BMBS Round 5

I've never really been a fan of Newnham, it's a very long drive to a mediocre course. However, I am pleased to report that the trail-fairies have been very busy since I was last there (2009, I had to miss last year's race due to a clash with the 24hr Worlds) and the revised course was well worth the journey.
The most talked about section was of course the section with no name, the new first descent. Various names have been suggested, the front runners being The Gauntlet (because so many people were running it) and The Bearpit (in honour of the rather vocal spectators). The feed in to it was tricky, without being scary and cumulated in very off-camber right-hander, the trick here being to stay as high as possible for as long as possible. getting this right meant that one could turn left and drop down the berm onto the ridge correctly lined up for the turn and drop into The Gauntlet and use the shape of the ground to help. Getting the earlier traverse wrong meant that the entry into the main drop was very sketchy, to say the least.
My first attempt at in Friday practice was fairly successful, one dab with my right foot halfway down and job done, I even made the turn at the bottom OK. I then attempted to demonstrate to some younger riders how it should be done, but unfortunately my front wheel slid out on a root, hit a small stump and less than a yard into the drop I landed on my head. My Hardnutz helmet performed very well and emerged muddy but unscathed. I had another run at it, got the turn right and then landed on my left knee halfway down, tangled in the bike. I had one more attempt and got it spot on, it can be done!
The race itself had an eventful start. I was gridded 31st on the (fairly narrow) start line. The whistle went and the pack shot off like the proverbial from the shovel. I was too concerned with watching Phil Lenny to my left trying to squeeze passed to watch what was going on up front but I heard the noise of the pile-up and instinctively went for the brakes, stopping just in time to avoid getting caught up in the flying bikes and bodies. I leapt off my bike, picked it up and ran through the mess of bikes, limbs and a crash barrier, Andrew C had also managed to avoid the worst of it and was over on the other side trying to get back onto the track.
I kept out of trouble for the first lap, and really enjoyed it, the descent across the valley from the arena was great fun, smooth and flowing at speed but with no margin for error with the rocks dotted around.
Lap 2 didn't go so well, heading down into The Gauntlet I was the last of a bunch of 4 riders. The man at the front turned into the main route and it was obvious that he wasn't going to make it down in one piece, so I opted to take the chicken run, as did the other two guys in front. The first of them failed to get around the corner, losing his front wheel on the roots and the other two of us had nowhere to go other than to pile into him. A little blood lost from my shin but nothing serious. It actually hurt more later on in that lap when I caught it in a bramble going at some speed and tore a few strands of skin from it.
I had one more crash of my own making, oddly enough at the top of the main descent before the tricky bit, but managed to ride the rest successfully, and I lost my chain between the granny ring and frame at one point, which took a while to free, which allowed Simon Ernest passed.
As this was a UCI Class 1 race the 80% rule was in force and I was pulled before full distance, the two leaders were miles ahead. A big Well Done to Lee W for pushing Liam so hard, looks like he's trying to stake a claim to the second Olympic spot. Despite this I was 28th, and happy with this result, plenty of points.
I stayed around a while to watch the Masters race and was relieved to see Corby run the whole of the main descent. Not saying he is accident prone but one helicopter is enough for one season. Other than that he seemed to be going fairly quickly and finished 18th in his race.
I could really do with some photos to brighten this blog up a bit, so if anyone has any please send them over to me! Thanks.

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