Wednesday 25 November 2015

Time to go racing.... Part 2

The hopes of better weather on Sunday morning turned out to be wishful thinking. After a night of disturbed sleep due to the at times violent shaking of the van by the wind, I emerged to low cloud, horizontal rain and wind that was still much stronger than I’d have liked. 

Yes the bike is tied to the van to stop it blowing over!

Bleak barely describes it!

I stuck on my waterproofs and grabbed my helmet and fired up the bike. It was a bit sluggish to spin over so I decided to kick start it and it fired up first kick. I rode up to scrutineering which was a formality. After catching up with a few friends and photographing my race times, I went back to the van for breakfast. I was off at 09.36 so had plenty of time.

Whilst sorting out the bike, filling the tank and attempting to write my times down on a bit of duct tape on the cockpit (but failing miserably due to the rain) I was informed that the start was now delayed for an hour and we would only do two laps instead of two and a half. The lap length had also been cut to about 35 miles instead of 45. After getting my riding kit on, I wandering up to the start to confirm this, I got a cup of tea from the burger van and eventually watched the first riders heading off at 10.00.

At least we got to start undercover

I walked back to the van to finish kitting up then rode back to the start, still with about 15 minutes to go before my (revised) start time….

Only to find the last few riders heading off!

It turned out they had abandoned start times and just let everyone head off as soon as they wanted! Oh well it was quite good fun working my way through the beginners, especially as this was the sighting lap so didn’t mind if I got held up. The lap was fairly familiar, with lots of bits from previous years plus a few new sections thrown in. The special tests in particular were all over fairly familiar ground. Noticeably we spent very little time up on the open hillside section above Sweet Lamb, so I guess this was where the lap was cut.

Conditions were not the worst I have ever ridden in but weren’t exactly pleasant, I was soon soaked through despite waterproofs but it wasn’t that cold which was a blessing. However seeing where I was going was another matter altogether. My goggles were OK at first but soon gave up the ghost and misted up. At each stop I attempted to dry them off but soon ran out of anything dry to do this with, so just adjusted my speed accordingly.

The lap ended without incident, so I rode to the van, had a quick bite to eat, filled the bike with fuel (I hadn’t used much) and put on some clean, dry goggles and dry gloves. I then rode straight back to the start and was flagged off straight away; clearly start times had been completely abandoned.

I was now much further up the field, so in amongst some very quick bikes. The first special test went OK without being passed and I could still see for most of it. About two thirds into the test, the goggles were misting up again but as this was mostly fire road I coped OK.

Special two was trickier as I was in amongst some very quick two strokes, so let a few go past me but didn’t seem to get unduly slowed. Then a fairly long liaison where vision was being seriously compromised, my goggles were misted and I’d managed to get mud on the inside whilst trying to clean them. I arrived at Special stage three and decided it would be safer to ride without them. However I was again followed by some very fast riders (running much lower numbers than me) so I decided to be polite and let them past but this time it seemed to cost me a lot more time.

I was glad to finish, knowing that I only had a few miles of liaison left, so got back in, stripped off my soaking kit and got warm dry clothing and waterproofs on. I then dismantled the fairing and navigation tower, shoved the bike in the van and after the obligatory egg, bacon and sausage roll, hit the road back home.

Traffic wasn’t good but a detour onto the M6 Toll avoid a big queue on the M6 and a diversion down the A5 skirted the heavily congested roadworks on the M1 and I eventually rolled in  at home about 7.30 that evening, with a mountain of cleaning to be done but a feeling of satisfaction having got round in one piece and staying on the bike throughout.

A few days later and the results were out….. 11th place in the Rally Class out of 11 entrants! Not too surprising given my eight month layoff from racing and the quality of the field was rather good. I was pleased to see that I had been faster than a couple of other riders in the first two stages but had dropped quite a bit of time in the third.

Oh well, next race looks like it will be in Portugal in March, so hopefully the weather will be better!

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