Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Light at the end of the Tunnel

With her first race back from injury under her belt - Anna continues her search for race legs. Here is her latest update.

This weekend was Off-The-Scale.

The thing is, if i want to do something, I do it. I don't think about the implictions or the logistics. I just go.

This weekend i was invited to race in a Tunnel by Velocity Street Racing. it sounded the nuts!! 400 metre head-to-head sprints, slip streaming an Aston Martin in a road tunnel under the Tyne River in Newcastle. I was proper up for it!

I just needed a bike. And to get there.

My lovely buddies over at CSG sent me a lush little Cannondale for the occasion (spoilt much? AHEM) I picked it up on Friday morning, put it together and rode to the van hire place. 2 minutes down the road, less than that maybe, I forgot about how skinny my tyres were, got caught in the tram lines and went down hard. In front of all the traffic! it was the first of many disasters!

I picked up the van and picked up my Soigneur for the day, Harpz, and off we went. A little swing by a lovely boutique bike shop in Solihull (always working, me) and then picked up Maxine. Maxine is cool, I raced with her last weekend and roped her into joining me again.

So, door to door it took 9 and a half hours to get to this race. There was so much traffic too. It was pretty stressful as we thought we weren't gonna make it! I mean, traffic sucks, but if you're with your mates, drinking copious amounts of tea and listening to music, it's not the worst way to spend a day!

We had no idea what to expect. We got there just in time for the briefing (but missing out on the last of the glow bulbs that went on your wheel valve, boo) and it all sounded very complicated, so everyone took the decision to just wait and see what happened. We were waiting outside the Tyne Tunnel, riding around for a few hours, chatting to all the girls, keeping warm, The boys were sent into the tunnel in groups and we would accost them when they got back trying to find out what it was like.

At 1am we were told to line up behind the Aston Martin and follow it into the Tunnel. It was the weirdest, coolest feeling. Riding down into the tunnel behind the road of the car, it was fast, the girls were whooping, tears were streaming down my face and I was just thinking "what the fuck?!"

We lined up on the start line, nerves were pretty high as there was a Grand up for grabs for the winner!! In the first head to head I got an explosive start and almost immediately was several bike lengths ahead of everyone, and then, after about 200m, reality kicked in, and OMG I died! Maxine flew past me like I was stood still and I dug as deep as I could not to lose out on qualifying (the top 2 went through). I was a painful 200 metres. But at the end I was grinning, I knew I was through to the next round, and I knew Maxine had a high chance of winning.

We talked some tactics, I knew my explosive start could potentially help her, I could lead her out and she could take the win. But in the next round, we hadn't accounted for Brit! As soon as the flag dropped I saw Brit kick out of the corner of my eye, Maxine who had a slower start was just behind me but I had nothing to give and all tactics went out of the window. I looked back and screamed my head off "GO Maxine, goooooo!!!!!" She closed the gap, but it wasn't enough and Brit took the win to go through to the final.

It was an exciting female final and we stayed to watch it all play out, with Brit becoming the eventual overall winner and taking home the money!

By this time it was about 2.30am and we were wired. High from caffiene and antibiotics and totally wired from the high-energy event we drove around for a few hours to find a 24 hr Tesco and get some wine. A midnight feast ensused at the B+B, until at about 5am we fell asleep, still slightly trembling.

In the morning we drove back, dropping Maxine in Knutsford and stopping by another little bike shop (see, I said I was always working!) I dropped Harpz back in Croydon and was home by 9pm still with a load of shit to sort out.

A bike shop 9I'm not gonna name names) had promised for 3 weeks to fix my cranks on my Slayton, but they still hadn't arrived. So I had to do to my brothers, borrow cranks off him, go to Deke's and ask him to fit them, which he did, but it meant I only had one front chainring.

I crashed out to bed for an early rise to pick up Deke and drive to Aston Hill for the Enduro 1 race.

It's a cool format in that they don't let people do sightings, which I think is fair. Because sightings count for so much, and there are some people (me) who don't have a lot of time spare to put 2 or 3 days for one race and really scope it out.

However, I hadn't read the rules (you must cycle at least twice a week....erm...) (you must wear eye protection....oops....) and finally that your start times were available for each stage. I hadn't seen this and spent the first round of 3 stages having no fucking clue what was going on. I felt like I was flying on my DH runs...until I crashed on the super slippy roots...It was caught on camera, so I chatted to the photographer (Giles Wiehahn) and he showed it to me on his screen. That little interlude cost me my start time and from there I never caught up. Then cycling back up the hill for lunch after the last round I got to the top and a lady said "aww, you just missed it." and I was like "Missed what? What the hell is going on?!?!"

I was pretty pissed off at myself for not learning the format beforehand, but, well, everything is just so hectic, and, well, I didn't.

But after lunch I repeated the round of 4 stages feeling much happier. I knew what was going on and I was racing the clock. The timings were super tight and most times I only got there with a couple of seconds to spare, not even having time to stop and get a breather! The final stage was a climb and it seriously killed me, I spend it all out of the saddle, grovelling.BUT! It felt so good to be pushing my body again, feeling the burn, digging deep and not giving up. It felt like racing and it felt really good.

I don't know how I did, there were some people with stop watches and I don't really know what happens next. Maybe I will remember to check on the website in a few days. But in a few days, the race that I gave so much to, that seemed so important at the time, will be forgotten and I will be thinking about the next big event instead.

It's all been a crazy blur and Maxine's spare antibiotics have run out (throat infection) and I am now sat in the office feeling pretty damn shit, with bags of stuff everywhere needing to be sorted out. And I don't regret a moment of it!

Racing, the journey, the random once-in-a-lifetime experiences that go with it. It's the best.

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