As the song nearly goes, 1 out of 3 ain’t bad. I had three races in the space of 8 days and only managed to fully complete one of them. As it was, it was my first, a female only 60 mile night ride organised by the Bury Clarion RCC.

As a women’s only event I have previously avoided such deals with the worry of condescension and a lack of a real challenge, however a Rapha ride last year turned me around and I looked forward to riding the streets of the Bury area when everyone else was tucked up in bed. It kicked off at 9pm and the weather miraculously held off for most of the ride, having been appalling earlier. The organisation was excellent, with well stocked feed stops, in good locations, and a route that took in a reasonable range of terrain. We spent a fair bit of time around urban roads but made a few breaks up into the surrounding countryside.

We all rolled along at a steady pace with ride marshalls chaperoning us, and traffic thinning out. By midnight it was just us and the taxis. There was a range of experience levels and by the 30 mile mark we had strung out along the route. Only 10 of us then set out to cover the second 30miles and it was at that time the differences really showed themselves. Our little band, reduced to 7, three Team JMC ladies, Sally, Debbie and myself, as hardcore Jo had had stop with her recovering broken wrist. We therefore comprised of long-in-the-tooth road riders through to Charity Challenge MTBers. The (male) ride marshals for some reason decided they were indeed chaperones, and not just support riders, and corralled us to all remain together despite attempts to do otherwise. It meant a very cold wait at one of the highest points Affetside, and a long 6.5hrs to ride 60 miles.  In retrospect we should have just ridden ahead but as a new format and new race we were feeling it out as much as they were.

This did not overshadow though what was a very well executed event, raising money for a worthwhile cause, Bury Hospice. It was good to add new routes to my ride planning arsenal, and everyone involved seemed to really enjoy it. Big well done to a first time event organiser, Lucia Cronin. My Use Exposure lights were as fantastic as always, reliable and super bright, ideal for the job.

Onto the second race, the fantastic Hit the North 5! This race is my absolute favourite in the racing calendar. This is not just because Jase (@terrahawk) organises it with his team of capable helpers, or the atmosphere and routes are always challenging, but above all its great fun. A 2 hour blast around local trails with heaps of other riders, what’s not to love. This is why we still attended even though we had planned to be in South Wales, visiting friends and setting up for another race, the Battle On the Beach on the Sunday….we couldn’t miss HTN.

On the day the weather gods shone down and the balmy spring morning in Drinkwater Park bode well for the race. We set off along the stony packed trails en masse and soon the inevitable first single track up a steep hill showed the skills of the riders and started the process of stringing us out along the paths. The trails around the area are in good nick and the addition of lung busting short uphills and cheeky soft ground down hills meant some great head-over-the-handlebar moments, including a couple of my own.

A couple of sections though muddy grass immediately clung to my gears meant I lost my big ring pretty early on in the first lap, so I found myself on the granny spinning like a maniac to try and gain any speed on the flats and fast stone sections. Unperturbed I spun on over the berms, river crossings, hard packed singletrack and wider walking routes, and the glorious sunshine provided the warmest riding I have done this year…and a real necessity to take on fluids.

After three laps I was riding over a grassy hump hard and an almighty crack was heard. My saddle had taken a dive back off the seat post. It was still attached and neither I, nor Simon, who was marshaling could get it moved. With only 10-15mins left I had to abandon as I did not have the skill to do some of the more technical section with a saddle in an awkward place and only a granny ring. I was gutted. I wobbled on to the finish. With hindsight should have just lurked and then I’d have got a placing, however I passed over the finish line for a DNF. Ah well. It doesn’t detract from how much fun I had and what a great route Jase had set out. Always one of the best events out there, another roaring success.

Now onto to the third, Battle On the Beach.

We departed HTN before the mud had dried on our legs, dashed home and loaded up for the drive south. We got to Cardiff in a reasonable 4.5 hours and stayed with our mates, allowing for an early start on the Sunday morning for Pembrey Country Park.

The day was glorious again and the setting amazing, a dune park packed with colourful tents and bikes. We signed up and sorted ourselves ready for the off. I had only watched this race before so taking part was a whole new ball game. It starts on this glorious wide hard packed beach and heads down this for a couple of miles. With a continual head wind the key is to draft, not an issue when you’re back with the masses as I was.

Once I pushed through the soft stuff at the start…what an absolute blast. However the enjoyment was short lived when my saddle went again…by the time I had come off the beach and entered the off-road sandy track through the forest it was off-completely. As it was bottle neck I pushed through until I reached the alternative 3rd lap route to the pits..only a short 2 mile jog, in the heat, with bike shoes on, and I was back to the pits.

With no tools I messed about a bit and then realised I could take my daughter’s Frogbikes’ CX she had brought to mess around on. Ok, she’s only 11 and it was small but I’m hardly enormous, advantages to being vertically challenged. I headed off on my second lap adjusting the small frame and different gear shifters. Luckily I met Dan Treby and Jane Hardwick riding the awesome fat bike tandem onto the beach and they kindly offered to tow me. One thing more awesome than riding along that beach is riding along that beach sheltered by a bike beast ridden by two folk who know what they are doing. Added to that they were great for a gab too…totally made up for the fact I was on for another DNF. Back in the woods handling was hard and I came a cropper more than once, cracking my knee of a nearby tree stump but I was still glad to be out on the trail. I did OK really and did place…625 out of 800. Another excellently executed race and we finished the day paddling in the waves before loading again for the long drive home…a completely amazing weekend all in all.

Main photo courtesy of those lovely people at SportSunday Event Photography.