Saturday, 30 August 2008

A Nice Cup of Tea

That's the first thing I have when I get back from holiday. Not very exciting, but a necessary evil when you've been drinking coffee in California for 10 days.

So my holiday to the SingleSpeed World Champs in Napa California was great fun - great friends, great wine, great conversation, great laughs, great beer, great whisky sour, great trails, great weather and the most amazing food I have ever, ever eaten!

I'll write more and put some pictures up on my adventures page when I get some more time. Due to flight delays and time differences it was a full 28 hours between leaving San Jose aeroport and arriving home Friday afternoon. A 4.30am start this morning has plunged my body clock into meltdown.

For now, just to show you how awful the weather was so you're not too jealous, here's a picture of us riding in Wilder Ranch, Santa Cruz on Tuesday.
Santa Cruz riders
That's Chris's backside, Jessica, Laura Bontrager, me and Raquel.

You see, the sun was so bright we could barely see the Pacific ocean in the background because of the glare! It was so hot I kept having to stop to reapply factor 30 sunscreen, and the dust was really getting in my throat as well. Damn NorCal trails...

Monday, 11 August 2008

Not in the Saddle, Just Sleepless

And so Endura Sleepless in the Saddle is wrapped up for another year and it also marks the end of my trail crew duties for 2008. Sadly it also marks the end of an era for our regular and most experienced endurance Commissaire, Anton Florek.

Anton has been working with Pat Adams from the very start of 24 hour racing so knows more about the sport than most people. He's been fantastic to work with over the years and everybody has learnt a lot from him, especially me. It's an absolute pleasure to work with somebody who is so passionate and insightful about your sport without the slightest hint of arrogance. He'll be missed by all of us.

Obviously with this being Anton's last event, it was going to be the most eventful. The weekend threw everything at us! The weather was atrocious, again, and there were other totally random hiccups occurring. (I won't go into some of them here, they're those secret little problems that most people at these events don't know about, mainly because the organisers don't want people to know about them, so I'm not going broadcast it here.) But it basically meant the trail crew spent the whole of Saturday running from one problem to the next.

The main problem was the rain. It started raining Saturday morning, it rained for most of the morning. The course turned to wet slop and riders were coming back a consistent shade of brown but still riding their mud spattered bike. Then it stopped raining and the course started to dry out. This turned it into a 7 mile death march slog that many were comparing to conditions of the Somme. I don't blame them. I saw the bikes as they crossed the timing mats: I saw the now 4 inch wide muddy tyres that weren't turning; I saw the dangling rear mechs and a lack of chains; I saw blocks of mud where chainrings should be; I saw the tears of riders who had just slipped, trudged and battled their way around the treacle filled course dragging their broken, heavy, mud covered bikes. It didn't look fun. In fact, it was bloody miserable.

Just as the course started to dry out enough to be rideable, it rained again. More hassles and problems to sort. Some 'course grooming' as we call it to try and re-route some of the more problematic areas. It had been a tough day for all of us, it was getting dark and we weren't even a third of the way through. It was going to be a long weekend. The rain stopped, the mud got stickier. It rained again, the ruts got deeper. (Repeat this pattern throughout the night.)

Still, no matter how bad things got, some people seemed to be enjoying themselves. Some people actually found it all really good fun and very amusing, a real test of endurance. Each to their own I suppose...

I managed to get a couple of hours interupted sleep around 2am but was still answering the calls of the Marshalls from my tent. Sunday was a lot quieter and just involved the usual finish duties and tear down at the end. It had been a very hard weekend - Friday had been very hard work doing the course preparation, Saturday was out to prove Murphy's Law and by Sunday I'd really had enough. The things you do for the love of mountain biking...

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Urban Cycling Stories

I caught an episode of The Montel Williams Show this morning, (an American chat show on ITV3 for the majority who have probably never heard of it - and it's my job to watch it ok!) and as a picture of two women on mountain bikes was shown, I turned the sound up. We went into the commercial break and I noticed the theme of the show was "When Animals Attack", hmmm, this could be interesting.

When I first went out to ride in California I heard a horrific story about a mountain lion that had attacked some cyclists on the trail - this couldn't be the same story could it?

Back to the show and Montel was talking to Anne. She'd been out riding with her friend Debbie one day on their local trails somewhere in America. Anne had ridden ahead slightly and came across a man who had stopped in an inconvenient place on the trail and was holding a second bike. He asked Anne if she knew whose bike it was because he'd just found it lying by the side of the trail. Anne thought he was joking and that his mate must be somewhere in the bushes answering a call of nature, and rode on.

A hundred yards on, just around the next corner, a 120lb mountain lion pounced on the back of Anne and bit down on her head and cycling helmet, dragging her to the floor. The cat was constantly readjusting its grip and grabbed onto Anne's cheek, tearing it partially off. At this point Debbie came around the corner and heard her friend's screams. A 'tug-of-war' ensued, as they described it, with the lion trying to drag Anne down into the gorge by her face, and Debbie desperately clinging onto her legs! Some more people came to help and threw whatever they could find at the cat to get it to let go. Finally it did, and ran off.

Anne was air lifted to hospital, and as the helicopter took off the pilot spotted another body, the owner of the abandoned bike. The mountain lion was hunted down that night and shot, only to find that it had attacked and killed the other rider, Mark Reynolds, earlier on that morning before the attack on Anne.

It's easy to forget just how easy we have it riding bikes in the UK sometimes; apart from our own stupidity and maybe the odd nutter, there's nothing we really have to worry about. I often pop out for a ride, especially in the summer, in shorts and t-shirt with just a water bottle and a basic tool kit safe in the knowledge that my life isn't in danger.

I'm sure this complacency will bite me in the arse one day. It's come close a few times (especially the Downieville incident a few years ago!) and for a while I will make sure I take food, a long sleeve top, first aid kit, space blanket and other sundry essentials with me on every ride. A dozen rides later and I'm back to the minimum.

I'm heading out to California again in a few weeks so this was a poignant reminder to retrieve a few survival essentials from my winter walking rucksack and throw them in my Camelbak. You never know what might happen...