The Biking.ie roadshow was in Ballyhoura today for round 2 of this year’s Biking Blitz series. These Blitzes are billed as beginner friendly but they also attract a large number of more experienced racers keen to test themselves and get some races in before the NPS and Enduro seasons kick in.
The Blitzes have always been popular with our mtbers so not surprising we were well represented today. Nigel and I travelled the race together in team car A (thanks Nidge!), Slawek and Miron were in car B. We parked side by side and had the craic getting ready. Then the earth shook as Keith arrived in his military personnel carrier, and it shook some more when Mat Seebach rocked up with his freshly honed legs of steel.
Our neighbours in the MLS were also out in force. Big numbers from our little part of the world, a far cry from the early days when DF, Jim and I could wander the hills for days without meeting a sinner! Long may it last.
Anyway, to the racing. I lined out for the Super Pro race, billed as 35km, more like 33.5. Mat Seebach too. The rest of the boys were in the Baggy Shorts race, about 17km.
I have been racing all winter so I’m in reasonable shape, but the winter cx races are only an hour flat out. The expected time for this race was around two hours so I wasn’t sure how well I’d get on. I needn’t have worried. Like all xc races the start was chaotic, flat out, red lining in seconds. Made it to the single track in a reasonable position and settled in quickly.
It was a classic Ballyhoura race, endless fast flowing single track punctuated by long desperately lonely soul searching fire roads. I found myself going pretty well, reeling in a good few on the climbs and even more on the single track. Mat Seebach disappeared up the road early on and I knew I wasn’t a match for him so I let him go and concentrated on picking off as many as I could. Had some good battles with lads along the way and was delighted to win a good few more than I lost.
There was a time when a 33km race would feel like an endurance race. I’d be laden down with bottles and bars and gels, all sorts of unnecessary crap. Today I was able to race more or less flat out for the whole thing with a bottle and a few jellies. And a sip of coke from a plastic cup handed to me by a marshal.
Like every race I plumbed depths of pain and despair in the first half hour, but pleased to say I got into my stride then and never really looked back. I felt very strong in the last half hour, my pre-race fears obviously unfounded.
The bike, a Giant Anthem 29er, handled like a dream. Rolling easily on the climbs. Super fast and light on the descents. Definitely not as flickable in the twisty bits as my venerable old Epic, but it more than made up for this in sheer speed. They say the 29er accelerates slower but I honestly don’t see that. When I had to kick, it kicked too, and then some.
I finished the race in around 1:54, no idea of my place but very happy with how I and the bike performed. I’d say I was grinning like an idiot.
The other lads had mixed fortunes. Nigel got on great, smashed his time from last year by around 15 minutes making him our local hero in the Baggy Shorts race. Miron sadly broke his chain, ending his race and spoiling what had promised to be a good battle with Nigel. Bad luck lad. Keith and Slawek followed Nigel home, both happy with their races. In fact Slawek was the happiest I’ve ever seen him! Not sure if it was because of his race time, or the fact that he would have the whole journey home to tell Miron all about it!
All told, a great day out. Rain even stayed away until we left!
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