The start of 2014 has been incredibly hectic and during January I can probably count the number of rides I’ve managed to do on my fingers! December was great though, especially towards the end with several big rides to complete the Strava Festive 500. Since announcing Battle on the Beach and entries selling out in just 3 days, most of my time has been going into organising that, which I hope will be a fantastic event for everyone who has entered.
The first race of the year was the Frozen Devil, a last minute decision to race but since it was only 15 miles from my house, it was a simple journey at least. The main reason for entering was because the weather was so rubbish I know by doing an event that I’d actually get some riding done!
It ended up being a decent course and mostly rideable in areas of Crychan Forest that
I ride occasionally. The event went pretty well for me, riding the first 20km with someone else, then heading away alone and pulled a good gap. I snapped a chain right before the final feedstation, loosing the lead but managed to fix it and push on again, regaining the lead and finishing as first rider back in 3hrs.
A few weeks later and it was time for what has become my favourite early season MTB event, the Dyfi Winter Warmup.Held in the same area as the original dyfi enduro (held in May), the warmup is not at all what it claims! A total of 28 miles with almost 2000m climbing over 3 laps make it a really tough one for January. As usual, a good bunch of racers had made the trip and a total of 300 riders were entered. I’ve ridden all previous events, the first two were cold, especially the second where I was breaking the iced over puddles. Last year was very wet and this year was the same, with cold temperatures as well. It made kit choices hard, but with a wardrobe full of Gore Bike Wear at least I knew I would have it covered, I just had to make the right choice.
A few choices that turned out to be good ones, were waterproof shorts (of course!) a Xenon waterproof jacket and some neoprene gloves with silk liners. Neoprene and silk are both good insulators and since all gloves will get wet, they were perfect as my hands stayed warm when wet. The first few miles were downhill, with rain pouring down and everyone getting rather cold. There were several comments in the pack of riders that they were actually looking forward to the long first climb to warm up and I can include myself in that. It turned out to be the perfect event to test a new Rapid Racer Products EnduroGuard, I don’t it could have been much wetter!
The first climb is infamous; long, steady and a killer. There is always someone who makes a move early on and I actually surprised myself to find I was on the front and pushing the pace. A little look behind and it was only Phil Morris for company. We climbed together, Phil gaining about 10 seconds by the top of the climb. On the first singletrack the gap was reversed and into the first downhill I took full advantage, opening a good gap. Since Phil was riding a rigid bike I guessed I’d have the upper hand, but he was climbing well, so I would need it the help. I had made a big mistake before the start of the race however, since my jacket had no pockets I decided to tape 3 gels to the bike and because it was raining the tape didn’t stick very well and I lost all 3 on lap 1, leaving me with no energy food or drink at all.
For the first lap I kept the lead, then the first downhill on lap 2 I picked up a small puncture, which did seal but left the tyre very low. I had to stop to put a Lezyne c02 canister in, which gave Phil the lead. By the end of lap 2, I’d caught back up but up the steep first climb I knew I was loosing time as Phil pushed on. I was starting to suffer from a lack of energy and on the final climb I had hit the wall and “bonked” big time. My vision was going black on the edges, I could barely ride in a straight line and felt terrible. On the descent, adding to the black tunnel vision I had strobing going on, which made it even harder to see. From the bottom is was only a few hundred meters to the finish and I was very glad to see it, stuffing my face with flapjacks to get my body back on track. I must have been on the verge of hypoglecemia and it was without a doubt the worst I’ve ever been. Lesson learnt!!
With January over and done with and quite possibly the worst month of weather I’ve ever experienced I am hoping for a drier February, maybe even a cold and dry month! The next event for me is the Icebreaker Duathlon, which will be as fun as it is painful!