Last weekend the UK & European Solo MTB Championships once again took place at Rock UK in Newcastleton. In its third year, the event is actually two events in one: the 24 Hours of Exposure and the 12 Hours of Exposure. Well, we're sure you can work out how the twin events differ.
The already much-loved event bring the together the best endurance racers in the UK (and beyond) to battle it out for the titles. There's also loads of 'mere mortal' have-a-go-heroes competitors giving it their best shot too. Drop us a line and/or leave a comment below if you were one of them by the way.
The race starts in the centre of Newcastleton with all riders signing the sign-on board in front of a packed village crowd before the peloton is lead away down the street by the Copshaw Common Riders, complete with Bag Pipes. The race starts for real when riders join the course in the Rock UK arena and head off onto the challenging 11 mile route around the Newcastleton trails.
On-One had a fair few racers taking part in the event. And we're incredibly proud to say that one of our guys claimed a top podium spot. Dave Powell was crowned winner of the 12 Hours Of Exposure. Well done Dave!
Here's Dave and his story…
"No worries, no stress, no pressure. It’s not the usual way to feel when turning up to a big endurance race of any sort, let alone the National and European Championships, but this time round, I managed it.
"The list of “big hitters” from the endurance racing scene on the sign on sheet? No worries. Going toe to toe with them is a big part of wanting to race!
"The lack of experience of 12 hour races? No stress. Let the other riders fight amongst themselves and figure it out as I go.
"The issue of not having a race win in ages? No pressure. This can be a training ride for the races still to come through the summer.
"OK, that simplifies the scenario a bit, there’s always a myriad of well worn race rituals to be obsessively followed and a list of requirements to be met that may make you look a little like a diva to the untrained eye, but as far as the 12 hour Championships were concerned I was as close to ‘free and easy’ as I could be.
"I guess that laid back attitude was reflected in the riding too; from the start I let the fast boys shoot off, waging war on each other as I settled back and started looking for the ‘flow’ needed to nail each swoop and curve of the trails. Only once I’d found it and felt comfortable did I set about targeting anyone in front of me, reeling them in, pushing my legs just a little harder than seemed sensible for a 12 hour race while not going too ‘into the red’.
"By the 9 hour mark I’d worked my way through the field and was out in front, a position where you can worry yourself into a mistake. Your race can suddenly feel like walking a tightrope, you are a target for everyone and combined with the onset of darkness you’ve suddenly got half the visibility you had to stay on line. It gets tough.
"This time though, the lead became a resource to tap into. The few little problems that you are bound to get over such a long period of time riding barely made a dent in my focus. Fixing them meant the gap between me a 2nd place closed up…and simply provided enough motivation to race right to the finish!
"Those final few hours became a bit of a slug-fest as Matt Page hammered one fast lap after another in the chase. “Good.” I thought. I knew what the gap between us was and set about holding it, going toe to toe as the hours counted down. Taking no stupid risks but refusing to give an inch.
"I crossed the finish line feeling like I could have raced for another 12 hours. I’d felt good from start to finish. No worries, no stress, no pressure and no less than top step of the podium with the National and European title to show for it."
Dave's ride partner and race friend/nemesis Jason Miles was also competing. Jason did very well by anyone's standards, but disappointing by his own standards.
"This year’s 12 and 24 hour solo MTB championships took place around a month earlier than usual, perhaps due to the fact that the Worlds are in May. For perhaps the first time ever, I planned my training and races around that event, rather than trying to peak repeatedly for every endurance event I enter.
"Racing a 24 now would have meant another mammoth recovery period and a likely adverse effect on my preparation for the solo champs in Finale Ligure, Italy. Apparently most of the rest of the endurance racing community decided to do the same, so it looked like 12 Hours Of Exposure was going to be a very, very competitive race.
"Following a nice relaxing week in Newcastleton I lined up at the start of this year’s 12 Hours Of Exposure. Somewhat nervous for some reason, maybe because I knew that soon after the start and the incredibly slow trundle through the village, the crazed sprint up the first climb would no doubt have me gasping for breath with 11 hours and 55 minutes of the race remaining.
"My aim for the race was top ten. Top 5 on a good day. Overall, none of this category bollocks.
"Come race time… Yep, here we go. 12 and 24 hour racers all caning it up a dusty hill trying to get as close to the front as possible before the first climb of the “Twisty Muddy Bit Up Through The Trees” as I think the section is called. (I’ve worked out that I’ve ridden that horrible section of roots and ruts around 52 times now – yay!)
"I was feeling pretty rough. I’m not one for moaning or even dropping out of a race if I think I’ve got a cold (I didn’t whinge too much, honest!) but I was a bit concerned when I was coughing up ‘matter’ in the few mornings preceding the race. I was definitely less than bob-on but decided that I’d take my chances on kicking whatever bug I had in the goolies by riding really really fast
"After a couple of laps of riding really really slowly and whatever bug I had kicking me in the goolies I decided that my best course of action would be to moan about it to the poor people in the Team JMC pit.
"When this didn’t seem to do the trick I decided to switch to my lighter rigid bike – the very hilly course and the large number of relatively smooth fireroads meant that it wasn’t too much of a gamble and after all, I’ve been racing on rigid bikes for years now.
"I immediately started to get faster. Still dribbling quite a bit and quite glad I’d not bothered to wear a HR monitor ('cos I felt like my heart rate was approaching 3 million bpm) I spent a few laps overtaking people who had earlier ridden away from me, apparently quite effortlessly.
“You don’t look very well”, my wife said to me during one brief pit stop, which wasn’t at all surprising.
"And that was pretty much that for the next few hours. Riding somewhat half-arsed for most of the race I struggled to keep abject boredom at bay and also found it really hard to ride at a reasonably quick pace. I’ve absolutely no idea what was wrong – whether it was the course, my (admittedly mild) cold, my apparent lack of any kind of strength to challenge anyone in front of me…I didn’t even know, or had any desire to find out, what position I was in. It was a good 8 hours into the race when I learned that I was in 5th place in the vets category, which was 7th overall. I suspect I spent most of the race in this position, and that’s where I finished.
"I also had no idea until very late on in the race that Dave was winning. And then the next thing I knew the race ended and he’d won. A National and European 12 Hour title for a friend and team-mate was a real tonic and more than made up for my race of snot and grumpiness."
John 'Shaggy' Ross is another infamous mentalist soloist known for stupidly impressive feats on a bicycle. Unfortunately Shaggy had a proper 'mare of a race.
"How did my Exposure go? Not so good. I was going OK to start with but started getting bad hamstring pain. I ended up stopping after 6hrs, I was in 3rd place at the time. Very disappointing as I tend to start slowly and get faster.
"I've had a long session with the physio after the race. Lots of talk about previous injuries etc. She unlocked a small muscle in my pec/armpit which seems to have been effecting my posture for some time (probably years). Dropped the left of my pelvis and swung my shoulder back. It removed most of the hamstring pain immediately. Now I have a very sore shoulder! Got lots to think about posture wise to try and stop it reoccurring. All very odd.
"So an unsuccessful race but hopefully it's got me sorted for the long run."
For the full race results go to: http://www.sip-events.co.uk/solo-results.html
Joolze Dymond has some cracking photos of the event on her site: http://www.joolzedymond.com/joolzeD/RACES.html
10 April 2012