Midland Series Round 2

For once I have had a race which went entirely according to plan. I was still half asleep from the European 24hr last weekend that the plan was to merely trundle around get a few points...
I had been wavering as to whether to do the race at all, I had raced the week after the National 24hr last year and been absolutely rubbish, but decided that I had rested better this year and having not scored at the first two Nationals I was in need of the points. With the World Cup next weekend (at which our very own Andrew Cockburn will be competing) we weren't expecting many of the big names to be present and so it was too good an opportunity to miss. Being totally unprepared the full-suss was still spread across the garage so I gave the hardtail a quick once-over, it had worked perfectly well last time I had used it, took the brakepads out and cleaned them up and then threw it in the back of the van.
It was drizzling on us on the way up the A1, nothing compared to the incessant downpours of last weekend but enough to dampen our spirits. It was a very nice surprise to arrive and discover that Laura had made the journey too in order to pit for me. Andrew C was competing as a warm-up for next weekend and Rob had arrived to look after him.
We put the bikes together and headed off for a practice lap. The course started by a golf course, and climbed up a grassy hill to the side of the course, then into some gorse and continued to climb, reasonably steep but never much fun on grass. There was a piece of fairly fast, twisty singletrack and a couple more open grassy sections and then down between an avenue of trees, over a series of small jumps, trying to keep the bike on the ground. There were a couple of tight turns and then a slight climb before the course really showed us how good it was.
There was a choice of lines on the main decent, the A-line lead down across two more jumps, a tight bermed corner and then dropped suddenly into a really tight chute down to the right, then immediately left and into another chute with a really tight left hander at the bottom, enormous fun and well worth the earlier climb. I don't know what the B-line was like, the A-line was too much fun to try anything else!
The climb up out of the gully was steep and bit damp, but possible in the middle ring if one picked one's line carefully and found the grip, it seemed to go on forever. More singletrack followed at the top before another interesting section, a really good combination of drops, berms and some entertaining off-camber turns, always difficult enough to be a good challenge but not so difficult they prevented one from trying to go that little bit faster, and then a final fire-road blast back to the start. It was only a short lap, around 4 miles, but I can honestly say I enjoyed it more than Dalby.
Start line

The race itself was as much fun as I had hoped. Andrew and I were gridded together at the front, he got a much better start as Chris Aucote and I both struggled to get our feet clipped in on the first straight, and I headed up the first climb in 8th place. I made up one place on the first lap, passing Orange Monkey's Chris Andrews. I had a slight brain malfunction on lap 2, locking the front brake and sliding into a tree, it caused a little pain in my wrist as the bars snapped round but that had gone by the end of the race. I was as slow as expected following the 24 last week and so rode with some of the leading Expert riders for some of the race. We began to lap people on lap 3, but they were all very helpful and made getting passed easy.
I eventually finished the 5 lap race in 6th place, a much better result than I was expecting, but more importantly I had thoroughly enjoyed a good ride on a 'proper' course.
Andrew C bent his front brake rotor quite badly on the last lap which meant he had to concede to Gilles Drake in his battle for the win but he took a well-earned second place.
As this was the Midlands Championships too, and only Midlands-based riders are eligible for this, I think I finished second behind Chris Aucote, although this has to be confirmed.

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