Monday, 27 January 2014

Merida Brass Monkey Rnd. 4

Week 3 out of 7 of preparations to Andalucia Bike Race went easy on the bike and intensive otherwise due to starting a new job. I managed to squeeze in 3 interval sessions on a turbo trainer and although they were short, my legs could feel them.

On Sunday there was a 4th round of Merida Brass Monkey. With my racing buddy, Anna Cipullo, we decided to ride it as a pair to practice our team riding before Andalucia. Anna rushed to the start line 3 minutes before 9:30am, throwing me a few gels and a lovely orange gilet serving as our team uniform.
9:28, two minutes to go, it starts raining. Gently, but constantly and it will not stop until the race is finished.

9:30, off we go, I sprint strong and get a good position in the crowd, Anna is just behind me, I ride fast but not too crazy, knowing she'll catch up with me soon and we'll continue as a pair. I feel great and really enjoy the course, with its many twists and turns and a swoopy narrow singletrack between two banks which feels like riding in a tunnel, it feels like it's going to be a good race. 30 minutes passes by though and Anna still not around. I keep looking behind, which is probably not the best thing to do on a muddy singletrack, but I can't see her. I finish my first lap after 50 mins, still on my own. I slow down even more, let more people pass me, until I eventually see the orange Castelli gilet, shinning bright, There she is! I stop at the top of a hill and wait for her, being passed by three girls, and now we go together, steadily, smoothly, chatting along.
Anna is riding on a broken saddle, my bike is offering me an automatic gear box, shifting the gears as it pleases. The mud is getting thicker, the rain continues, it's cold, but we make a steady progress and catch some of the girls. At some point we see Emily Iredale sitting down at a drop after she'd crashed (and as it turned out broke her wrist, hope it heals quickly Emily!), bad luck for her, she was riding for the 1st position in the Monkeys series.

On our 4th lap I'm starting to feel tired which is worrying because I don't know why and with only 4 weeks until Andalucía there's no place for such mysteries. I've eaten (almost) enough and we haven't been riding too strong but the constantly shifting gears are frustrating and tiring, possibly that's what it is. Anyway, we keep going, only 1.5 hr left...
In the middle of the fourth lap my front tyre gets caught in roots on a sharp corner and rolls off the rim, getting a lot of mud inside and it’s now to messy to pump it up again. And that’s when I realise that my spare tube and the CO2 canister are waiting happily at the feed zone. Don't ask why there and not in my pocket, it must have been some pre-race flash of genius on my part. Anna comes back to me and after struggling for 10 minutes we are so cold we decide to withdraw, only 1.5 lap before the finish.

We have no idea what positions we were in, it turns out we were riding in 2d and 3rd for most of the race. And then Louise Robinson decided to finish after her 4th lap, which means we'd have got 1st and 2nd position! if we'd continued! No wonder I was getting tired, we were winning! ;) A pity we had no idea about it...
Nonetheless, the course was first class, not too technical but lots of fun, little bomb-holes, some roots, endless corners and berms, and even one drop if you feel like jumping. Must be amazing when ridden dry, it'd be a fast one for sure. Would love to get there again!

All things considered it was a good race. It reminded me that "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail" and that tubes should be carried with, not left behind in the feed zone. It showed that we are able of riding very strong. And it proved that racing as a team is not all that easy. You cannot just get into your own rhythm and go as you please, regardless of others around you. You need to keep thinking about the other person, slow down when needed, push harder if you're getting behind, and stay within sight, in case of any mechanicals. It shifts your focus elsewhere, which is harder. But it also keeps you motivated, because you don't ride just for yourself. It provides a partner to help with boredom, someone you can chat to during long hours in the saddle. I'm happy that my partner is such a fun to ride with. Cheers, Anna!
And my wonderful husband finished 9th, after a full season of cyclocross and no long rides in ages! Well done Sean!

With Anna after the race, muddy but happy.

And here's a YouTube video from the race made by one of the riders. First 10 minutes show messing around at the start line but later you can see some of the singletracks. And an orange gilet from the 20th minute on :)

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