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...

1 comment:

Nick said...

We'll miss you and Anton :(