Race Report by David Furlong
“Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park…ah yes, the smell of roses, beautifully cultivated lawns, old oaks and fast flowing dusty singletrack…That was last year….
So off we set at 8am, destination Malone, the affluent southern suburb of Belfast and Lady Dixon Park, host to Rd3 of the 2014 XC NPS. Chauffeur for the day was Jim, with DC joining the party. McElwee was already in the advance party having travelled on Saturday and holing up in some dodgy Belfast establishment overnight.Although we were to learn later that the dodgy establishment had a friggin jacuzzi!
So as DC previously mentioned, it was just like 2008 over again. Except in 2008 we were nervous wrecks, shoving copious amount of carbs and drink down our necks and enduring multiple toilet stops en-route. But now we’re the old dogs for the hard road, experienced campaigners all chillaxed. Only problem is old dogs are slow dogs.
Arrived at 11 and after meeting up with Mc and a quick registration me and Jim decided to get togged out and head for a quick lap. The weather was iffy at this stage and it was obvious that it had pee-ed it down overnight. Mc and DC were not so keen on an early practice and with Mc complaining of a dodge knee they decided to do a track walk instead. Track walk I hear ya say. very pro. Having ridden the course before off we set looking forward to the singletrack. We were soon awoken. The rain had given the surface the consistency of butter and trying to stay upright was a big challenge. The steep kickers were unfortunately unrideable, so off the bike and a quick run. So in summary, slidder down hill, fall off, pick up bike, run uphill. Some flat bits and grassy climbs in between. Repeat 3 times. The big problem was the claggy muck sticking in the wheels and drivetrain.
So back we came for the group discussion. Not ideal but sure thats the way it is. All sorts of fiddling with tyre pressures. Jim crafted a stick which he intended to use as his secret weapon to poke the dirt out of his frame ( I kid you not, see picture below). I intended to enter a Zen like state where I imagined I was just floating along the slick surface having a great time. DC was joining me in Zen. Mc was iffy anout starting at all what with his dodgy knee and the poxy conditions. So we went off on a practice together. Sliddering and slidering. then we came to the little bridge and off I went into the stream, just up to me knee. I thought to myself I might be seeing that stream again today..All agreed it was going to be about somehow maintaining forward momentum
Off to the start line then. DC and Jim had the walk of fame being gridded in 8th and 16th. Somehow they ended up on the same row me and mc at the back. I got a woeful start with only a few behind me into the first singletrack. Soon enough though I was up on Jim and Mc. Unfortunately then Mc broke his derailleur and was out of the race. I passe Jim then in a graceful flowing move whilst he was floundering in the muck with the stick.Soon enough to my surprise I was up on DC and got past. Rode as hard as I could but he was on my tail and passed me towards the end of the lap. Into the single track on the second lap then and I was surprised to be on DC’s tail again and got past again. Pressed on then as hard as i could. Little did I know that was the start of DC’s mechanicals. The rest of lap 2 and lap 3 were more of the same. All was good in the land of Zen. Me at the head of R795 affairs. Singing Billy Ocean to myself. No sign of DC or Jim. King for a day. And then came the little f***ing stream. Bang. one slip and in I was up to my chest! The lone spectator with the look of horror as I was dragged downstream in the raging torrent, clawing at the bank. Well not really, it was just a dank deep stream. Out I climbed, my pockets full of water. Onto the bike, the scuttery water flowing down between the cheeks of me ar$e! And then worst of all – here’s Conway. Oh fuck! Nightmare on Elm Street! So I pushed on as hard as I could eventually glancing around to see the it wasn;t DC at all, it was just the scuttery stream water making me blind!. Panic over! On I pressed, rolling over the line in around 1:22. Waited around in the rain for the boys, no sign. Just got back to the car and here comes DC pushing his bike, mech mangled. Ah bollix says he and I, the dreaded DNF. Jim rolled in a while later, stick in hand.
Conditions were awful, but it was strangely enjoyable, certainly a tough physical challenge. Real bad luck on Mc only getting a few minutes of racing. At least DC nearly got home. The bikes were in a woeful state, I really don;t know how mine survived. Bad luck to to XMTB, the organising club, as this is a great venue and in the dry one of the best courses of the year.
Thanks to Jim and DC for the company and Mc for staying on to cheer when his race was over. Hope to see a few in Ballyhoura for Rd4 , weather permitting of course! Not sure I have the stomach for another mud fest!”
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