Relentless always reminds me of a favourite music album that never gets boring. Yeah sure there might be some tracks that sometimes feel like album fillers. But when the whole album is played from start to finish you can’t help yourself falling in love with the evergreen repeated songs. You immerse your body and soul in the tracks as you would the trail. Overplayed special songs that tug the mind and the heart strings. The tracks raise the heart level and lift you up and sweep you away. For me that is what Relentless has always been about. Trusted slabs of 180 gram vinyl spinning away in the night. The Relentless DJ crossfading and finger f**king the beats and rhythms of the pain encrusted riders. Watching them go around and around like the vinyl. The circular motion of legs matching the DJ’s beat juggling. Hour after hour the beat is on repeat. It fornicates a dirty little bassline that grumbles deep into the dark woods, shaking the roots and rocks with its leery upstart attitude which shows no stopping. It just hollows into the night and soul of all things living. It breathes.
This year’s Relentless was paired once again with the UK 24hr Solo MTB Championships and sadly the last Relentless for a while. As usual I lined up with limited expectations. I always do. I race for fun, enjoyment and to keep my mind positive with aims throughout the year. I race to finish and if the quest fails I move on to the next one. No dramas just positive learning curves that I can develop when it all goes Pete Tong. So as the DJ started his set and the crowd of believers matched his spinning vinyl with their legs and nodding heads I started to play my albums back to back and waited to see if the needle would either come off the groove in a spectacular scratch fail or sit comfortably numb in the vinyl sweetly kissing the worn tracks.
For me the first 6 hours of a 24hr race is the worst. I could easily just take the nearest short cut to a pub, order 10 pints and pay the bill with the currency of my bike. I get bored. Not too sure why but these early hours are my album fillers. You know the tracks that you skip when playing tunes in your car. But as the daylight is softly seduced by a dark, heavy clinging cloak of night fever the sky opens up into a huge disco ball. The stars twinkle and wink with the robotic beat of my cranks. They flash in sequence with my human beat. Rider’s lights become reaching out strobe lights which pierce the still air. I am now in the mix. I am the resurrection.
As the night train keeps engaged and at full steam my head becomes tired but surprisingly my legs don’t. I yearn for a chink of light, a carved out silhouette of the tree line, a diluting of colours that signals the weakening of the grip the night has had on me. Morning comes as the fragile mind becomes one and whole again. I breathe in the victory of defeating the night struggle as daylight smothers the mountain side.
As I end this epic battle with myself and Relentless the realisation of a podium place becomes true. My pit has been working day and night to keep me on track and fighting fit. I finish with a smile and weary legs that could go on. But my head is minced and I am yearning for some sleep. After 243km, riding for 21.27hrs, climbing for 6751m and 21 laps I had squeezed myself onto the podium for a 3rd place in the Vet’s category. I was 14th overall which I am happy with but as with all the races I do there is improvement to be had and implemented. On to the next one with wheels of steel.
As always I would like to thank my wife Lisa who keeps the passion lit and the story continually on the go. She is my rock & roll star. Also to pit Queen Mel who gathers no moss like a rolling stone. Budge the bossman daddy and everyone who helps and rides for Team JMC.