Riding bikes, in January, in the dark and the sludge. Sounds like fun eh? Surprisingly the Strathpuffer sold out super fast this year so they must be doing something right!
Anyway, after supporting at three previous years I didn’t fancy the damp, dark bone chilling hours of recording times and making endless brews or noodles. And it was time Huw took his turn at pit bitching 😉
With a solo entry, my winter of CPD (freelancers term for unemployment) turned into no bad thing. Although trying to get QMDs for winter ml, there were plently of days the forcast was so forbidding that i could go guilt free biking. After heading up for a lap or two of the puffer course with Chris and Rachael, I realised that my choice of singlespeed was going to hurt. Alot. With one big climb there is not much break for the legs until half way round and there is still a couple of steep singletrack climbs to really get the thighs burning.
The question of the day was ice tyre or no ice tyre? With a fat front that had no grip and the need to stand up on the climbs, i figured it was a definite chance to use my spiker. I was happy with my choice although it did make the rocks quite exciting during the night.
Last minute preparation in the snow.
The race starts with a run to the bikes and a mad mass as everyone tries to look impressive sprinting off up the fire road. I took it slow, worming my way through the crowd, there was plenty of time ahead for peddling hard. I had a grump on the final muddy descent as the hole that went on to cause a few injurys gave me a puncture. Fortunately our base was set up half way down so it was a short run in. Huw, having already done his first lap, was like a true mechanic and grabbed my bike to fix it. Riding in a team of 4 he had plenty of down time and kept me well supplied with tea.
Moral support from Huw early on. There was some Sunshine!
On and on, lap after lap. My singlespeed was taking its toll, making the ups into sprints and then the chain kept popping off on the bumpy sections. Despite every effort to keep it tight it insisted on creeping forward to slackness. I was tempted to ditch the whole thing after my third lap. But as dusk came and lights went on, the course became a hypnotic snake, broken into little sections, challenges to keep going. Shouts of support and Semi Skim! from the base camps helped power up the hill. Stopping every second lap to fill up on tea, oatcakes and potato salad, the time passed by. Some tactical checking of positions by Mags enabled me to have a rest while the girls behind had stopped for a bit. Then came the sad new they were back on their bikes and it was time for me to get back on mine!
In previous 24 solos ive always tried to ride as much of the time as possible. However this year i knew there was a limit in how many times a could ride the climb on a singlespeed, and the thought of having to walk it made me want to cry. Luckily for me i was in a solid second place and could stop after 15 laps, with 4 hours still on the clock.
The boys team powered on right to the end to secure them a great second place!
A gloomy dawn at the camp.
Despite the challenging weather nearly causing the puffer team to pull it, the race went smoothly and was as great as ever! Fingers crossed they still have enthusiasm to organise it for another 10 years.
The woman’s field this year was much up on previous years which is great to see. Hopefully its a sign of things to come. Gillian Pratt won the ladies with a fantastic 19 laps and 16th place overall. The mens was lead by Keith forsyth on an impressive 28 laps.