The guy on the cross bike who overtook me on the last fireroad section is about 10 meters ahead, I follow him over the fade jump seeming to hang in the air for ages. I see him slow, cut left and dismount to carry down to the stream crossing, I keep my speed up, go straight on then grab a fistful of brake at the entrance to the techy rock chute, nothing announces your arrival (at speed) like your tyres spitting gravel, cross guy sees me and lets me pass infront of him, I splash through the stream power up the steep bank on the other side and hear a few whoops of congratulations from the spectators as I sprint away. Now that's mountain biking. This racing lark is ace!
The morning of HtN dawned with a cough and a splutter and not much enthusiasm, my cold was taking hold and I was feeling tired. The plan was to drive down with the family but I wasn't feeling great and CBA getting the kids ready for a race I wasn't very excited about due to lack of prep and not fancying my chances of coping let alone doing well. Considered riding with gears but grabbed the SS as it was nearest and ready to ride, decided to just ride slowly to the race. Got there about 9:30 signed on, chatted to a few peeps (loads of familiar faces around) listened to the mayor open the trails then we set off. I'd perked up a bit so plonked myself into the middle of group 2. The start was ok breathing hard but comfortable, got chatting to Trio on the way up and soon got onto the new singletrack where Trio admonished me for not sounding excited enough at riding swoopy singletrack (even when my heart is singing weeeeeeee and wahoo I just can't vocalise it, not got the voice for it, sorry). Couple of line choices on this bit so I managed to take a few places then a few more round the start/finish field and the first go over the chin, after that I tried to settle into a steady pace. I was running my gravity dropper which meant I could downhill fast with confidence, on a climb before a down I'd cheekily grab a couple of places then use the downhill to create a gap which took the faster (usually cx) riders a while to make up. The stream crossing being my proudest moment, took the cross guy ages to reel me in again :-) TBF he was a mountain biker who had just started riding cross (we chatted while crossing the field of despair), I wouldn't fancy riding that stream crossing on my CX bike just yet either.
After the first few laps we started to lap people but everyone was pretty cool with being overtaken, even on some of the wider sections of singletrack, also took a few places on the climb to the motorway bridge on every lap, on lap 4 the marshall said I'd ridden it like it was my first lap, erm singlespeed....no choice, but I had pushed extra hard that time and almost blew up as a result but managed to hold it together. Nick craig lapped us on the top singletrack section, came flying passed a few of us, I tagged onto the back of him and managed to hold onto him all the way down, then he obviously rapidly disappeared when the trail turned upward. Faaaaaaast. I actually saw some good CX riders this time, (I've no doubt there are lots of very skillful CXers at the front but midpack where I usually am the cxers are quick but struggle a bit on the more technical bits) Followed a few down some tricky stuff and they were pinning it. The final crossing of the field of despair was horrible, proper losing the will to go on. A fast guy lapped me on the approach to the chin and then crashed, oh dear, had to track stand just above the rooty drop while he picked himself up, stream crossing was full of people so no more showboating :-) and I nearly lost it on the downhill after the motorway bridge but limped home in tact. Finished just ahead of a lady I'd been keeping pace with through much of the race, turned out to be Jenn from STW. Didn't beat Guy Martin despite Si having evidence of him struggling with a bit of mud ;-) He managed to get some more good crash shots too.
Just outside of the top 50, that'll do me, surprisingly did better than last year, dunno if that's down to me being fitter (seriously doubt it) there were less fast people this year (hmm) or, as someone on STW pointed out, mtbs having an advantage on this course compared to CX. Wonder if I can manage top 50 next year? Anyway it was a great mornings racing, was slightly disappointed that everyone beggared off before the prize giving, infact one womens category resulted in an empty podium, ho hum. Pedalled home for a refuel and soak in the bath and moved very little for the rest of the day. Guess I should really do some more of this racing stuff.