Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Night of Knobbly Tread

Last Saturday’s night my club, West Drayton Mountainbiking Club, was throwing some party in Black Park. Easy to guess, there were bikes involved, but what was less common was darkness, spooky sculls hanging of the trees and free burgers served at 11pm.

I hadn’t ridden in dark for a few years now but with a set of Sean’s Exposure lights on the handlebars and helmet I felt nicely confident in the forest. The course was pancake-flat, all in the forest, very twisty with a few bombholes and slightly muddy – if I was to design a course perfectly suited to my liking, I wouldn’t have thought it better. And it was so warm, shorts and short-sleeve jerseys at 10pm on 20th of October!
So here we go, 8:15pm start! We start strong and I get into the singletrack before Leona and soon have a train of 3 or 4 riders on my back wheel. I’m riding fast and I’m enjoying the course, especially seeing those small gaps opening behind me in particularly twisty sections. On the second lap Leona overtakes me, I jump on her back wheel and follow her into the forest. She seems to be slightly less comfortable in the dark and we soon get into a comfortable steady pace. I plan to stay on her wheel for three more laps and put the hammer down on the last lap when I should have no problems staying in front of her in the technical sections. That should work fine.
And as I think it, I crash, twisting around the bike like a pretzel. The two riders behind me grab their bikes and run over me, catching Leona and disappearing into the forest. I finally manage to release myself from between the bike parts, put the wheels on the ground and I’m ready to chase! And then I see my handlebar light comfortably lying in the mud and not going anywhere! The light goes into the pocket and I’m left with only the small torch on my helmet giving me enough light to see the singletrack but not enough to ride it fast, especially that there are so many corners – a feature that pleased me a minute ago!
I see a rider catching up with me, wait for him, and jump on his wheel making use of his lights. He’s a bit wobbly and soon it’s me who takes the lead – it’s easier for him to follow me, and it’s easier for me to take the advantage of his light. That may work… And it does until I get a branch in my cassette and need to stop, and then he’s gone. And I’m left in half-darkness again, struggling between the trees, slipping on the roots and going far too slow for my liking. And I crash again, badly, on a root I couldn’t see, tomorrow half of my body will turn into lovely shades of red and purple…
I use a few other riders’ lights but keep losing them in the twisty parts, and eventually finish after 1:30h, 20 seconds behind Leona! – a frustratingly small gap considering the circumstances.

Apart from some dose of bad luck I enjoyed the race immensely, the atmosphere was just great. The grilled burgers were first class and we even had an opera-singing guy providing cultural entertainment!
I really hope we’ll manage to keep the event in the calendar for the coming years. It requires a lot of work (and volunteers) to prepare but it’s definitely worth it! 
Put it down in your diary for October 2014!

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