SSEC finally arrived, unfortunately Johnnie couldn't make it so I was on my own, drove down no worries and my pitched tent. I had a chat to the guys either side of me (Brian and Jason) then in not time we were off for our social ride. Quite a stop start-y affair but weather was lovely there were some nice/niche/weird bikes to look at and all the minutiae of cycling to chat on about with friendly strangers. Brian was on his old kona explosif (94ish same as my now deceased lava dome), unfortunately half way round his rear wheel exploded (worn rims, tyre popped off) so he had to ride back on the rim. Rest of us went on to do "the follow through", a steep techy down lovely but with a mixed group much mincing ensued. I was starving by the time food was laid on in the beer tent, my curry wasn't great but sheer quantity made up for quality. Later on the cheese board was opened, a 12ft long custom made job, absolutely packed with all the cheese everyone had brought, I was in heaven. I ate more cheese that night than I ate all last year! Loads of different types excellent! Couple of bands were on, a few bevvies then an early(ish) night. Got up during the night and the tent was frozen over, loads of frost on the flysheet which later on cut short my lie in when it started to melt and drip into the tent.
Race day was rushed, a quick breakfast of cheese baguette (I'd made up from the cheese board :-) ) then huge queues for the facilities and my own ineptitude meant I missed the rider briefing whoops. I hadn't got any food and only a little water but no time for refuelling - still only a short race like SSUK I assume so no worries. Ride out then leave the bikes for organisers to move and hide while we wait round the corner. I'm told it's 4 laps so must be short laps then and we're off, my bike was at the bottom of the inbred pile so a slow start but I started making my way through the field, lots of overtaking going on then the doughnut at the front of our little group took a wrong turn following some random riders, eventually got back on course behind a load of people we'd already passed! At this point I realised this wasn't going to be a short race and someone confirmed 4 x 8mile laps. Oops time to slow it down a bit, got to start/finish and loaded up on water and some fantastic choccy flapjack. Course was superb some long climbs but longer descents mainly singletrack lots of fun I started to relax and instead of racing tried to get good downhill runs, either overtaking less technical riders just before a down or if no one was behind me waiting at the top for a clear run down. I don't rate my singletrack skills but I was stellar compared to a lot there, there were some fit fast riders who couldn't cope when it got twisty. Anyway I wasn't fast enough, as I was getting ready to start lap 3 the leader flew passed to start his 4th, seriously quick, that meant I wouldn't be able to finish. Lap 3 was hard work but the pressure was off so I had fun and chatted to plenty of people. On the finish line Paul spotted me, we were on a switchbacks holiday years ago (same time as Julbags too) he'd done well, 4 laps on his (very) pink inbred 29er. I seem to remember us being at a pretty similar level back then so he's improved a lot more than me.
The rest of the afternoon was drinking and daft stuff (bike hurling, belgian beer tasting, prize giving/earning) followed by a hog roast, another 2 bands were on and I ended up sat round a fire, drinking and talking bike stuff til the wee small hours. A really good bike filled day with some fun people.