Sunday, 20 October 2013

Brownbacks round 4

In my mind there was a kind of 'end of term' feeling about the 4th and final round of the 2013 Brownbacks race series. So, how better to acknowledge that than by racing in my lurid orange and lime green underpants? I must say that this was a far as the silliness went - I was still aiming to race.
There were 4 of us involved in the Singlespeed category. Donk had turned up on his 'blinglespeed' carbon fibre, Mick Rushton on his own build Ironworks 29er and one of his mates who seemed to be a bit of a hotshot racer. I couldn't see any of the V50 cat racers from previous events.
I took off for a recce of the course. I'd been advised to use lower gearing on the SS the night before so I was running 32:18. As it turned out I was glad that I was. The course was interesting and took in quite a few climbs and some of the 'old favourites' like the sketchy chute, the pump track but this time we did the full descent right down to the bottom and so had the full climb to do. Every lap. Doh! There was also a section across some huge, rough stone blocks. I'd ridden these in the past and found them a little tricky. After jibbing at the last minute I had to push on my recce lap. Hmm.
There was some talk of the start order being changed for this event and it turned out to be true. It ended up with every other category setting off before the V50's. All two of us...The other guy was a first timer too. On starting I charged off and pretty much blew myself up on the first lap as I tried to catch up to, well, anybody! Eventually i began to reach and pass people. The other Vet 50 was behind me so as long as he didn't pass then I had that sewn up. It was the SS cat that I had problems with. It got complicated as 2 of them were in racer category and 1 in V40. And they were all somewhere ahead of me!
 I tried to calm down a bit and keep it steady rather than the headless chicken approach. Reaching the Stone Slabs of Doom for the first time I bit the bullet and rode them. No worries. Onto the long swoopy descent and then the climb. Oof. I rode it all but by heck, it was tough!
I was getting some great support on the way round from marshals and people who knew me. I had my race face on though and didn't always get chance to acknowledge the shouts of 'Go on Mr Sparkle' and 'Well done Simon'. I was also getting a few laughs for the underpant thing, which was nice.
The second time onto the Slabs and I had the back wheel slide out and had to dab before I fell off them. They had become slippy due to the number of wet tyres crossing them. I knew that I would have problems riding confidently across them from now on. Racing on, I had now settled into a good pace and was passing quite a few on each lap. The climb became a semi push, I'd get off at the gate at the bottom and run for a while and remount about 2/3 of the way up. Judging by the speed of people who were riding it I wasn't losing too much time here.
I was clocking the 'laps remaining' board in the window of the 4X4 next to the impressive new start/finish arch and was pleased that I seemed to be gauging my effort well. There was still no sign of any other Singlespeeders though! At one point somebody shouted out that I was 2nd in SS. I thought 'How do you know??'
 Once again I was at the Slabs. I'd gone in pretty committed on the tail of a rider in front when 'Whoosh' his back wheel slid out and dumped him down hard onto the rocks. It must have hurt. I jumped off and managed to run round him once I'd checked he was ok. The marshals told me that loads of people had binned it there. Right, I running it every time now!
Down the swoopy bit once more and I was just thinking to myself how much I was enjoying it when I managed to lose the front and nearly did a low side. I slid the front for what felt like ages and then just saved it. If it had been deliberate it would have been really impressive! Giving myself a bollocking for not concentrating I continued.
Finally it was the last lap. I kept the pace up as well as I could and made it my second fastest lap. The climb to the finish seemed eternal and I was really gasping by the top. There is a short rise just as you reach the arch and I was straining to keep the pedals moving as I approached. On finishing I weaved off to the side and did the sort of dramatic lying on the floor gasping for breath thing that I always think looks a bit put on when somebody else does it. Not today though - I was properly shattered!
Back to the car for a quick change and a bite to eat and then it was presentation time. I always like to go the the presentation at Brownbacks - the prizes are really generous and it's good to give your appreciation to fellow racers. As this was the last race I knew that they would be dishing out lots of stuff. As well as the usual category prizes there were things like 'being polite' and 'having purple brake calipers' that won stuff. I got some Hope headset spacers for wearing the underpants!
And so the Category prizes that concerned me: I knew I'd got the V50 win and so I finally got presented with one of those really cool trophies made from a brake disc and a rock from the quarry. I was really chuffed! I was even more chuffed when I got presented with a Hope light as the guy who had won the V50 series hadn't turned up and so I got it by default. It didn't seem fair as he was a pretty good guy and had beaten me soundly each race but they had to present the prize and keep the sponsors happy so that's how it was.

