Mike Simpson

Im banning any more late night races in faraway places

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I think I can change her mind but that was Davina’s response after last weekend’s races. A Saturday evening race in south east London then a Sunday morning race south of Oxford . What made this combination difficult was the wet, muddy and dark conditions of the first race, meaning that bikes and kit would have to be cleaned and dried late into the evening.

The Muddy Hell event was superb, such a great course it had just about everything; steps, banks, hurdles, sandpit, bridge, tarmac, track, drops, wall of death, table top jumps, lots of mud, heavy rain and of course racing in the dark! However things started to go a bit wrong halfway round the first lap.In third place tucked in behind the 2 leaders, I crashed while overtaking a junior (whose race had started 1 minute in front of us), I fell hard and hit my head. I got going again but had lost a few places. My next mistake cost me another few places as I missed a turn and ploughed through the course fence, going off course into the field. Just past the pits and things got worse as I punctured. In cyclocross you can’t turn round you have to carry on in the same direction all the way to the pits, which in this case was almost a full lap of running with the bike on my back. At this point I was considering  pulling out. I was weighing up the cost and damage to my legs (as I was racing again in the morning). I used to be quite good at running but I knew that carrying the bike and running in cycling shoes would mean sore shins and calves tomorrow. But we had come a long way and I was already covered in mud that the clean up alone would take hours, so I decided to finish it off. After running a lap I was almost at the back of the field. Into the pits and Davina had my spare bike ready but the change wasn't super quick as I had to transfer the light to the other bike. Up and pedaling again I had a lot of riders (including lapped riders) to get through. The jumps and obstacles were tricky but entertaining. The onlookers had a great view as the hurdle section went through the beer tent. I finish in eighth place, happy with that considering the issues I had. The atmosphere at the venue was great but we had to get home to clean the bikes so there was just time for a quick hot chocolate with chilli (very nice) before we were on the road again.

Passing through Putney and Barnes there were lots of revellers out celebrating Halloween. I went into a mini mart to get some dinner. I walk in and the shop is full of people in Halloween costumes, but oddly I still get some funny looks. I guess it was the compression tights and the fact that my face and hair were caked in mud. I queue up behind what I think is a small child in a witches costume (complete with hunchback). Then, almost like the final scene from the 70s horror film ‘Don’t Look Now’, the figure turns around to reveal that it is in fact an incredibly old woman. Despite the shop being full of people in all sorts of vampires/ghouls outfits, my muddy, gangly appearance is the thing that makes her jump out of her skin as she turns round. I apologise (don’t know what for!) and make sure she’s alright as she staggers out of the shop with what appears to be an ever increasing hunch.

Back to Marlow and we spent the next two hours cleaning the bikes and drying kit, finishing at midnight.  A shower and some more food and it’s time to grab some sleep. The clocks go back tonight at 2am and I lay down at 1am trying to decide what time it actually is / whether my phone will auto update itself / what time do I set my alarm? To tired to think I decide, in a moment of stupidity, that it would be safer to stay up until 2am to find out! Now my legs are screaming at me from the exertions of the race. I think I finally get to sleep at 3am.

The 7am alarm hurts, but it was straight into the routine of tea and porridge before jumping into the van again. The course at Harwell, Oxford had a very steep section.  I recall from last year it was just about rideable so I remembered to swap my inner ring (stop it) from a 38 to a 34 tooth. I felt rubbish warming up but once the race started I actually felt fine. A drier course was a blessing after last night and I was more than happy to finish in second place. I slump in a chair at the prize giving. Usually I would go and watch the other races but this chair was comfy and right near to a table full of cake…..I’m going nowhere.

A while later we are back in the van on the motorway, I start a yawning fit that lasts most of the way home and Davina is complaining of being incredibly tired and she says ‘’I’m banning any more late night races in faraway places’’........Yes, yes sweetie whatever you say……(she’ll forget saying that in a few days)



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