Classic Weekender

It didn’t start well, but it got a lot better as the weekend went on.

I arrived too late for a practice on the Friday night so just had a beer around the campfire (yes, only one) and then went out for a practice on the Saturday morning.

The first event was the trials, five compulsory obstacles with a one minute penalty for each failure and two optional ones, only one attempt allowed at each. One of the compulsory ones was a see-saw, which is not normally a big deal. I hadn’t even made it as far as getting on to it when I made a complete prat of myself, unclipped my right foot, tried to put my left foot down and collapsed in a heap. This was accompanied by a sharp pain in my left knee and the sickening sound of cracking carbon.

The lovely people from Rossendale Mountain Rescue patched my knee and Cotic very generously stepped in to provide me with a Rocket to ride, and very nice it was too.

The trials were fairly simple, which is good as I never done a trials event before! I was a little overconfident and got the first skinny wrong in the last 6 inches, that was my first penalty. I cleared the steps with no problems at all, managed to go well over the minimum time for the trackstand and had no issues at all on the see-saw. Even duck-fishing passed smoothly (if you weren’t there…)

The climb was the section I had expected to do well on, but this was the only part of the whole weekend where I felt the Rocket was out of it's depth, it was such a capable all-rounder, I think it was just heavy wheels which let it down on this one section. Only 25 of the 150 riders managed to clear this particular section and it appears that a lot of them did so by getting nearly to the top and then side hopping the last few feet. The atmosphere was great, everyone standing and cheering, or more commonly heckling, those attempting each section, especially on this climb.

With two failures and one bonus I had only a one minute penalty, I was fairly happy with that.

Rare shot of me in my baggies.
Thanks to the guys and girls at Singletrack for the photo 
Next up was the downhill race (does that sound a bit odd?) It was a fairly short course but with some interesting line choices, including a couple of chicken-runs which would penalise those taking the less-adventurous routes. This was properly competitive. I know the whole event was just suppose to be a bit of fun, but there was a lot of pride at stake. This was my first ‘proper’ DH race, one at a time against the clock, laser timing and everything. We would each have two runs, the fastest time to count.

I opted to take it fairly steady on my first run, to make sure I got a half-decent time in the bag without taking any risks. We were set off at 30 second intervals, and I managed to catch the man in front of me, which was quite satisfying, fortunately on the only wide section and so I lost no time overtaking him. My time was 2min26.7, pretty respectable, a good banker run and I’m sure I could go faster one my second attempt.
My final run started well but I fluffed one corner, which must have cost about 2 seconds, I found myself heading for the chicken-run as it was the obvious line and had to slam the brakes on and perform a rather abrupt turn to get back onto the faster line, concentrate! I improved, but only by 0.4secs.

I finished 80th on the DH. Everyone outside the top 50 would be given a 10 minute penalty, so my total penalty for the XC race on the Sunday would be 11 minutes.

Saturday evening was great fun, more beers around the big bonfire and making a complete fool of myself on the pump-track, something else I had never done before (pump-track that is, not making a fool of myself) I was properly last at that (20.8secs, the next slowest was a little over 13 seconds, fortunately this didn’t count for anything)

Sunday’s XC was started accorded to the penalties accumulated the previous day. I was starting 11 minutes behind the first man, a total of 49 riders in front of me at various intervals. It was a short race, would there be enough time to make up that many places?

There were a dozen of us starting together, with the same penalty. I got a good start, getting the hole-shot into the first turn and then leading across the rocks down to the lake and up the first climb. The course flowed really well, it was constantly up and down but none of the ups ever felt like a drag, something of a surprise given the beefy nature of the Rocket. The surface was mostly rocky, which suited the Rocket perfectly, and also meant the rain we had had all summer had drained away easily.

The DHers were starting to suffer a little and I was picking them off one by one. I caught and passed Cy, the Rocket’s designer who had started 6 minutes ahead of me, at the start of the second lap. I continued to make up places for the whole race, setting the 11th fastest time for the three laps, almost exactly one hour. Obviously I would have preferred a longer race but I had made my way up to 16th by the end. More importantly I had really enjoyed the event, (despite the initial problems!) and will definitely be back next year. Need to get some practice in on a pump-track first…

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