Tuesday, September 25, 2007

British Marathon Champtionships and BMBS XC Series

This weekend saw me take part in the penultimate weekend of racing for the year. I was heading over to Wales for both the final round of their National XC Series (BMBS) (UCI C2) and the final round of the Trek Marathon Series (100km) which was dual rolling as the British National Marathon Championships, so a lot of racing hours was going to be logged...

The race was being held in the Welsh MTB mecca that is, Coed Y Brenin. Getting their was easy, Richie Felle, our bikes and the Silver Bullet (my Peugeut 205) made our way to the Irish Ferries ferry from Dublin to Holyhead in Wales, once there, it was a relatively short rainy drive (about 1.5 hours) to our B&B that was about 10 miles to the race course. After checking in and having a quick nap we headed down for the preride. The course for the XC race and the marathon had been billed as being the most technical course of the year but upon finishing my first lap – it was anything but. The XC lap was 10.5km long and only about 1.5 to 2km of singletrack. Coed Y Brenin has TONS of amazing singletrack and yet it was almost completely on fireroad. I mean, it's one thing to do all the climbing on fireroad (a lot of the time that suits me) but a lot of the descending was on fireroad too! There were a couple of techy sections on the course and a really fun final 4 minutes but just way too much fireroad. It also didn't help that it rained the whole time and made everything very slushy. (One thing though, with the constant rain the course for both days held together well with it all being 100% ridable – the HUGE puddles and rivers we had to ride through meant that not too much got to clog up the drivetrain)

Race morning arrived but my legs didn't feel that up for it. They didn't feel bad, just not that good. After the warmup we were all ready to start. Not much really to add from the race... I didn't feel very quick, my legs feeling pretty dull but I did have a few good fights during the race. The last lap James Fraser Moodie and I had a great tussle (me losing out to him just before the line) exchanging positions throughout the final lap. I finished up coming in a respectable 17th. I wasn't overly happy with the ride but I had one more long day on the bike to look forward to the next day so I simply refocused on it. Results of the XC race can be found here and a report here.

On Sunday I got up to a very soggy, rainy morning – the type of morning that when I'm at home I would reschedule a spin to latter in the day... Not today as it was going to be 100km of a (mostly) unchanged XC course. The rain continued to pour down right up to and past the start of the race. It was actually my first off road race that I left arm warmers on for! The pace at the start wasn't too fast (probably because no one warmed up because of the weather) and I was able to stay with the leaders for most of the first lap. Three quarters of the way around, the people in the group I was with allowed a gap to open in the single track and unfortunately, I couldn't chase back once we hit the climbs again. The second lap started with me in a small 4 person chase group and something worrying started to happen. My front brake starting to lose power. Another few kilometres and I had no front brake. (I had checked the brake pads on the front the night before and they were fine – I replaced the rear ones) For the next 4 laps I only had my rear brake to stop me. Luckily the course was not too technical so good brakes was less critical then normal but I would say it still added a minute or two to each lap time. Mid way through my sixth lap, disaster struck – on a fast descent my rear brake lost all power. Now I'm flying down a hill with no brakes... Time for some old school foot on the front wheel braking... With the smell of burning rubber I was able to stop and check out the situation. Brake pads (and back plates) were completely gone on the front and rear brakes. A nice walk/run back over to the start meant that I lost a ton of time (it was about 4km...). Robin, who suffured double punctures in the race, was able put on a set of pads on my front brake but I was going to do my last two laps with only a front. (Well, I did 4.5 with only a rear, only a front should be faster...) Before I left, Robin mentioned that I was as high as 5th but had now dropped to 8th (I think). With this, I had my motivation set to go hard for the final 80 minutes or so. The last two laps were uneventful enough – I felt good throughout and was even able to push hard on my last lap. I finished up the race in 5 hours 30 minutes for a decent 7th place. Having looked at the details from my Garmin, I probably lost around 20-25 minutes due to my braking issues... I could have had a 4th or 5th... You live and learn. Results from the marathon can be found here, as well as a report here.

The race was a serious mudfest. Lots of photos here

Mud, mud, mud...

The huge puddles meant that the Epic stayed 'roughly' clean

In general, even with the disappointing course I had a great weekend of racing. Thanks to Richie, Geof and Paul for helping me out in the feed zone and Robin and the Pipedream crew for the brake pads!

On Saturday I'll be taking part in the Irish Marathon Championships. It's going to be the final race (don't know about the cross season yet) of the season for me. I'll have nice, new, bedded in brake pads for that...

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