While I got a view of life behind the race tape as mechanic and pit crew, last weekend Grace switched too, and took to the race course for the first Stilettos on Wheels, women's only mountain bike race in Birchall. Here's how her day went:
|Looks like someone had a good time|
|Santa Cruz Superlight 29er|
Not just for giants; available in small too
|Team Grace & Karen all happy smiles (and no mud in sight) preparing to race|
We squelched our way up the big grassy climb at the start of the course, and then squelched through a massive puddle of mud on the way into the singletrack, and then…ok, then it got better. Rooty singletrack through the woods, up and over some logs, a beautiful carpet of bluebells in the next woodland section, easier and harder signs (easier every time, shame on me for not trying harder…next time, I promise), some fun descents (rode two, ran two, I am chicken), and then a nice easy track straight to the finish line. It was a great course and I was impressed and inspired by the way I saw other girls ride bits I was too nervous to attempt - need to keep that in mind the next time I am at the top of something scary! (in my defence, I was more nervous than usual on the descents having gone ass over handlebars down Jacob’s Ladder just two days before).
|Ready to go at the start: Smiles mixed with competitive concentration|
The start was a bit of a scramble as we all tried to get out of the pack and away up the first climb, but the hill soon spread riders out and there was plenty of room for all to go at their own pace. I’m a good climber so was happy to be passing people up the hill, but the slippy roots of the singletrack soon slowed me down and my friend Emma, who I raced with at last year’s Mountain Mayhem 24-hour race, caught me up.
We rode along chatting for a bit and then she pushed on while I chickened out of the first descent of the lap…ah well; biking in these muddy conditions requires too much concentration from me for chatting anyway. More singletrack, through the lovely bluebell wood, and then two descents linked together….I considered it but the crowd of supporters all waiting with cameras at the ready felt like too much pressure so I hopped off and ran down to a flatter section. Fortunately for my teammate, I am a fast runner, and, having done a triathlon last year, not bad at jumping between biking and running and running and biking. Unfortunately for me, I bruised my ribs falling off my bike earlier in the week and the biking and running was proving pretty painful.
Through the trees, out and back in again, and then finally heading for the finish line. And painkillers. Ibuprofen you are my NBFF. First lap done in 26 minutes and it was Karen’s turn to race, go team awesome go! The lovely race timing people were publishing the times live online so all eyes were on the smart phones in between laps, we were in third position, cue great excitement from pit bitches Rob and Paul. Less than half an hour in to a four hour race is too early for popping the champagne corks though, anything could happen.
|Handover and GO! The team at work|
|Dolly Mixt: Food of Champions|
Another lap each and it was down to the final hour of the race. Karen and I had both been consistent with our lap times throughout the race so I knew I had to get back before 15:20 to allow Karen time for another lap but as I panted back to the finish line, the clocked ticked past 15:26...The third place girls did not have time for another lap so our second place was confirmed, but there were still 34 minutes until the end of the race. A handful of dolly mixture and a swig of energy drink and off for one last lap to give us a total of eight laps in four hours, does it have to end so soon?
|Karen: Left it all out on the course, smashing out a heroic last lap to secure 2nd place|
|Grace: Happy on the big 29er wheels|
|Happy riders after a fab day out|
|Hard earned swag bags at podium time|
|Karen all smiles, and not too muddy despite the odd spill, posing glamorously after her last lap|
|Grace at the finish, making it all look like jolly good fun|