Thursday, 25 August 2011

Brighton Big Dog

The Brighton Big Dog has earnt itself a big reputation in a short space of time. It helps to have a vibrant riding scene based around tight woodland singletrack, a good few characters and an enthusiastic event team. All sounds very much like Bristol, even down to the special guest appearances: Big Dog had Big Maggy Backstedt in 2009; Bikefest is to feature Steve Peat later this year.

Since the STW Weekender I had barely touched the bike due to injuries, social commitments and an uncomfortable mix of the two (drinking on a moving bus hurts:( To further excuse myself for the poor lap times I was coming in to the Big Dog off the back of a hedonistic 10 days in Russia.

No worries, I was riding the Mixed Team category with term-time local Euan Adams (Red Kite Cycles) and Sarah Turner (Charge Bikes, girlfriend of fellow Elite racer Trev Allen). Whilst bimbling around on our practice lap Euan was forced to press on in order to make it in time for the start. Glad he did cos I wouldn't have made it. After his strong first lap we stayed out in front all day, ending with a comfortable margin which excused us from a 9th lap.

The course itself was a meandering sprawl through the Stanmer Park woods with a cute detour over the dual carriageway. The marshals were really encouraging and the weather was fine.  Having driven to and from the event on the day it certainly had a high drive to ride ratio of about 3:1. It was well worth it for the jovial podium ceremony and the neat prizes (Exposure lights and chamois cream!). Props to the event team for getting a host of supporters on board.

Thanks to Euan, Sarah, the organisers and everyone else. Sorry to the camera man for spraying his lens.

Picture courtesy of Dave Hayward

Singletrack Weekender, Lee Quarry

Housemate Matt and I are regular users of the Singletrackworld forum. We prefer to take a back seat when reading the nonsense that gets spouted by some of the personalities rather than risk a flaming for poor grammar or daring to pose a 'what tyre for…?' question. However we had heard that past Singletrack Weekender events at Lee Quarry were well received so what better way of putting forum-names to faces??

The format of the Weekender harks back to the early days of mountain bike competitions where one bike has to be used for each discipline: DH, trials and XC (unlike Malvern there was to be no lake jump:) In keeping with the tone of Singletrack's magazine and forum the tone was relaxed, with beer themed sideshows and spot prizes throughout the weekend.

Friday's journey north was typically painful so we took a last minute detour to ride the trails at Cannock rather than sit out the traffic. There was an interesting mix of forest trails which had elements of the riding meccas at Puddletown and Swinley Forest. The occasionally tiresome link sections and climbs were worth it for the beefy main descent which rode like a traditional Welsh trail centre, Brechfa coming to mind.

Back on the road we skipped the lure of Burger King for the delights of steak pudding with Uncle Stubbs and Co. After a couple of Timmy Taylors it was time for bed.

Saturday was trials (balance, hill climbing etc, not the Danny Macaskill/Chris Akrigg form) and DH. The DH course was nicely challenging without being too technical. It was also widely taped to allow for multiple line choice. In light of the furious bursts of rain our enthusiasm only stretched to a couple of DH practice runs. Matt and I both took tumbles in practice, though at least my falls were largely out of site. Typical that I should skin both knees whilst carrying pads in my backpack. Our race runs went without too much drama, Matt finishing a few seconds quicker than me. We were safe if unspectacular in the trials, incurring one penalty minute each for failing to ride a skinny which I'm sure would never be a problem without an audience.

Sunday was the XC race where everybody was gridded according to their penalty points from Saturday. The course preview stated that it was designed to favour an all round rider, presumably to remove the bias of previous events which favoured the lycra lovers. There were two other Elite XC riders in the starting line up. Both were gridded ahead of me and one of them happened to be Nick Craig (Scott UK)! After travelling all that way Matt and I ended up next to each other on the startline, going off in the third wave of riders. The race went well, the rain held off, it was great to be cheered on by my Auntie and Uncle and cousins and on his return to racing Matt managed to avoid a heart attack! I finished in third overall, second in Seniors behind Steve Webb (Singular Cycles) Unsurprisingly Nick Craig won but he wasn't announced as the overall winner, perhaps because he didn’t want to be seen winning a chipper or maybe because he didn’t exactly need the XT groupset from race sponsors Shimano?! I won some handy bits and bobs and an XXL T-Shirt.