This years 12 hour British/European champs is over, and what a race.
As the weeks got closer and the entry list started growing, I could see it was going to be a hard race - most of the usual 24hr riders had also chosen to enter the 12hr this year, along with the country's finest 12hr riders and a few Europeans thrown in too. Nevertheless, with 6 weeks of road riding in my legs and a can-do attitude i headed to Scotland.
As midday drew near, riders and spectators all gathered ready in the square in Newcastleton. As the Bagpipes began playing, signalling the beginning of the race, we set off. Riding near the front, I waited for the lead out van to clear, so the anticipated ballistic start could begin. We rounded a right hander and BANG -everyone's legs snapped into action, with Matt Page leading the way up the 1st climb. I crested the hill in a good position and went into the 2nd climb with my lungs screaming for help. This became a familiar feeling over the next few hours..
With 1 lap in the bag I was riding well, but the pace was unbelievably fast. Once again i was struggling to keep up, and watched as other riders pulled away. But i was still feeling OK, and happy with my position. I told myself I would pull them in a lap at a time but after a few laps I had done the exact opposite, and dropped down to 13th! I was getting frustrated with the short, sharp climbs in first quarter of the course which was making my legs cramp mercilessly. Thankfully after around 6hrs of riding I started to find my legs, taking it easy on the 1st quarter and pushing hard for the rest. It seemed to be working, and I started drawing people in and moving up the field. Now I was having fun.
As the race moved into the final hours I was well place in 8th. My Dos Niner was riding amazingly, and fuelled by WAY too much caffeine I was still riding strong. With one more pit stop I was told I was still in 8th and moved on to the final lap. I'm not sure of my lap times, but I felt really strong, and chased down everyone in front of me in an effort to get 7th position. My mind was playing tricks on me and in the darkness every light became a reason to pick up the pace. Riding down the last decent I was really pleased to be finishing. I rounded the final corner and was greeted by my friends, and the great news I had moved up to 7th!
I am really pleased with this result, especially with the high standard of riders this year. Having raced the Strathpuffer in January, I was unsure if my legs were up to scratch, but now I feel I am in good shape for the next few races (with may be a little more attention to training this time!) and getting really excited about Mountain Mayhem, which sounds like its going to be even more competitive!
A big thank you to Katie and Simon for helping me out in the pit, and everyone who was cheering me on.
Next up: http://www.erlestoketwelve.com/