Team JMC newcomer Ritchie Scott spends some of his honeymoon in a bike race….
THE VIEW FROM THE BACK – THE FAT MAN GOES STATESIDE.
AKA – A Tail end view of the 24hr Solo World Championships at Weaverville USA.
As we ran from our connecting flight to our main LA bound American airlines aluminium rocket I knew that something would or will go wrong. Delayed flights bring nothing but a collection of sordid nightmares onto the innocent and bewildered traveller. As we took our seats in the metal bird, sweat dripping and senses all out of sync. We never thought for one minute that we would land in the city of angels without the bikes and our entire luggage. But we did. The adventure begins.
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS AND WEAVERVILLE.
“Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.”
—Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
These words reflex exactly what happened to us. From the incredible hosts putting our needs first to the random kindness by fellow riders and their pit crews engulfed and astounded us. What could of been a disastrous trip and honeymoon panned out to be an education in human kindness and a lesson in life. For most of my events I am truly astounded and fascinated by the clientele of 24hr racing. From the elite backdrop of UK racers like Jason miles, Rich Rothwell, Ant White, Craig Bowles, Keith Forsyth, Matt Jones to name a few . To the have a go likely bunch like myself who just try and survive and push themselves for a chance to race against the best and maybe have the chance to slay a few elite riders on the way down to the hurt locker .My stories always evolve from the back. This one I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders not just with the best UK riders around but to swap spit and pain with some of the best American solo riders too. This race is about survival, this particular race is also about pain too.
SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE.
The only piece of cycling kit that I had with me in Weaverville was an old training cycling top that I hastily put into my hand luggage and some socks. Why I put them in there I really can’t answer that. But I was glad that it was just something else that I did not have to scrounge or buy. My first acquirement was some cycling SPD’s. I waited and waited, hoping my bag would turn up but by Thursday and what seemed like a million phone calls and conversations I knew that the bag would not be here for the race. Luckily a good friend of our host and the main reason that we were here Michael Novak had invited us across to see if he had anything that I could wear. First thing was his spare shoes. Too small. My heart shrunk. Would I have to travel out to the nearest city to buy a pair? That for me was a last chance saloon option because I don’t want to pedal for 24hrs in brand new shoes and it will cost me ( I still have a week of being a happy honeymooner to go) Luckily Michaels host Scott who was racing single speed ( he became the world champion at Weaverville) offered me his spare pair. They were a size too small but I took him up on his generosity and took his hand off when he offered. So after borrowing some shoes and jackets I bought some shorts, gloves, socks and energy food. If this was a Wild West trading post then I would be skinned alive as I had nothing to banter with. Nothing to trade with. Just me, myself and I. Plan B was turning into plan Z. Still I was suited and booted and had the armoury to race. Even when I knew deep down that what I had trained for was quickly slipping away. Mentally I was beat before I even turned a crank in anger but what the heck. Smile and wave boys, smile and wave.
With a gruelling , heart bending 3 mile climb averaging at 9% to welcome you at the start of every lap I knew this climb could be a game changer. I had done a couple of practice laps and after just one my feet were in agony as they started to swelled up and my toes started to cramp and ache. The lap was a 13 mile loop incorporating a huge climb then a series of downhill exploits in different surroundings that made it fun but it had you on your toes in the dark due to some of its snaking single track around the woods. With the sun beating down and the wind whipping up mini tornados at the memorial hall. The start was announced and the cavalcade was off. With it a dark orange dust rose from the ground and gently filtered down covering man, woman and machine. The orange glow penetrated your skin as you lived, breathed and endured this dust for the whole 24hrs. The bikes formed a second skin as the dust impregnated the tiniest of slits, holes and seals.
As the race moved on I usually fall into a routine. Saving my energy for the downhill sections I used the same mantra that I have always used. You spin, you win. Refuelling on certain section helps break down my lap and gets me into a feed zone routine of having enough carbs, protein and fluid to combat the loss of energy and to help with the heat. But unfortunately by the third lap I was in agony with my feet swelling up in my ill fitting shoes. I cannot describe this pain as every pedal stroke sent a shooting pain up my leg and the balls of my feet were of a burning, excruciating pain( I think I could handle the pain of giving birth now as I feel that the pain in my feet was equal!!)…………………When I came around to the pits I could hardly walk when I got off the bike. I dare not take my shoes off as I would not be putting them on again. The ties were as loose as I could get them but the pain was not far away. All I could do was smile and get back on my bike. Sometimes the pain would drift off and I felt normal again but sure enough around the next corner my feet would explode into balls of fire and the pain would start pulsating again. Bugger! The borrowed cycling shoes were my nemesis. I took all my man up pills, my brave heart lotion and dug as deep as I could but at the 5am mark it was game over for me. I could not face another lap crying into my handlebars. I released the pressure, kicked off my ballet shoes, doffed my cap to the remaining riders on the course and sunk into a pit of self loathing, depression and quite remarkably joy as I was free.
So there it is. Another World Championship that was bathed in bad luck. Last year it was my lights failing on me halfway around the course (I found out that it was the charge ports in the batteries that were faulty) to not having any race gear/equipment this time around. All out of my hands and to be fair not a lot that I could of done to rectify the problem but just get on with it and enjoy the course, the people, the camaraderie and of course the weather. As I watched my wife head out for another lap on a borrowed bike and shoes to seal second place in her age category I smiled. I was surrounded by people who for the love of this sport and the trial and tribulations it throws up are friendly, down to earth and mostly humble amazing people. In the small world of 24hr racing be it elite or age group racing I witnessed and was on the receiving end of basic human kindness and jaw dropping hospitality. Every time I have raced a 24hr event I have always been encouraged and accepted by the best of the best riders. To them I raise a glass as you have inspired me to go bigger, longer, faster. To push myself when my mind and body has given up. You don’t have to say anything when you pass me in the night fighting for podium places whilst visiting hell. But you do. I thank you for that. As for my feet. Well I am about to lose some toe nails, my toes are still aching and red. The balls of my feet still pulsate and I have numbness and pins and needles down the side of my shins. All in all a good nights racing!!
What a town, what a place. From the host family we stayed with (the Cox’s) to the people of the town we both thank you for making our trip special and making our mini adventure memorable. You done yourself proud and we are looking forward in coming back with or without bikes.