Sunday, 12 August 2012

Racing: The Winners and the Losers

Somewhere in a small woods local to where I live, my legs were burning my back felt ready to explode and I was loosing touch with those that I was racing against.  At the time I just remember ticking off each section of the course; the fast swooping single track, the bumpy grassy sections, the loose pine cone strewn corners, the tight switchback climbs and the power sapping short climbs.

Later on I'm just left wondering why I was doing it.

This was Round 4 of the North East MTB league. I'd been excited about doing this event for months. I'd previously enjoyed doing round 2 despite the slippy muddy conditions.  But conditions were a lot more dry now and so the race promised to be faster and more favourable for my SS.  More importantly, this was a home race. Not something I thought I'd ever be able to say but this was literally in my home town and the start was only about 100 metres from my house.

There were some familiar faces and old friends there on the start line which always makes me feel relaxed.  Having pre ridden the course I was impressed with what the race organisers had created in such a short time and with such a small area.  It was certainly less hilly than the previous race and there was even a bit of dust involved, which has been a rare sight this summer.  As I stood on the start line I thought about what my chances were in this race and what I hoped for.  I'm no natural born racer as I've said before.  I'll never win, but I refuse to be last and so I thought that a mid field result would be a good target.  I was only four places off that target in the last race.  The field was small this time and looking at the racers I knew some of them to be out of my league.  My friend on my right used to be a uk cyclo cross champion and had won the last two rounds and some of the others were regular road, cyclo cross and mountain bike racers.

I was still the only Single speed racer in the field so was already at a slight disadvantage but I wasn't going to let a little thing like that put me off trying.  Once the race started the pack was quick to spread out and there was no real fight into the first bit of single track.  I was somewhere near the back and hooked up on the rider in fronts wheel.  First off camber loose turn and I slowed down too much dabbed a foot and lost him.  Not the best of starts but I concentrated on being fast on the next few sections and to try and pull him back.  As the race settled on the first lap I was tailing the only women racer and had a guy on carrera bike on my back.  He made a surging attack by the second lap and went away and another stupid mistake meant I lost some distance on both of the riders.  I could see the woman and Carrera guy about 30 meters ahead of me but they weren't getting away.but were working with each other.  By the third lap I had caught them back again and was enjoying the racing experience but I was already feeling the strain in my legs and lower back.

Sadly, it was on one tight switch back corner that I lost momentum and had to dismount run a bit then get back on my bike.  By then the other two had increased the gap again.  Curses, how had the gap increased by so much?  I pushed on but at the end of every lap I could see they were getting further away if only by meters.  I never caught them.  I was a bit disappointed that I'd let myself down technically but I had really enjoyed the battle and hope that they are there at the next race. I don't know where I came in the end as I'm still awaiting the results but I think I failed on my target.

So maybe that's why I still race.  Not for the glory of winning but for my own little race, the ones that don't matter to anyone else but me and those I'm up against.  It's exciting, it's hard it is quite simply fun.



Watching the women's Olympics I wonder if the pro racers feel the same thing.  There are those who will never medal and they must know it so why bother.  I imagine it is for similar reasons I race. It was good to watch though, and humbled my own bike handling skills on the bike.  Congrats to not only the medal winners but to all the field on a hard fought race.

 I always hold onto this point in any competitive sport.  There are always losers, but without the losers then there can be no winners.

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