Round four of Mud, Sweat and Gears was held at Ickworth Park in Bury St. Edmunds. It was a new course for me but I had been informed it would consist of a lot of grassy climbs.
With the sun shining we pack the car and head over there. After signing on I meet up with Tony and we head out for a sighting lap. Sure enough, first turn off the start/finish straight was a big grassy climb into a wooded area. Unfortunately the previous two days of torrential rain was still evident under the trees. It brought back memories of winter rides with Boxford Bike Club, slipping and sliding through the thick goo.
With a sighting lap complete there was some rumours of not riding but having paid my dues I hit the start line. Somehow I was gridded and found myself on the front row, up against the inside barrier.
Eyes down, wait for the whistle.
It was only as I entered the second wooded section I realised I was in the top three. Suddenly my race plan had gone from ‘just try to survive this round’ to ‘come on, we can have to have a crack at this’. Pressing on I stuck with second place through quarter of a lap, until on a climb he waved me through. As I passed I muttered that I did not want to lead but he claimed I had more firepower and to go for it. So I did. I put my head down, watched my heart rate rise and powered through two sticky laps.
On the final lap I realised I was on the limit and I needed to ease off the gas, but not knowing how far ahead I was meant I did not want to ease too much. Time to try and gage how much it too much but also too little.
Crossing the finish line in first place was amazing but also surreal; could or would I ever reproduce it.
Only two weeks later we head over towards Chelmsford and Radical Bikes for Round Five. The description was a flat course that would not be technical but provide plenty of overtaking and a grin factor of ten. It was a section of natural woodland interspersed by ponds and littered with shallow bomb holes. The sighting lap highlighted that the little the climbs out of the holes required full speed attacks into the holes. It was going to be a tough course for me.
Once again I’m sitting on the front of the grid waiting for the whistle. To calm my nerves I look around and try to size up my competition; the only person I recognise is second place rider from the last round.
The whistle blasts and we fire off. First lap of four was reduced to cut out a bottleneck at the first woodland section. So it was a mad dash to the second bit of single track and I lost track of my position.
My race plan was to sit with a group, conserve some energy and pick off places as I can. Unfortunately due to a slight spill by a rider further down the track I ended up on the front of a small group after lap two. This is not a good place for me, I really struggle with pace and this is exactly what they wanted. Hearing the bikes right behind me rattle over the roots made me push a bit harder, but all I did was tow my two passengers around for lap after lap.
Finally on the final lap by efforts gave out, I was forced into recovery mode and needed to back off. Nothing I could do but watch the two riders roll past me on into the distance. My only saving grace was I had put a gap on the next group so my reduced placing was safe. I pushed as hard as I could to the finish and crossed the line in sixth place.
Two races and two more experience lessons. It is clear I need to work on my pacing and being able to judge my efforts. More importantly I need to work on my mental race. Luckily I have July off to work on these, next race is in Thetford on the 3rd of August.