The small scale but popular MAD XC Series based not far from Stroud offers up some well organised XC racing in the depths of winter with a family friendly atmosphere. The organisers make good use of a relatively small area to pack in short but challenging laps. Round 2 was held at Ebworth where a mix of forest roads, double track and some seriously fun slippy and steep descents were enough to keep everyone happy even in the sloppy conditions. Fortunately nearly all of the really bad slop was to be found on the descents which just made them outright good fun. Lots of short little shoots had riders praying for their wheels to stay in a straight line rather the being spat out sideways with the inevitable face plant to follow.
The kids race was packed with smiley faces, you don’t see kids complaining about mud half as much as us adults geared up with a million different tyre choice options depending on the exact moisture levels on any one day. Kids just ride the bike they have with the tyres they came with.
An excellent live timing system was in place with a big clock in the start/finish area which was well stocked with supporters and a good commentary that can often be lacking in mountain bike events these days.
The main race was a sellout and riders packed the start grid each looking to get a decent position before the steep descent that came only a few minutes in to the lap. Either that or trying to avoid the jetwash splatter from lots of riders ploughing through puddles and lots of surface water in front of you on the forest road.
This was my first race since the UK24 champs and in between then I have somewhat let myself go (2 weeks all inclusive didn’t help) so my lycras were feeling a little tighter than normal. A whooping weight gain of 9.5kg in 2 months is a solid effort even by my usual off season indulgent standards. I like doing the short XC stuff in a relaxed atmosphere at smaller races as it’s something totally outside my usual comfort zone and gives me a few markers to keep me honest over winter. Some do cyclocross, who knows why! There are now plenty of winter MTB events out there to keep the wheels turning and to burn off some turkey.
After a fairly shocking start of being in the wrong gear, swerving all over the place on muddy lines and half falling off on the first corner I got out near the front as my heart instantly exploded out of my chest. After a short period of back and forward with some of the front runners including my buddy Alan who was having a flyer leading us out we settled in a bit more until I came across Alan trackside who had snapped a gear cable. At that point I realised I had failed to put a gel in my back pocket so on seeing Alan again further round the course I managed to grab one off him (cheers Alan). Many bikes succumbed to the challenging conditions as it turned out with riders even snapping chains off the start line. I was feeling the serious burn on the climbs (extra weight will do that) which were pretty tough in parts in between the super fun twisty and steep singletrack descents. I hung around in 2nd for a while before eventual winner Nick came flying past at a rate of knots having had a mechanical at the start. That put me in third where I stayed to the end pushing hard all the way. My throat was properly sore afterwards from the hard breathing I’m clearly not used to over that period! I even managed to stay on my bike the whole way round but it looked more like I had rolled around in a pigsty for a couple of hours. All good fun though.
Massive thanks to the organisers for another well organised race, check out rounds 3 and 4 for some winter fun!