After a couple of fun days at TORQ HQ in Shropshire (which I’ll cover in another blog) it was time for this weekend’s Chain Reaction Cycles MTB Marathon at Builth Wells. There was a night race Saturday evening but I wimped out of that, my teammate James Lister however was a little crazy and raced around to 6th place having already done a hilly mtb ride that morning and then stood in the sun the rest of the day for the team photo shoot!
After a pleasant stay at a local bed & breakfast I was fresh and ready for the 75km distance and 2000+ metres of climbing that lay ahead. Racing short cross country races most weekends meant I was highly motivated to try out some marathon races. On the start line were a number of the very best UK endurance racers and some cross country racers looking to mix things up.
After 5 miles behind the pace car we were free to start racing, quickly gaps started to appear and groups began to form. After a few more miles things started to sort themselves out; up front were the lead group included the legend Nick Craig, Neil Crampton, Ian Leitch, James Lister, Matt Page, and myself. James picked up an early puncture not long after, losing crucial time and his chance of winning the race.
My plan before the race was to sit in and let the other do the work, however feeling strong I increasingly found myself on the front pulling the group along up the climbs. On the descents I saved energy, concentrated on taking on drinks and gels, and rode carefully to avoid taking risks that could result in a puncture or other mechanical.
After maybe 15 miles Ian was suffering and popped off the back of the group struggling to keep the pace on the long climbs. Matt had also disappeared after suffering a mechanical. Over the next 5 miles Nick, Neil and me shared the work but a group had formed behind and was working well to close up the gap to us. Nick was next to puncture on some barb wire fencing after we veered slightly off course. Whilst Nick fixed his wheel Neil and me were left to hike up what felt like a near vertical climb to the trail above where the chasing group was passing us by.
After that comedy we chased back to that group which now led the race. After a short rest I dropped the hammer and with 16 miles remaining I hit the front of the race, my effort was only meant to test Neil but I got a gap almost immediately, this gap stayed the same until we reached an undulating tarmac road which I nailed. Unknown to me though this road led to the largest climb of the day, luckily the legs held out and produced enough power to launch myself over the climb and open up a few minutes lead which I held to the end to finish 1st.
It would have been nice to have ridden with James for longer as I’m sure he would have been a contender at the end of the race, he eventually finished 5th or 6th. Loosing Nick from the group was a loss as well as he was managing the pace well, creating some good chit chat, and again it would have been nice to have had a clean race to the end with him.
The new Kona Kula Watt was awesome; the new frame is so much stiffer and more responsive. The Terralogic Fox forks are fantastic at saving energy on the ups as they automatically lock out and only unlock when they hit a bump, they were also super plush and stiff on the downhills. The Shimano groupset is great and I’m particularly enjoying using the XTR brakes.
Hopefully I’ll find some time in the schedule to fit another CRC mtb marathon this year. Next weekend the TORQ Performance team will be racing round 2 of the British XC Series at Dalby Forest.