From what I had read before the event, the Cannock Chase Winter Classic race seemed like the ideal introduction to endurance racing on the mountain bike. For me, the attraction was the fact they have a whole range of categories from beginner to pro. Being new to this style of race, but confident on the bike, I went for the ‘fun’ category – as that was just what I was looking for!
So Saturday morning I packed up the bike and set off. After some deliberation, I decided to opt for the hardtail as I reckoned I was slightly faster on the climbs and flat sections on it. An hour or so later and some directions (thanks to the guy who showed me where registration was!) I was there and pretty excited. Things all looked busy with bikers zooming past mid lap, other riders keenly prepping their rides and supporters cheering everyone one – all in all, it all made for a great atmosphere!
Registration and number sorted I popped back to the car to get everything I needed for the race – as well as have the standard lycra vs. baggy debate on what to wear! Now this decision may have taken a tad too long… as before I knew it I had about ten mins before the start of the race. Quickly I grabbed my track pump to do my tyres – and to my horror, as I took the pump off my front tyre, the entire valve came with it… Crap! Weirdly enough the tyre was not going flat or losing air… I can only think this is because some of the sealant was blocking the valve (tubeless). With very little time I made the risky decision to chance it and just pray that it didn’t deflate mid ride!
Crisis narrowly avoided and fingers crossed I headed to the start. Being someone who loves to chat I was pleased to find everyone was very friendly and it was great to see a good turnout of female bikers. Soon after a quick safety and etiquette briefing we were off – released a minute after the ‘Fun Men’. Now my only criticism of the whole day is that I think there needed to be a bit more of a gap between the two groups. As a somewhat competitive woman (read very) of course I was aiming to prove the start marshal wrong and overtake as many men as I could, rather than be overtaken by them… unfortunately, the proximity of the groups meant that this resulted in a bit of a bottleneck at the start.
Luckily things soon spread out, and I was able to get into the swing of things! The course was made up of some lovely flowing singletrack through the woods with some nice little climbs and drops, and a lot of slippy mud and roots – it was great fun! My first thoughts were – this is a faster pace than I usually go! Although I love going quick I am totally not used to going flat out for any length of time. Instead, I am normally out over much longer distances but slower – but this approach was so much fun, and by the end of the first lap, I was hooked!
The faster pace certainly brought out my competitive side, and after doing a lot of the longer endurance races where you are far more spread out, having the field closer together certainly pushed me on. I was also pleased to see that my skills sessions at Parkwood Springs back home have been paying off – it’s not quite as fun as heading out in the Peaks, but it’s clearly proving to be really worthwhile. I came into the finish in 8th place, which for my first time I was pretty pleased with.
All in all, it was an absolutely great day, very well organised and friendly. Thanks to everyone who put it on – I will certainly be back to another of these events – be that after a bit of speed training first!