My last memory of Catton Hall was rolling around in a tent with cramp in agony in the middle of the night. Having just completed a double lap to take one for the team expecting a heroes welcome back in the pits I was somewhat disappointed to be left with a tumble weed return as my 24 hour team mates had all gone to bed! The fact that I had just walked/ dragged my completely clogged bike round a second lap 5 minutes in to which my lights ran out only added insult to injury. Needless to say it took me a number of years to even consider another team mountain bike event!
Times change though and fortunately so had the weather conditions for my return to Catton for Singletrack7. Coach Jon said ‘ride at 24 hour pace’ for 7 hours which was actually pretty tricky once you get caught up in the excitement of foam parties and beer shortcuts involved at the event!
Myself and mate Chris had an early start on what would be a day of five hours of driving and seven racing. All in the name of getting comfortable on my new bike and testing the legs ahead of the World 24 Hour Champs in a few weeks time. There was a decent even area and a quick lap of the course revealed a short lap with a few decent singletrack bits but way too much grassy lumpy fields for my liking. Thank God is wasn’t wet otherwise it would have turned to mush. The sun was out which made for a fast course with lap times getting down towards 20 minutes at their quickest.
The event organisers had definitely tried to emphasise the fun in this one although for lycra clad folk like me the mass of foam you had to ride through chest deep was a bit annoying when followed by riding singletrack sections with soapy rotors! There was a spiral of some sort that you had to ride around which although intended as fun was essentially just riding round in a grassy circle. I saw a few people smash themselves on some other enforced fun features like a rad 3 inch high jump (see video for my now much acclaimed attempt…). The foam and some of the features eventually fell apart or were removed and people came a cropper. The beer shortcut remained throughout where you could save a few seconds if you took a cup of beer. I obviously rode around not least as I was driving straight back home afterwards. One chap I was riding with for a while did seem to have a questionable policy of riding through taking no more than half a sip to save a bit of time!
The categories for a change were mercifully slim with just solo and pairs on offer with gender splits rather than the 34-39 singlespeed vet, semi fat team of 8 level of category that seem to have appeared more of late (is it getting a bit like triathlon out there?). From the off it was easy to tell pairs who had an orange wrist band but there was also a decent entry numbers and some quick boys around the solo males that myself and Chris had entered. I went off a bit fast caught up with the excitement and then battled mentally with myself to try and stick on message and not overdo the pace. I was around 3rd/4th I think for the first few hours before Chris, who got a bit caught up at the start, came past. At that point there was a massive temptation to tag on his wheel which would have been fun but I reigned it in. Fellow 24 worlds traveller Carwyn was off near the front with a young lad with fluoro socks and another 24 hour rider Nick Glassey holding a solid 3rd towards the back end of the race.
There was no way of knowing where you were in the event which I guess for most didn’t matter anyway but chip timing would have been helpful, particularly at the end where those on the podium didn’t actually know where they had finished in the main. Carwyn pulled out a quick last lap to catch the young fluoro sock lad in first to take the win. I used the last couple of laps as a warm down and pulled in to the beer lane to let the clock tick down so I didn’t have to go out and do another lap. My Garmin had died by that point anyway so that obviously meant an additional lap would be pointless. I still finished in 6th and lap times were on point when the effort was being put in which was good. Ice creams all round afterwards in the sun before heading back down south. Bike, kit and eating fine tuned, job done.