Big Dogging Down Brighton Way

I was totally unprepared for this race. Having missed the deadline for entries I was frantically searching around for a way in, fortunately for me Matt Lewis from the XCRacer team was unable to race and handed his entry over to me. I found out on Friday lunchtime that I was in, rode home from work, threw some bikes into the van, grabbed some dinner and set off on the long drive to the South Downs.

The Brighton Big Dog was the fourth round of the UK Endurance Series, a 6 hour race held at Stanmer It was the first time I had competed here, like many people I had been drawn to the event by the hunt for series points, there was some quality opposition lining up alongside me on the start line, it wasn’t going to be easy.

Although it had rained in the days prior to the race the day itself was fairly pleasant, a little chilly but otherwise nice. This year any race where it wasn’t chucking it down would be considered a bonus.

The start loop was a little bizarre, basically we were to ride a loop of the main arena in attempt to spread us out before we entered the singletrack. What they hadn’t thought of was, because of the number of competitors, that those of us at the front would catch up with the rear of the pack, no-one quite sure who was who and who was going where. There was some confusion as we headed out onto the main track but the marshal there coped admirably.

It has been some time since I have raced that far south, and the chalk ground was rather unfamiliar to me. I had forgotten just how slippery wet chalk is and spent most of the race travelling sideways, trying desperately to keep the bike out of the trees and moving forwards.

The course was very good, mostly forested singletrack with a few open fireroad sections. There were a couple of interesting descents but nothing too scary, this made for a very fast race, the pace was relentless.

A dry line began to emerge after a couple of laps and so rather than the pace easing off as we began to tire the race got faster and faster

I had one minor mechanical problem, from part way through the second lap I was getting a noise and vibration under heavy front braking. There was nothing obviously wrong, the calliper and rotor were both tight, it took me ages to figure out what the problem actually was. The clip which held the brake hose to the fork leg was coming loose, every time I braked hard the forks would dive, causing the hose to slacken and ping off the spokes, a simple zip-tie was all it took to fix it once I had worked out what it was

The top four riders were long gone, but it was very close between those of us from 5th down to 10th, only a couple of minutes separating us.

I was starting to suffer a little during the final lap of the race and was 3 minutes slower than the previous lap, I think the recent 12 hour road race was catching up with me at last, even though I had felt fine after it. The last lap was quite slow, but I had achieved my target of a top-10 finish, crossing the line in 8th place to extend my lead at the top of the series with two races to go.

Following the race we all headed to the seafront for a pint and a chat on the beach, a nice touch which not many other races can offer. The atmosphere at the event was fantastic and i will definitely be back next year.

The result left the series standings as follows:

It was as close as a close thing (sorry, my Blackadder-esque similes desert me). In fact, with just two races remaining any of the top 15 could still take the series win.

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