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So 2016 is here and the season is starting with what I now know as one of the harder races of the year with SEEC – The Witley Classic Enduro. Since last year I’d come down with a bad case of ‘lazy’ which carried on into 2016 but the SEEC prize giving evening kicked me back into life and for a few weeks I was back on track with the cycling. Then came the snow run in wales and despite my belated cycling I just wasn’t ready for something like that. I was hoping for weeks beforehand that a cold snap would arrive and freeze the ground but no such luck. As predicted the loop was a mud and rut fest. I was almost clear on the first lap. The first part of the second lap went ok but then the worst of the rutted woods arrived and I got completely stuck several times. The thought of slogging around another whole lap didn’t appeal to me and I wasn’t having much fun so dropped out with one lap too go. Only my second DNF (excluding breakdowns) and both with the WTRA club but this time I wasn’t that ashamed of quitting. I’m getting more relaxed in my old age!
last minute chat with Darren
Another area where the lazy had caused problems was the bike. I’d not touched it all winter so of course the planed work had just not happened, no new piston or bodywork/graphix, not even new tyres! I did mot it though and serviced the brakes, fitting new Dunlopad pads front and rear.
Back to the Witley Classic. It was quite hard last year but I did ok and was in good shape at the end, but I was a whole lot fitter then and this year I’m in a more competitive class, Clubman A. This meant tighter times and most likely more laps, just what I need when still suffering from a bad case of lazy. Once again I was hoping for a dry week to try and lesson the severity of the bog diving we would have to do and the rain that has plagued us since October last year did ease somewhat and thankfully it wasn’t raining as we pulled into the venue but it looked like it might at any time, however to confuse things a bit the sun popped its head out every now and then.
Darren has a few starting issues..... as did I
I walked up the pits to sign on and seeing a gap I hurried back to the car and sneaked up to the front of all the vehicles. Its nice not having to lug all the gear half a mile to the pits. I bumped into Darren and Gary and caught up on the latest gossip from both of them. I hadn’t worked out my times yet and lucky for me I looked at the list on the table to see my start time. Lucky for me as the official start times were one minute out form the time published on the internet the night before, the second time in two years there was confusion and incorrect times.
Gary get under way
then me - complete in new xmas klim gear!
I was starting one minute behind Gary (Darren had entered expert class this year) so the plan was to see if I could catch Gary on the first loop. Each lap was made up of two loops and the marking out of the start and checkpoints had several people confused but after a little head scratching it wasn’t too hard to understand but in the race several people got so tired they clocked out/in at the wrong points!
Lining up for the start I pulled the choke out and the bike fired at the first press of the starter so I popped the choke back in and clicked it into gear to set off….. but it died. Not sure why its started doing this as its normally fine but I pressed the starter again but without the choke it refused to fire. Eventually I was under way but this wasn’t the start to the day I’d hoped. A little flustered I set off at a good pace but wasn’t overly concerned just yet but I knew I couldn’t hang about in clubman A and the conditions were bound to have a say in the matters too.
The beginning of the lap was surprisingly dry but some of the loamy climbs early on were cutting up already but it was all do’able at this stage. There were a few sections that I could tell were going to be iffy soon but it all flowed ok on lap one. The wet sections were very wet though and this would be a problem later. A couple of the tight little tracks through the woods that were used last year already had some iffy ruts cut into them so I knew this were be harder to clear later, but it would be far worse than I could imagine.
Pushing on I caught up and past several Clubman and vet riders and everything went well up until we got to the first special test. Well I think it was the first one but maybe it was later (no gopro footage to jog my memory anymore). Anyway I was right on another riders back wheel and came up to the hard/easy sign. Being the first and untimed lap I opted for the hard route only to be faced with a double log obstacle. Logs have never been a friend to me and the ‘jump them’ signals from the marshals were lost on me so I made a right pigs ear of it and ended up manhandling the bike across the woods having tipped off. I decided the slow option was best from now on.
gary having a few issues.
I got back to the pits for the first timed check in plenty of time and set off on the second loop when my time came. This loop had a lot of wet going in places and a fair few drainage ditches too but again a lot of it was dry.
I was into the pits with plenty of time, well a few minutes, so I filled up with petrol, swapped my gloves and dumped the 100% goggles for a pair of RNR goggles and made my way down to the start. Completing this lap on time was going to be a close one. The times had gotten shorter and of course the track condition was going to have a say too. Cracking on I had a bit of a scrap with some of the guys on my minute but eventually two of them got away so I was back to riding on my own. I was trying to keep up a good pace but trying to pass a slower rider I got wedged into a rut. I didn’t remember this at the time (its just come to me now) but I remember doing the same thing last year too, in the same spot! It took a lot of effort to lift the bike out of the rut as it was beached on its pegs with the rear tyre spinning in the air. Breathing hard I got going again but half way around I managed to get stuck again in a similar style but this time it was in a very muddy rut and took even more effort to drag the stricken bike from the hungry mud. Having huffed and puffed for ages trying to get the bike free I was feeling pretty spent when I set off again. I can’t quite remember where on the track I caught Gary but all of a sudden I spotted him up ahead but I lost contact again at some point, probably when I got stuck. My knees were killing me by this time, it felt like sand had gotten into my pants and was under my braces sleeves, grinding away at my skin.
