I was up nice and early on Saturday morning it was nice and warm in the sun but quite chilly in the shade. I saw Rich Troth and Kaka (Team Snapper) arrive so went and introduced myself, It's good to be able to chat to people you have only ever chatted to on the internet. It's also nice when they give you free things as well two Team Snapper t shirts and a beanie, Cheers guys!
As the morning went on it was getting a little cloudy and the pit talk was all about the rain we were expecting and as the weather report spread around the pits the Donk Track shop done a roaring trade in new tyres. As race time was approaching it was time for the riders briefing, It was going to be 2+2 hours and would be reversed at the interval (weather permitting) it was also going to be run in the opposite direction to last year. I was drawn on row 2 for the start. At 10.32 I was off. As usual my first lap was a steady (slow) sighting lap and I had forgotten just how tight and technical Blewbury was. It was mostly single track through woods and didn't have too many passing places, I'm very conscious of trying not to slow up faster riders and will move over and signal with a leg for letting them pass when ever I can. When you came out of the woods it was down a goat track and then through the farm yard which was as usual a blue tape area. Then a little off camber root section leading to a steep climb up a grassy hill. Some more single track through woods leading on to the first section of motocross track.
As I came on to the mx track I realised the first bit was The hill but going down it! As you go off the top you are going off blind so I straightened it up and and opened it up, I think I was flat out in third gear when I took off and got lots of air. You know on a Gasgas when you have used up your rear suspension travel because the rear tyre rubs on the silencer which mine did on landing! I then screamed it through the gears down the hill and up the other side heading for one of the hairpin bends, not too sure if I was going to be able to slow down enough but the steepness of the hills do a lot of the braking for you. I felt fast on the mx track and my confidence was high. There is a lot of up and down fast sections on this track and one big jump where I spotted the Team Snapper photographers but it was my first lap so no showing off at this stage. It was then back into the woods and the top section of mx track some more single track to the end of the lap. It was a six mile lap but felt a lot longer. My first lap was completed in 24.20 mins.
Time to speed it up a little a points where I was confident, there are little things you remember from the sighting lap like going through two trees just slightly narrower than your handlebars on a 90degree turn with a big root between them. Quite a few people got caught out by this on the first lap and a sizable hole was appearing in front of it. So my plan was when it was my turn I jumped off and pushed it through, Simples! I also gave it a little more on the mx track and especially where the Team Snapper guys were which could have gone horribly wrong as the front came up quite a bit! My second lap was completed in 23.28 mins a little faster but it was to be my fastest lap of the day. My 3rd and 4th laps were 23.54 and 24.12 respectively.
At the end of my 4th lap I read the timer wrong and pulled into the pits before I could switch the bike off I realised my mistake!!! I had another 24 minutes left so I was off to get another lap. This would normally be my fastest lap but the heavens opened up and the rain came. This changed the track immediately it became like muddy ice, really slippery. I finished my 5th lap in 27.17 mins which was quite a surprise as I thought it would have been a lot slower than that. I was 3 mins over time which is the first time I have ever been over.
I felt really good at the interval and ready for another go. The rain continued for the whole hour which was worrying because of how quickly the track had changed at the end of the first session. I took on board loads of fluids and was ready for the second session.
The second session was underway and I was taking it easy as I'm not the most confident in slippery conditions. It soon became apparent that this was going to be very hard going and decided on doing just two laps. My problem was I was going far too slowly and this was going to be my undoing, the mud was building up all around my chain, suspension, rear wheel and tensioner acting as a brake. I tried to open it up in places to try to clear it to no avail. I came to the steep grassy hill I mentioned earlier and the marshall there was telling everyone to go up on the fresh grass either side of the mud. About 20 yds up the hill I came to a halt and fell, my first off of the day. With the help of the marshall I picked up my bike and rolled it down the hill. With the bike started I straightened it up and fired up the hill with no problems at all. I got to the top and there was a muddy left hand turn and the bike just skewed left and right and launched me into the undergrowth. I was struggling and it was getting harder by the minute with riders off all over the place plus with my bike all muddied up I was having to rev the nuts off it just to get anywhere and as soon as it got going it was in the power band and just shot me straight into the scenery.
At the first entrance to the mx track was a dip and I suffered the same problem trying to get up the other side. I was off and my bike was upside down on the hill. With no one there for assistance I tried to lift it up, this was proving to be extremely difficult because it was upside down and so slippery. I managed to get it up right but as soon as I did both my feet slid down the hill and the bike was dropped again. Steam was rising from my gloves and I was done.
My bike was still in the middle of the track, I took off my helmet to try and cool down a little and formulate a plan for getting my bike out of there. I ended up just dragging my bike across the track and got it upright facing down the hill. I walked down and found a way back to the mx track returned to my bike, started it and waited until it was clear then rode it down the hill and across to the mx track. I rode around the track until I got to the top hairpin by the pits and rode off. My race was done!
What can I say? WOW! That was definately a race of two halves. From what turned out to be a cracking race where I was only a lap down on the leaders to the hardest race of my life. I was totally exhausted and couldn't even complete a lap.
It took me longer to clean my bike and kit than I was actually riding. I filled a builders bucket with mud, stones, sticks and the odd bit of wildlife.
My chain was a little tight for the amount of travel I was using and my wheel bearings are shot again with the back wheel wobbling like an eleven year olds front tooth. Apart from that everything is peachy, no injuries and no majors to worry about on the bike.
Big thanks go to Team Snapper, Michelle and blackberry for the photo's.