ring all together and after an hour of problems, stopping and trying to fix this on the road I sucked it up and did a bike swap.
By now, Ed had a decent gap and there was little point in drilling it to chase him down. So, I rode out the last 2 hours in a pretty easy manner.
One thing I learnt from this race is to not get sucked into the friendly social side of racing. I'd spent the first 5 hours riding with my mates, helping them get through the traffic, sitting up when ever we went around slower riders to make sure they all got back onto the train. I'd also played nice and not launched any attacks when the others needed to get their own bottles. So, when Ed attacked on my mechanical it was a reminder that I should not be offering those friendly concessions in the future!
Even though it was not the day I had wanted, it was still a fun day out - and the Rydal course did grow on me as the day progressed. It was a shame the sticks stuffed up my gears, because the 26" Scalpel was an awesome bike for this course.
A big thanks to;
- Robyn, Kylie and Anne for looking after my bottles and nutrition - and for all their help in packing, unpacking and gear prep
- Schwalbe for the awesome tires - Rocket Ron on the front and Racing Ralph on the back is a wicked combination
- Vie13 Kustom Clothing - for the comfy kits
- Cannondale Australia - the 26" Scalpel and 29er Flash are great bikes - both handling exceptionally well on the tight course
- Choc Foot crew - for putting on another great event
Well done to Tommo for another podium too!! Must be those new Schwalbe tires working for you :)
Also, best wishes to young OnTheGo racer James Ross - he had a nasty crash, breaking his collar bone midway through the race. Hope you have a speedy recovery and are back to smash it next year!