In the SS category I knew that I'd be nowhere near the lad in Racer who looked pretty darned quick, but as I hadn't actaully seen any of the other competitors I really had no idea how it finished up. Donk had been hoping for a podium place as usually there are only 3 of us racing so he would have been guaranteed a place. Unlucky for him for the first time this year there were 4 and he was 4th. I felt for him. Mick Rushton got the 3rd spot and I was 2nd. Carl Draper deservedly won it with a fine 6 lap performance.

I made sure that I had a word with Paul, one of the organisers of the series, to let him know that I thought they had done another fantastic job and how much I'd enjoyed the whole series.
The prizes are nice but the racing and just the loads of great people at the races are what Brownbacks is all about. I hope they continue the series for years to come.
Results here

Saturday, 12 October 2013


In a massive contrast to last year’s race the weather was sunny and dry. The gales on the tops remained however. The usual manic start sent all 650 starters hurtling along the road towards a whole world of pain. The thousands of miles I’d put in training began to pay off on the trudge up the grassy wall of Simon Fell. It hurt, as always, but it was bearable. Summitting Ingleborough in under an hour I felt I was racing within myself. The descent to Cold Cotes was taken carefully – plenty of riders passed here but there were many who came a cropper too. A friend broke his collar bone here and two other mates had big stacks too.
I grabbed a gel from Cath and hit the road towards the Hill Inn and Whernside. I tried to ride tactically and use other riders but inevitably ended up heading a train of riders and yelling at them to take a turn in front. Off road again and onto the countless stone steps that lead up Whernside.  Again, shouldering the bike wasn’t too painful although I tried to push it as often as I could to save energy rather than following the herd mentality and carrying all the time.
The wind across the top of the hill was phenomenal and as I dropped off the other side I was blown across the track and for a while was trapped by my bike against a wire fence. I tore myself free and had to push some sections that I would have ridden easily ordinarily.
The section towards Blea Moor is one of my favourites. It’s comparatively flat and fast. I caught up with a mate and exchanged a few words. He was still talking to me as I had to pull over with a puncture.  I can’t complain – my 6th 3 Peaks and it’s my first puncture. A few problems resulted in a slow change of tube but eventually I was away. Ribblehead is always interesting. So many support crews and spectators cheering you on. Waving flags and people ready with spare wheels and bikes range along the track beside the massive viaduct.

My stop with Cath was a little longer this time. A gel tucked up my shorts leg, a bottle of energy drink and a top up of tyre pressure. Away again on the road and I got the first warning twinges of cramp. I’d been struggling getting a drink from my Camelbak and must have been dehydrated. I glugged from my water bottle to discover that the top didn’t fit well and I was sloshing sticky liquid all over my face. Just to compound the comedy when I got my gel I found it was partially ripped and I’d got it all down my leg. I was more concerned that I had hardly any gel left.
Pen –y-ghent has often been my nemesis on this raceand, despite all the training yet again I was struggling. I rode as far as I could but it felt all too soon by the time I was reduced to walking. The cramp left my stiff legged but I kept plodding on. It felt like an age to reach the checkpoint at the top. Riders coming back down towards you play havoc with your mindset here but soon it was me passing hundreds of battered looking riders as I descended.

Again I was pretty cautious – crash or a puncture here would been so demoralising. It was only at the very end of the lane that I could really let it go.  The last road section back to Helwith Bridge was tackled in time trial mode. Head down and pedal, heart rate at maximum. The cramp surged up my legs but I focussed on finishing. I passed a few riders on the way in and really judged my effort right – I had nothing left at the finish. I was 163rd in 4:12. My best finish since 2006. I think the puncture cost me a sub 4 hour finish, a PB and finishing in the prizes in V50 category. Despite this I was happy. I’d had a bloody good go at it this year and I’m hoping to have another one next year too.