Race Report: Elliot's Sponsored Cycle Ride
My name’s Elliot. I’m a Project Worker and Tutor at Upbeat Communities.
Many of you have been following my Strathpuffer bike ride, which took place at the weekend. I’m back (still in one piece) and here to tell you more…
Signing up way back in July seemed like a good idea at the time. Fast-forward half a year and it was not looking such a sensible choice.
Unsure of what the conditions would be like I gathered just about everything I could find. Soon after the growing piles of food, clothing and lights made it downstairs, Ben from the Cargo Bike Company arrived and loaded everything up into the van for the 450 mile drive to the event. Stopping once more to pick up Graham, we were off.
It was warm in the van for the next eight hours but increasingly cold outside.
None of us were especially keen to leap out of our sleeping bags in the morning. But when were out, we had a clearer view of the hundreds of other people who had come for the event and their tents, camper vans and shelters. We were so happy that we were not sleeping in a tent or a horse box like the guy next to us who had come down from Orkney.
Even the bike had a covering of ice, and that was before starting.
First job was registration in the big tent. There were pairs, quads, and I think teams of six. I was in the solo category and was given race number 25. After breakfast and a race briefing which no one could hear, we were off in a Le Mans style run to the bikes to begin riding. I noted the various patches of ice on the road in order to avoid them on the run up to the bike. I was very conscious that I didn’t want to fall over whilst running along on the flat.
Once on the bike, it was a case of pushing up the hill until the group thinned out enough to ride. That was when it became difficult. Slipping and sliding up to the more technical section, I struggled to stay on my feet. Almost at the end of the first lap, I came off on an icy downhill as did the two people following me! People were frequently coming off, wheels loosing traction with rocks, ice or even just the frozen soil.
(OK it doesn’t look cold and icy here at all: maybe I made it all up!)
Occasionally looking up from the trail I was able to see snow-covered mountains all around. As there were around one thousand entrants there were always others passing on the left or right, squeezing through whenever there was a gap (and sometimes when there wasn’t). Later, the procession of lights threaded their way through the blackness, which was an impressive sight.
Up the fire road, over a rocky section, through the woods, more rocks, swooping through the forest, a fast descent to the timing tent before starting all over again. As time went on I got to know the course and ride more sections. The fastest riders were completing laps in 39 minutes, which was many times faster than me. Over bridges, down rocks, through streams, riders flew past where I was struggling to walk the bike to keep upright.
Graham and Ben kept me going with food and encouragement. The temperature dropped to minus 5.4 degrees which made the riding/walking all the more treacherous. My aim changed from completing as many laps as possible to avoiding serious injury. Many riders had torn clothing from where they had come off and one of the leading riders needed several stitches.
Despite Ben’s great encouragement to do another lap I called it a day, enjoying a moment by the fire. Looking at the results the consolation is that I didn’t come last, just nearly last: 115 out of 123 in my category.
Many thanks to all who sponsored me. Thanks Kev for letting me borrow your lights. Thanks Jeff for building my wheels. Thanks Ben for mechanical support, Graham thanks for the chocolate and constant sausage rolls. Please stop me from signing up to do that again. What utter madness! When people say you can do anything I no longer believe them. Maybe I will ditch the bike and start making bread next weekend.
Although next year is a long way away, I was thinking I‘ve been round the course now. Perhaps - no, definitely - I need to work on not falling over both when walking and when riding the bike. Maybe another ice tyre... Surely it would be easier next year!
Ride in numbers:
450 miles to the event
216 metal studs in the ice tyre
104 WhatsApp messages received when back in range of internet signal
115th my result in the solo category
123 total number of participants in the solo category
97 minutes: my fastest lap
39 minutes: lap times of the speedy guys
25: my race number
Youngest participant: I’m not even going to tell you
4 sets of lights
2 people: Ben and Graham, support team
1 change of tyres
Minus 5.4 degrees: coldest temperature when I last looked
Money raised for Upbeat: ???