Finding out the night before that there was no entry on the day was a bit of a downer. Although there had been an odd message or two that suggested there was an outside chance of joining in with the fun, so a decision to rock up with the two bikes turned out to be the right one.
Dave Spragg suggested joining in with the Kingston Wheelers composite team, as they only had three riders; Matt, Tim and Jumpei. So I took a leap into the unknown (not having met my teamies before), and signed up.
Despite problems with registering the tags, I thoroughly approve of Crawley Wheelers event. Probably because I got there early enough to avoid the huge queues!
A warm up lap made me well aware of the sections that might prove tricky. The first section into the woods was the only one I’d thought might get tricky, but didn’t. The others; Tree Root Central Part One, Death Drop Slide, Slippy Hill, Brake Hard Corner (they spray painted that on the track!) MTB dip, Woodchip Mud, Tree Root Central Part Two all had their fair share of spills!
As they called us to line up, I discovered I couldn’t find any of my team mates (I’d met Matt by then), so hung around wave 2 until I saw Barry Hyde (another lovely Wheeler in a different team). His suggestion to stay in wave 2, was probably the right one, Matt eventually showed and started in wave 3, Jumpei in wave 1 I think.
Then a completely nuts start. As everyone; Seniors, Vets and Juniors, Male and Female, all started together. Jumping on Barry’s wheel was the best thing I did, following him until the sheer press of people made it impossible to stay there. I think I did ok on the first lap, riding Death Drop Slide was impossible as there was just too many people.
However, as the press of people thinned out, it didn’t actually get much easier. I decided to stay on the Kinesis as the mud wasn’t sticking too much. 2nd lap was harder, I totally blew up after riding Death Drop Slide and had to run a couple of sections, which helped me get my breath back a bit. I walked/jogged Slippy Hill, as the first of the guys started coming passed me – one of them even complimenting my gorgeous ‘anodised red’ (orange) Giro’s (the most ridiculously comfortable shoes ever – and of a colour even Scott Chalmers would approve of!) The course was chopping up by then, and I had a couple of worrying moments at Tree Route Central Part Two. I did admittedly snap at a few vets and seniors, four of which didn’t call a line, and hit my front wheel when chopping in front of me.
Quite a few people racing actually called out with various ‘Go on Elz,’ ‘Keep going Elz,’ etc, it’s a right boost to be honest, half the time I have no idea who you are though!
Which cheeky fucker told me to stop chatting?!?!!
Brake Hard Corner had a few people off in front of me, and I was far too cautious riding down to it, thought I did ok, then rode a bit too hard into MTB dip – and completely face planted. I’m assuming Jon Baines has a hilarious picture of me rolling in the mud!
A decision to change bikes on the third lap was good/bad/neutral. The Colnago is quite different to ride, a bigger frame and different geometry, but hell is it pretty! I was tired by the fourth lap, and a couple of silly mistakes almost, ALMOST had me down, but I managed to stay fairly upright and still attached to the bike.
And I’m fairly certain I was smiling still when I crossed the finish line! I really enjoyed it, such a great community of people out there.
Massive thanks to the Kingston Wheelers, especially Toria pitting for all of us today, Dave Spragg and Barry Hyde. All of you have really helped me find a bit of faith in myself, and get more confident!
Super to see all the Brixton Cycles girls, David Barnaville (good to actually meet you, rather than brief phone conversations with Saddleback) Jody & Stu and the various others that said hello.