Friday, 9 August 2013

The Eliminator

Read this post in Gangsta, home boy!
**Warning: contains bad language**

I had been excited about this race ever since the seed of the idea had been mentioned on the Muckmedden website. The prospect of not only riding head to head with another rider on parallel trails but doing it through a barley field really floated my boat.

As the race date got closer, I began to scrutinise the photographs and videos on Facebook and wonder, was this really for me? It looks fine enough but what is the chance of me getting there and making a proper fool of myself? So, I hiked up the hill a couple of weeks before the race and sessioned the track. It was great; fast and flowy with enough in the woods to keep me on my toes. With the sun beating down on me, I set the second fastest time on Strava. Oh dear, I'd shown my cards too early!

Riding head-to-head with Rob over the top jump
Evidently the weather had remained kind and after pitching the tent on the Friday evening, we took a walk up the hill. A few changes had been made. A lovely jump had appeared giving a very smooth and fast route over the farmer's road and into the barley. The sketchy corner in the woods had been tidied up and ensured the fastest line over the kicker could be taken. It was, however, still a sketchy corner!

Reaching the top, my heart beat faster as I saw, what to me looked like a huge structure rearing over the hill, magnified by the hill's drop to the Tay. This was new. I wasn't sure if I was up for embarrassing myself in front of serious riders. After some practise runs off to the side I took the jump faster and faster and realised that it could be taken at full speed. I don't think I've spent that long in the air before!

Hitting the sketchy corner at speed

Racing head to head with Rob for qualifying times was fantastic. We seemed to be very similar and on the runs I completed, we were almost neck and neck. The problem was, there were far more runs that I didn't complete. My chain was bouncing off at every opportunity and with a worn middle chainring, it wasn't keen to go back on. This was really frustrating so I spent the following couple of hours bodging a quick fix. My chain wasn't going anywhere by the time I'd finished with it!

Family support
On Sunday it rained. It rained and rained and rained. The track was indistinguishable from the previous day's practise. What was worse was we were not going to get any further practise runs before eliminations began. This played on my mind as I was at the start line with my competitor who I had clocked as pretty confident. His confidence was not lacking at the start line - he was dressed as a rabbit, complete with ears! I had to push hard to chase the rabbit and once I slid out on the top stage I thought it was over. It was only once coming into the trees that I realised I could still catch him. So I pushed harder... into a tree. The first race was lost. If I lost the second, I was out.
Slippery conditions

Now, with a sense of the new conditions, I knew how hard to push it. I won all of my next races to the excitement of my family who new that I had promised to wear the Where's Wally onesie if I remained in the contest after lunch. Hearing the children shouting for Wally made this feel like real racing. Was I in Ft William? It felt like it!

The Where's Wally onesy comes out! Photo: Marek Styczen

Liv completed balance bike skills course while Beth won 1st
place in both skills course and xc children race (girls).
Before I knew it, I was in the uplift vehicle with 5 other riders. This was the final. 2 riders from each grouping. I was in group 2. I was in the final for group 2! All of a sudden it had got serious. I was tired and I knew I didn't have the power off the start. But for some reason I had been catching people before the first turn all day so as long as I took the inside line, I tended to get round folk. So this time I had a strategy. I stayed on his back wheel all down the first section, saving the legs. We shared the same line into the wooded section and I eased off slightly for fear of either of us sliding out. By the time I pumped down the last steep drop out of the woods I had given too much away. He was three or four bike lengths ahead. As he waved to spectators I put the power on. There was no way he was going to get away with that! I hit the road jump faster than I had at any other point that day, easily clearing the road diagonally and shooting me into the barley field and onto his tail. I was on his back wheel the whole way through except for the last turn when I hung wide and pedalled like mad. I was catching him. I could see that at this rate there was a very good chance I was going to pass him before the finish line. It was going to be so close... until disaster struck. With a slip of concentration I had drifter several inches to the left; enough for my handlebars to hit the barley. My speed was scrubbed instantly and any chance of taking the win was over. I would have been gutted but with not expectations and with that last race as the best and most exciting of the day, I couldn't stop grinning.

No grip but a soft landing. Barley field was one of the many highlights. Photo: Marek Styczen

The Muckmedden team really couldn't have got the event more right. Ok, there were teething problems with the format of the race and the weather could have been better but all of that paled into insignificance with the realisation that I was riding my bike all weekend, being supported by my family, my girls also being able to ride their bikes and compete and win prizes (which they did. Beth came 1st out of girls in xc race) and not only that but there were craft stalls, food stalls, movie screenings and local brew. I was in heaven! This must be an annual event from now on as it is worth every penny of the entrance fee. Well done and a huge thanks to the organisers and the other competitors who made it such a fun and friendly day.

My first ever podium place.


  1. So, so, so funny!!!! I honestly don't remember the chicken stalls or the porno screenings, but it certainly was a gangbangin' funked and thugged-out day.