Probably my biggest regret from the Forest of Dean round of the FS Series is that the elite American ride didn't show up. Light weight. I had been practicing my heckles for the previous two weeks; that's time I'll never get back. Even once the event was underway, I still expected him to turn up, join in midway through, claim a single-handed victory and then make a Hollywood blockbuster about it; with my part played by Chris Rock…or Danny DeVito. Oh well.
But let's talk about the youth event. In truly awful conditions, the youth and juveniles remained upbeat and suspiciously cheery for the full 4 hours of their event. Must do a dope test next time round. Over twenty of them hopped and bounced around a morning of skills trials and the word from BC's Ric Jameson is that not only are the riders' skills improving across the board, but the gaps between them are getting smaller, leading to close competition. Rob from VeloLoco.tv was on hand as always to award a special prize for an outstanding youth performance. This round the prize went to a rider who managed to combine an almighty pre-race tantrum, a race lap and a brief post-lap cheesy grin. If he just manages to rearrange the order that all happened, he'll mirror most of my racing exploits.
Two nights of sleeping on a luton van on a bubble wrap mattress, and three wet days in the forest took us to breaking point. Then, at our lowest ebb, we discovered that wild boar had chewed holes in our tool bag and some scummer had trodden on, and cracked my cycle helmet. All we needed was 3 months rain in a day and the misery would be complete. Oh yes. Bingo.
So the rain was lashing down, the damp was creeping into all our electrical equipment, and we were close to breaking the world record for the most amount of people under two E-Z ups. Then we realised that our start / finish area was on the route of a Duke of Edinburgh expedition, leading to a damp procession of soggy teens with poor navigation and skin. Lap times went from a sprightly twenty odd minutes to glacial speeds best measured with a sun dial. Lap numbers were hastily reduced in order to maximise the amount of people queuing for the showers at the same time. Yes! Showers! Oh, be still my beating heart! All they've got at Hadleigh is a communal tub of wet wipes, supplied by the official Games' wet wipe supplier and undoubtedly advertised on T.V. by one of the GB cycling sell-outs. Bran flakes anyone? Not only showers, but bike wash, a café selling wild boar kebabs and a bike shop specialising in summer gore tex and mud tyres.
In our most rose-tinted appraisal of the day, all we can say is that we survived. We ran around with our heads on fire for much of the day; four people trying to run a biblical Ben Hur of a bike race. It'll never be an event we are proud of but nobody died and in the midst of all the chaos, a bike race occurred.
What we are proud of are the volunteers on the day. Our marshals this year have been outstanding and there can be no argument that standing out in the open on Saturday would have challenged the most Bear Gryls among us. I personally wouldn't have put a milk bottle out on a day like that. It will be the law from now on, that when you are on your last lap of the race you say 'Thank You' to every marshal and commissaire you see. For everyone you miss, we will relegate you one race position. Manners maketh the mountain biker.