Randon Epic – Part 2
I guess part of the problem with events and life is that before you know it you are onto the next adventure before you’ve fully digested the first! Finally, some downtime, lets do this…
So I was set for a troubled sleep.
SP2 had filled me with exactly zero confidence that I was going to enjoy what lay ahead, no amount of jovial chat (or beers) was shaking the nagging feeling I was going to be using my travel insurance tomorrow.
5:30 am and I’m a blinking, nervously excited member of the saggy shorts brigade lining up on the start, race commissaires don’t check your licence in these paddocks, they check you have a back protector, blimey! But its just as well, I could see that when things go wrong they go badly wrong and if a bit of foam annoyance is going to prevent a tragedy then hell I don’t mind at all.
Euro beats, flares, man I love racing here, BAAAAAAAAAARP we are on the move.
Trundling up to the real start is weird, you are surrounded by over dressed excited riders who you know, you just know, are going to be tearing the arse out of this mountain in an hours time, but they are all chilled, and somewhere in the bedlam you will be getting batted about like a piñata for the next 11 hours minimum, my excitement was leaning more to the ‘how bad is it going to be’ side of things, finally the top of the mountain, engage crazy.
Dropping in felt amazing, you are truly a part of this madness now, no going back, I was fully committed, alas fully committed but with a skill-set far below the pursuing masses who were now coming at me, past me and pretty much over me at breakneck speed. I felt like I was being attacked by piranhas, giant, helmet wearing frikking piranhas. I’m trying to spot the line, not die, hit the tech, move out the way, get past, and all the while being peppered with the audio onslaught of squealing brakes, smashing suspensions, warning yells and whooping French maniacs – we are THREE KILOMETERES IN!!!!
I survive, I find Vik ‘mate that was savage!’ I’m so glad I have someone with me to share the moment, bonkers. On to my nemesis, the jagged death of SP2 awaits, jovial turns to contemplation ‘well at least I got this far I guess’ calculating I might be the only person here who spends 90% of my life on tarmac.
This is it. Good God.
RELAX – ENJOY – DRILL IT
This must be what its like to do rodeo, I launch into SP2 as if I know what I’m doing, the bike is getting kicked and smacked in every direction. This is the same spot where the mountain will claim its first scalp from our team. Mark is practically knocked unconscious trying to avoid a fallen rider, we will only find out much later that he had begun to see stars and was literally at risk of much worse so wisely opted to stop, big bummer!
I enter the most technical section of SP2, 2 double ended drops and at the very bottom Vik has managed to somehow headbutt a tree and is staggering back onto his bike. I’m at reckless speed now as I had somehow I survived the initial rock gulleys so its yank anchors and ass back time to avoid joining my buddy in a crumpled heap. More gingerly we exit SP2, wow, wow ,wow.
‘That was awesome’ Vik has smashed his glasses and has a small gash across his nose, none of this matters. ‘We are gonna ride this together ok’ ‘Hell yes my man, hell yes’ The adrenaline has us now, we are going to do this as a team, I think this was the defining moment, the line in the sand, we would go until the mountain literally or metaphorically killed us.
Sectors 3 and 4 seemed to blur into one, we had found a happy rhythm and getting through the ‘Bronze’ loop relatively unscathed was a momentous achievement. Alas the mountain had now claimed Mason, the second scalp, by almost beheading the poor man when he found himself upside down with his head wedged between two trees, I was shaken for him, a reminder of how one mistake could be very costly.
We had to soldier on, and with SP5 encompassing one long drag out of town and down the old train route Vik and I got to slip into familiar marathon bike mode. A time to just enjoy spinning the legs out after the mayhem in beautiful scenery, aaah the serenity.
I was really struggling on the climbs by now, the chunky Orange P7 was not a featherweight and I don’t think the designers were considering ‘time cut offs’ as a priority, I laboured up to SP5, by now I’m thinking, ‘its only bloody 11:00am, what the hell is going going to happen between now and 6pm?’
A clue, EVERYTHING.
SP5 was beautifully bang on my dialled-in eye level if that makes sense, I could ride most of it, I was enjoying it, I was still slow, but I really was feeling like I could pop back to base after this, refuel and smash out the rest of the day, wrong! No back to base, I’d misread the map, good grief I was out of fuel and we had to cover 30 more kilometres with 2 more stages and the little matter of climbing one unholy mother of a mountain before there would be so much as a bottle of water!!
SP7 ‘Les Fleisses’ dropped like a tooth cracking mineshaft from 880m back to base and would push me right to breaking point, I was so utterly decimated.
Had we not just seen our mates enter the final Gold segment, I think I could have called it a day, the problem was, I was still in one piece, and if being in one piece was the sin then the Gold loop was our pennance!
Going for broke
‘Are we doing this mate’ ‘we’re doing this Vik, if they have to send out a search party, we’re doing this’
With the weather and the cut offs now a very real concern the idea of ‘enjoying the last bit’ was well and truly out the window. Vik and I were in a horrible mind over body space where you stop talking, you stop eating, you stop thinking, you just, pedal….or on my case you start trudging up sections that are too steep and then you pedal!
We somehow managed to slide, slam, slip and twist our way down the ludicrous SP10, this is it man, this is the final sector! SP11…the full horror of the queens stage in what had been the longest day on a bike since I rode a 24hour, was about to hit us from every direction.
Monstrously beyond our abilities and our shattered physical states, it was chucking it down and what little rideable sections there were were torrents of mud and slippery shale, at some point in the beat down two riders start following us, older French guys on downhill rigs, argh they are the broom wagon, we are literally last!
Somehow, somehow it ended, we had a 10km drag back to base, there was no light, it was hooning it down and Vik’s physical batteries had all but died, ‘come on mate, lets get it done, hold on my bag and stop pedalling’. I have no idea how I managed to summon up the reserves but this was it, we were going to finish, I didn’t care how fucked I was going to be tomorrow I was finishing this with my mate, last, dead fucking last!
As we neared the town, through the pitching monsoon there were our mates! Yelling and handing up beers, what utter legends, 200m more….final check point, beep, oh my God.
So it goes
I love racing bikes, its no lie, but doing this, entering things which will beat you up and spit you out. With a bunch of guys who are not fixated on winning, it was magic. No sweeter victory than pure experience, flying back to London with memories and new mates, and yeah, sure, I loved the fact we ‘conquered’ the race but sometimes its just knowing that at some point you will be back on a mountain, doing it all over again, that rocked, bring it on!