Wow. Simply put the hardest race i have partaken in. This puts any track, triathlon, swimming or cycling race i have ever done to shame.
Trip over to the UK was as fun as ever on the ferry just waiting to get there. But the weather was just cracking. No rain, no wind, sun and warmth. Pity its getting dark at 7pm now :(
Yorkshire wasn't that far a drive up from Manchester. However the actual driving around the area was just unreal. Spent most of Saturday on the motorbike just lapping up the roads.... at mostly reasonable speeds. Met the lads in Settle that night and went back to the digs to get some sleep and talk through the plans for the race day.
Race morning was early, too early but allowed me to get some food in before the butterfly's woke up. Nice short drive from the accommodation out too the race start and only took 10 mins or so to sign in so not much hassle there. I was quite lucky to have Liam and John Walker doing support for me as i jumped on the team Murphy Surveyors / Killcullen team car to get my gear sorted. Was nice to know that if i got a puncture, or broke the bike, i would at least have the back up of some spare wheels or bikes! Thanks lads.
450 people gathered by the start line in order of there expected finish time. I was hoping to go 4 - 4.5 hrs so slotted into my gap. Tense and nervous waiting lead up too the 30 second call and frantic clipping in from every one. Last 5 second countdown and we were off. The first 5.5km were 'controlled' behind a van. This meant nothing with a hell for leather start like a crit race. Short period later and we were at the bottom of Ingleborough the first climb.
Ingleborough starts off easy as you ride through a farmers field up the back towards the daunting site of a 45 degree slope. eventually you just have to shoulder the bike to get passed the line of people who don't even try to ride the trail (this was to become an all to regular occurrence). 45 mins later and we made it to the lunar plateau that is the top of the climb. Switch to descend mode and lets see what these hills are made of. Grand 15 mins descending but would have been faster if the freekin roadies learnt to ride off-road!! Picked up a water bottle off the lads and hit the road section to Whernside. Steepest climb over!!
Shorter climb up Whernside with it mostly being on a paved and stepped climb. Hell on the calves and the rising temperature did little to help. Eventually topped out on the plateau and started to ride again. This was the decent i was warned about. intermittent drainage cuts go across the trail with rock on either side. every time you bunny hop one you are just waiting to hear the hiss of a snakebite on your wheel. Add in head size rocks trying to take you out of it at every chance and you have a change to either cream yourself or make up a chink of time. No issues on the way down and grabbed another bottle from the lads.
On the last road section i lost my big ring and had to spin like a monkey to try and keep up on the road. Never got passed but i could have been much faster. But a mechanical was inevitable at some point. Last climb started off terrible as i could barely ride the trail up and was starting to get worried about the decent. Long long climb on an easy gradient but sapped all the will to race from me. I lost my sub 4.5hrs finish on this climb. Once i got to the top of Pen-Y-Ghent i decided to just open up. Who cares what happens its time to go fast. Let the brakes go and just hit the trail. Super fast decent and the only one where i was faster than all the other lads on the team!
I rolled back in 4:45:03. A respectable time for my first one, but way below my potential. If nothing else i have learned the trail a bit from the race, and i have an idea for what I am in for next year....oh yes i will return!