Whinlatter - I Almost Did Very Well

A lovely warm sunny day and I was spoilt for choice with races. It was the first round of the National XC series at Sherwood and thanks to some rather poor calendar synchronisation also the first round of the British Endurance Series at Whinlatter in the Lake District. I cancelled my entry for Sherwood and headed north.
I was running late for the start as usual. As this was the first race of the series there was no gridding, and the majority of the 600 riders were already on the line when I arrived. I was a little cheeky, walking up through the spectators and then taking up a place at the front. This was mostly successful, although a few others copied me and I found myself starting from the second row.

Thanks to Richard Munro for the photograph

The start was lead out by a quad bike, up the first climb which seemed to go on forever as the pack sorted themselves out. The quad peeled off just before the first singletrack section and the race was on. Four riders made a break and got away, the rest of us trying to keep up and fighting for positions amongst ourselves.
I was struggling for grip in the twisty sections, regretting my tyre choice a little, but was able to make up time on the climbs. I spent most of the early part of the race at the back of the top 10. About 35 minutes into the race I was up to 7th, and challenging for 6th when my chain snapped. Fixing it only cost me about 3 minutes, it was a nice clean break at least, but it cost me a lot of places and I dropped to about 40th. I made my way passed about a dozen riders on the next climb and managed to keep ahead of most of them through the next singletrack, the marshal at the end of that section calling out our positions, I was 27th.
I chased hard for the remainder of the lap, still struggling a little for grip on the descents but making up time, and places, on the climbs. The views across the Lake District were quite special, not that I had much time to appreciate any of them.
I kept the pace up for the second lap, and the same marshal called to me that I was now 17th. I was right behind Chris Lever, a member of the Cooksons team we had been chasing down at Mayhem last year, it was deja vu all over again. We rode together for the last few miles, swapping places a good few times, before he overshot that final fast turn on the fire-road and I took 15th place from him right at the end.
I was a little disappointed with the result, thanks to the snapped chain early on, but I was pleased with the way I rode and I hadn’t lost too many places because of it. Everyone was saying how slippery the course had been in places, which was a bit of a relief, it wasn’t just me being a wimp!

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