The siren sounds dead-on 12 noon and almost 1000 riders set-off running across the soft sand as quickly as we can, avoiding the fallen. Jumping on to our bikes as soon as we hit the hard packed sand.
And properly off it was. A full-on gale blowing us right down the beach at stupid speeds, 30mph plus. Cadence craziness with everyone running out of gears. Just brilliant. Until the guy next to me losses control and down he goes, immediately hit by several other riders who had no chance of avoiding him (heard later their races ended there but glad to hear that they were OK following a trip to casualty). Giddiness is immediately replaced by focus, so I ride further out and away from other riders, no need for a draft with this wind. Couldn’t help look behind me though at the amazing sight of so many riders stretched across the beach, flying along. And couldn’t help but marvel at the ability of the those that were already disappearing into the distance after less than a mile. Stunning.
Within no time we had hit the end of the beach and rode/ran over the soft sand to start the return section through the dunes and trees. This bit is also brilliant. Not much in the way of climbs apart from a few short sharp ones you may have to queue for on the first lap if you haven’t got far enough up the field on your first run down the beach. I queued.
The choice of bike for this race is an interesting one. A CX bike (my choice for last year and this) is great on the beach with bigger gearing and a more aerodynamic riding position, but not as good as a hardtail MTB on the return section. The result is you end up swapping places with people as you reach a section where your bike is more appropriate than theirs. All part of the fun.
10k of swoopiness and we are back at the beach for lap 2 of 3. Another beach blast and chance to grab a drink and pass some MTBs before they storm pass me through the return section.
The return for lap 3 takes a slightly different route to help the faster riders avoid those on their 2nd laps. No such problems for me. In fact the race passed without much drama. Only one crash at slow speed when I attempted to ride rather than run a sandy climb. Wouldn’t have been a problem if it wasn’t for a strategically tree stump that caught me an absolute cracker.
Finish line crossed in 1 hour and 40 minutes – just as the heavens opened and drenched us all.
Hard to compare the performance to the previous years 1 hour 59 minutes as the route had changed a bit, but chuffed to move up to 30th out of 103 in my age category and 211th overall. An average heart-rate of 167bpm and a peak of 177bpm for a 53 year old suggests I gave it everything.
I can’t recommend Battle on the Beach enough. It is something really different, a brilliantly organised blast. Do it. You won’t be disappointed.