Whinlatter 2013 - Not Quite As Dry As We Had Hoped

It was 13 months since my last dry race. That one had been Whinlatter 2012, the one and only dry and dusty race of last year. After such a rubbish summer we were hoping for a repeat performance this year.
The first attempt was cancelled due to too much snow, or Health & Safety going a bit over the top, depending on your point of view. I’m inclined to go with the later, I love racing in the snow and was really looking forward to it.
Anyway, it was rescheduled, so we all headed up to the Lake District on the Saturday before the event, in the blazing sunshine, expecting a great race. The weather had been lovely in the preceding week so we were expecting the trails to be dry, and joy of joys, they were. Fantastic. We went to bed, eager to get up again and see what race day would bring.

We awoke the following morning to the sound of rain drumming on the roof of the van. Peering out of the window it was just about possible to see the trees on the other side of the clearing through the fog. Bugger.

There are no pictures of the race so here's an archive one of me riding in the wet.
I think the mist this time was just too thick for cameras to be any good. Either
that or the idea of spending four hours standing in the pouring rain really didn't 
appeal to the photographers.

Last year the race had been just over 2hrs for me. Anyone who had gone under 2hr30min was gridded at the front, the others all behind on a first come basis. Last year the race had been two laps, this year it was three shorter ones. The race would probably be slower than last year due to the rain and resulting lack of grip, but even so two bottles of Bikefood and a couple of gels should be plenty.

The start went well, and I stuck with the main pack as we headed up the first climb. This wasn’t the same as last year, it seemed to go on forever, just relentlessly up and up into the rain. This wasn’t the biggest climb on the course either, there a couple more significant hills out on the back of the racetrack. However, despite the weather the rocky nature of the course meant that it remained good fun, no horrible boggy bits anywhere.

The first lap and a half went well for me, and then at some point on the second lap my forks gave up the ghost and just seized up. Whinlatter is not an ideal course to ride rigid, it is doable but not quickly. I kept the pace up as best I could but was having to take every opportunity I could to take my hands off the bars and wiggle them around to attempt to restore some feeling to my wrists and fingers.

I was a little surprised to see the time when I crossed the line at the end of lap 2 to start the third and final lap. The race was already longer than last year (we found out later that the distance had increased 20%, the time had increased a lot more due to the conditions) and I was starting to flag a little. It was looking as though two bottles and a couple of gels may not be enough, but that was all I had so that would have to do.

The race itself lasted just under 4hrs for me. Despite the problems I had actually rather enjoyed it, Whinlatter is a great course regardless.
I did however, need to sort my forks out for the European 24hr. The top seals were shot, and the legs were both full of water. A quick call to Mike at Racemechanic to discuss it revealed that it was likely to be a problem with the bushes too. The forks were dispatched to him on the Thursday after the event and reappeared on my doorstep the following Tuesday, can’t fault that. They felt much, much better too, better than had done for ages. I wonder how long they had been iffy?

Now the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that the blog is out of sequence and that I have implied that Whinlatter actually happened before the European 24hr. it did, but I am far too disorganised to worry about such things. There is the Gorrick 100 too, which I hope to get round to writing about shortly.

Oh yes, one other thing. I was 33rd in the race. Not great, but it would do in the circumstances

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