We arrived on Saturday afternoon which gave me time to test ride the course. In previous years Catton Park has become fondly renowned for turning into a 'mud fest' with the onset of rain, so in order to keep wheels moving Pat Adams and co. have been busy all-weather proofing some of the more affected part of the course, such as bluebell woods. The result of which is some fast, fun singletrack.....
Bluebell woodsTrue to the weatherman's word we woke up to a clear blue sky. At the race site everyone was happy, including riders and pit helpers. Enduro 6 is made all the more interesting by the fact that it is a parc fermé. In other words, riders must ensure that everything they will need during the race is in the pit area before the start. This includes: food; drinks; tools; tyres; spare bike; and for most solo riders, a helper. In my case this latter item consisted of Dave - my trusty feeder, waterer and mechanic etc. etc. Unfortunately for the helpers the pit area is not sheltered so if it did rain they would have been wet because once in the pit area nothing, including the helpers can leave. Given that all of the riders and helpers were stuck in the pits the staff at Quaver Catering had several hours of respite before 700+ hungry riders and helpers descended on their food tent!
The race started at 10am and in traditional style it began with riders lining up ready for the le mans start - a mile or so run around the main site area before grabbing bikes and battling it out for a good start into the singletrack which comprised a of a couple of short, steep sections. I was eager to get a good run so I placed myself in the middle of the second row of runners at the start. I felt overshadowed by all of the other racers around me and I knew that one stumble could leave me strewn on the ground ready to be trampled by the wave of riders in my wake. A few people tripped and fell but I managed to avoid the carnage and emerged into the pits unscathed. I had a good run which enabled me to get ahead of the singletrack 'shuffle' and I could see Matt Page (Wiggle) not too far ahead so I knew that I had set myself up well. All I had to do now was follow my race plan: ride hard for 6 hours and drink, drink, drink.
The course looped back past the pitsIt was a hot day so I was very aware that I had to drink lots. I have been known in the past to get my hydration totally wrong which ultimately led to me spending a fews hours on a drip in hospital. In fact, that little incident occurred on this very race course so the need to drink was even more salient to me. Over the course of the race I drank 4.5 litres of Torq energy mixed at 6% . I also added Elete water to my bottles to ensure that I didn't dehydrate and to avoid cramping.
The course was littered with thorns and consequently the track was littered with people repairing punctures. I ran tubed tyres tubeless with Stans sealant and luckily the sealant worked! On lap 3 I heard the heart sinking sound of air leaking out of my tyre but within a few seconds Stans had done it's job and the tyre sealed. Phew! Over the last few weeks Dave has been experimenting with different tyres, tubleless conversion kits, and sealant. As a result, he has become quite an acomplished tyre technician and he advises using DT Swiss tubeless kits with Stans. Well at least that seems to be best with DT Swiss wheels and Conti tubed tyres.
The laps were pretty quick, approximately 27-29minutes, so I found myself calculating how many I'd be doing. It looked like I was in for 12 to 13 laps. I planned to make as few pit stops as possible. Under parc fermé rules it is only possible to take bottles and food from the pits so I carried one 750ml and one 500ml bottle with me. I preempted that this would last me 2 hours which would mean that I would only need two pit stops. However, it was hotter than I expected and in the last 2 hours I drank almost 2 litres meaning that I had to make an extra stop.
I'm loving my new bike
The race was fast and fun, and it was great to test my form. My training has been going really well and I have been feeling strong so I was interested in seeing what I could do. I knew that I was riding well when I was able to catch glimpses of some of the elite male riders, so a chase commenced :0) I worked hard to make sure that I passed as many riders as possible before entering each section of singletrack to avoid any delays. However, there was a really great atmosphere and lots of riders were happy to move to the side to let other riders come through when necessary. I had planned to have an 'easier' last lap making time for a quick toilet trip en route but on hearing Dave's orders, "Ride as fast as you can!" my plan was dispelled! When I heard the times of the elite men on the podium I was glad that I didn't ease up on the last lap....I'd have relinquished a few places in the overall standings ;0)
Great Team Work!
1st Sally Bigham - 13 laps in 6:11:21
2nd Mel Alexander - 12 laps in 6:24:56
3rd Helen Jackson - 11 laps in 6:02:23
1st lee Williams - 14 laps in 6:18:51
2nd Sam Humphrey - 13 laps in 6:10:44
3rd Phil Morris - 13 laps in 6:11:58
4th Matt Page - 13 laps in 6:12:28
5th David Hayward - 13 laps in 6:15:20
Full results can be found here.
As always Joolze kept the riders guessing which section of undergrowth she would appear out of on each lap! Her report will be available soon on the British Cycling website.