Having both lived in Bristol for a few years and raced the BikeFest in both teams and as a solo rider, I was well up for a good race early in June. Ashton court is the location for the Ritchey Bristol BikeFest (just over the Clifton Suspension Bridge) and some extensive work had been underatken since I last visited the course back in June 2011 for the team event with my colleagues Leigh and Shane.
In the week run-up to the event I had a relatively easy programme of riding, with the focus mainly on getting everything prepared and just spinning out the legs before the weekend. Naturally leaving “cooking” to the last minute we accidentally found an interesting way to drain pasta – straight into the sink – the ideal way to add a nice dishwater note to the carbohydrate dinner!
With Heston hot on my heels for the new recipe (!) I set off to Bristol with fellow Wiggler Paul along for the ride to provide some race support. Of course traffic was a nightmare but we arrived in good time to set up camp and make a quick practice lap just to refresh the memory of the course and any new sections. To my surprise, the majority of the course had been resurfaced and felt more like a Welsh trail centre than what I had ridden on before. Having said that, the new sections by the wall and just past the quarry flowed very smoothly and you could really rip through the singletrack with a good line – awesome fun!
So after a very windy night in the tent and the wind blowing a gale outside too, we rose to a nice calm morning with clear skies and mild temperatures. Much to the contempt of my racing companions I tucked into a hearty breakfast… two of the secret ingredients being eggs and peanuts – which even I found a little hard to stomach at 6am in the morning! We kitted up and headed to the start line which was a Le Mans-style run up one of the gravel climbs and then a jump onto the bike. I stood jittering on the grass, chatting with Leigh and trying to stay calm as 100+ racers trotted on the start line – all of us edging forward like anxious horses at the Grand National!
The countdown finally came and I set off for my bike at a steady pace, very aware that I had 12 hours of riding to come and did not want to be nursing a stitch for the first lap. I jumped on a quickly started accelerating through the field. One of the Torq team riders came blasting past so I thought it would be a good idea to chase him on the other side of the bunch just to work my way through the field as much as possible before we hit the first section of singletrack.
Bursting out by the main entrance to Ashton Court a few riders had grouped together and were setting a pace together – I thought that they were the soloists. So I stayed with this bunch for the first few laps – working hard on the climbs but really enjoying the flat-out descents. Three or four laps in the pace was still quite high and myself and a Stans rider had moved to the front of the solo race. Still feeling fresh I kept focussing on my strength in the descents and slowly got a small gap on the rest of the field. Every lap my pit crew were keeping me updated and this really helped to give me some focus on the next lap.
Throughout the race I managed to keep quite a consistent pace, no doubt with the help from my support team and also stay smooth out on the course to avoid any mechanicals. In the penultimate lap I was thinking about the time and as I climbed back up towards the quarry I knew I would be able to smash out one more lap if I could get back to the start/finish quickly. With this in mind I forgot about taking it easy and hammered up the last climb to get back out for the last big effort. Speeding through the pitlane I chucked my last bottle to Jamal in the pits and headed out, knowing this was the last interval of the day. With so much adrenaline making the last lap did not feel too painful but it did feel great to be crossing the line with all the fellow racers and spectators – even if I did get a nice shower of cider from commentator Matt Carr in the process!
All in all the Ritchey Bristol BikeFest was another great race on a great course and an awesome atmosphere. A huge thanks to my friends Paul, for humouring my anxious questions all day long and to Jamal, for providing the F1 style analysis of all my splits during the race! Now… where has my road bike got to?!
1. Have a variety of food to select – you never know what you might fancy!
2. Always pre-ride the course so you know what’s coming.
3. Enjoy the racing of course!