I pulled into the pits knowing I was most likely late. Stopping just at the checkpoint I had a quick look and yes I was one minute late, disappointed I clocked out to begin the second loop and to conclude lap two. I came up behind a bike (no 74 I think) and was following him a bit but going through a drainage ditch he got stuck so I went to the right and promptly got stuck too! I was good and jammed on a root and was just wondering how much extra effort this was going to cost me when rider 74 jumped off his bike (having got it clear first) and gave me a quick hand dragging my bike out. This really surprised me as he was in my class too and me being stuck was one less person for him to beat so I was very grateful for his help. Something I was to bear in mind later.
Somehow I got ahead of Gary in this loop but in the special test he was behind me and while I went for the slow route he jumped the two logs and despite me trying to cut him off he got ahead, only to cock up the next log and he almost dropped it. Again I tried to take advantage of this and nearly got past but he recovered quickly and got going again with me on his back wheel.
Back at the pits it was time to refuel again, I knew I was most probably late but I would need the fuel. Feeling pretty spent by now I sucked on a couple of energy gels to give me a boost. Back to the check point and I was about three minutes overtime by now but there was nothing to be done.
Starting the next lap I wasn’t feeling too confident with my chances. Somewhere along the way it had rained and I could image the next lap was going to be a tough one. The first section was mostly ok, the hills were a little more cut up but it was dry, the real test would come later, not the specials but the rutted and boggy second half of the loop. Gary was a little ahead of me and when we got to a short climb with a destroyed section of track he went to the right up another slope to clear it but it was a big mistake and he got hung up on a massive set of roots. I took the low route and picked my way past the mess on the left. Gary gave me a forlorn look as I went past. Feeling a pang of gilt and remembering the help I had received earlier I parked the bike up and walked back to Gary where he was stuck. He was on a fairly steep slope with the back wheel stuck on a root step and his feet planted on the group were the only things stopping him tumbling down the hill – there was no way he could move. I walked up grinning and said “you owe me one for this” and helped pull the bike up and over the root obstacle. We continued the lap at a moderate pace. For my part I was just hoping to get around and not get stuck again.
In my mind I was trying to work out the traps that lay ahead and the best way to avoid them. We came upon a couple of guys waiting for a guy stuck deep in a rut and as I pulled up the bike plunged into a hidden hole and was jammed solid. I climbed off and tried to lift/pull the rear while using the throttle (easy to do one handed with a rekluse) but it was stuck. Luckily Gary was close behind so he helped me lift the bike out. We bypassed the stuck bike by taking to the trees but it was so tight it was slow going to make any headway. Back on the main track I stopped and suggested to Gary that we should go back and help the other rider as the guy would never get it out on his own. It was a hell of a struggle but we got him out in the end. Feeling quite out of breather I carried on but only traveled a few meters when I came across another guy stuck. I was still breathing hard and feeling knackered from the last effort so was in no mind to stop again so just apologised saying I’d just dragged a couple of bikes out and was wore out. I’m not sure if Gary stopped or not but I decided to carry on – it was a race after all!
I managed to complete the loop but was feeling very second hand and just riding around for a finish now. Everything hurt but my knees had their own special agony all of their own. I was seriously late now when I pulled into the pits but I just had to ignore the times and plug on for a finish. I don’t remember much about the second loop but I took it fairly easy and tried not to get stuck anywhere. One highlight was coming up to a ditch and seeing a guy stuck on the left I eyed up the main track with suspicion, there could be traps lying in wait. Another rider cruised through on the right but I was in the wrong spot for that crossing so decided to go for it on a virgin bit of ditch. Being warry of getting stuck I gave the bike too much throttle on the way through and it climbed the other side with gusto – doing a 360 in the air out from underneath me and landed on its rear end! Not what I’d planed but at least I wasn’t stuck in a ditch. Retrieving the bike I had a quick look at the back end and it looked fine and I only noticed the rear number plate holder was missing when I washed it.
Back at the pits to complete lap three and Nicky was in the pits at my gear. I knew I should drive straight through but I was pretty worn out at this stage and wasn’t worrying about times. I did need some new gloves and a few energy gels as I wasn’t looking forward to the next half a lap (clubman A does three and a half laps). Despite being so tired I was a little upbeat as I knew this was the last push and I could see the pits were half empty so plenty of people must have packed it in. Clocking out I started the final push and spotted Darren, changed and lugging his pit gear back to the car. I stopped for a quick chat asking him what had happen and it turned out he had worn out his brake pads by lap two! I final half a lap went by without any mishaps, mostly due to the fact I was riding so slowly, one because I was knackered and two I didn’t want to blunder into any rut traps or bogs. There was so few riders left out on track now if you got stuck you’d be in trouble, the marshals had long ago departed the track, I’d hardly seen anyone on the whole third lap. It was a long hard slow slog but eventually I got back to the pits to find it almost empty, as was the carpark. It turned out that two thirds of the competitors had retired from the race, some due to the conditions and other as the tough track had killed their bikes in one form or another.
what - another loop?
I was in a sorry state when packing up. Tired and sore does little to describe just how I felt. Pulling off my mx pants I then realised why my knees were so sore, I’d forgotten to fold my sleeves down over my braces so they had migrated down and the braces were rubbing on my skin. The broken glass inside my knee joints were also a bit uncomfortable.
But it was all worth it in the end as just finishing the race earned me a sixth spot in Clubman A. The fact that only seven guys finished the race in my class we will overlook for now!
|©2015 John Muizelaar|