Tuesday 25 October 2016

But what about the racing?

Given that this blog was intended to showcase my rallying efforts, these have been largely absent from my life in recent months. The Rally bike is currently undergoing a partial rebuild following the Ryedale Rally in July but this may morph into a more major winter rebuild so effectively that’s it for rallying this year!

So how did the Ryedale go?

This was the first time I had used the new VW Transporter for a rally and was pleased that the Rally bike slotted in a lot easier than the old Mercedes. As I didn’t need the road book holder for this rally, I simply had to remove the fairing for it to fit. No need to unbolt the navigation tower as I had to with the Vito, those extra few centimetres of height make a huge difference!

Unable to get the Friday off work, I loaded up the bike the evening before and started work early so I was able to head off straight from Northampton at 4.00pm with the aim of arriving by 7.30pm if I had no delays.

The journey went fairly smoothly and arrived shortly before 8.00pm only to be told the camping field was too wet and I was directed to a campsite in the village directly opposite. Well the entrance was directly opposite but the campsite was a mile down a wet, muddy, pot-holed lane! I was directed into a field on the right as I was “less likely to get stuck”….. wrong!

Having identified a good spot to camp beside the firm gravel track, I attempted to turn round to park in it and promptly got stuck! Oh well at least it was relatively flat, so I unloaded the bike, locked it up and headed back to the Goathland Hotel aka The Aidensfield Arms.

Only to discover they were no longer serving food! None too happy I bought a load of crisps and settled in for a beer. Shortly afterwards a friend Tim turned up having also driven up from Northamptonshire, so we settled in for the evening and a beer or two, or three. Perhaps not the greatest preparation but what the hell!

The next morning dawned dry and thankfully hangover free, so preparations were made and racing commenced. It was a lap of most of the usual Ryedale stuff, with the usual variations on direction etc. and an occasional new section thrown in. The rain in previous days was making itself felt, with lots of very boggy terrain. I got round most of the first lap without mishap but on the last fire road section whilst riding with Rob and Andrew, following Burt, we hit a section of big loose rocks and the three of us behind got a shower of rocks. I was at the back so came off worse; one hit the end of my finger convincing me at the time that I had broken it! One also smashed the peak on my helmet so I had to ride in peering through the remains!

A rapid repair with parcel tape (all the marshals could find), a refuel and I was off on lap two of three. The next two laps were largely uneventful apart from losing the air box cover and my number plate on the last lap and I eventually rolled back in to Goathland.

The bike got checked over, I changed the (very) muddy air filter and fashioned a new cover out of a piece of foam sleeping mat and gaffa tape, made a new number plate out of gaffa tape and a sharpie. Repaired my crash helmet with yet more gaffa tape, replaced brake pads (the Ryedale is notorious for the very abrasive mud) and did a few other jobs. The finger turned out not to be broken but still hurt like hell, had bled copiously and it looked a foregone conclusion I would lose the nail.

The camping field had also dried up considerably so with a hand from a few of the guys I managed to extricate the van and parking on a hard area.

I also helped out a fellow competitor by selling him some spare brake pads I had and after a clean up and a change of clothes, headed off to the pub. This time I was early enough for dinner!

The next day was thankfully dry again but that is more than could be said for the course. Lap one of three was a bog fest, which saw me falling off several times and I was really not enjoying it. On lap two, I got round to the special stage but once again was struggling all the way, again falling and getting stuck in ruts. In the end I realised I just wasn’t enjoying myself and as this was likely to be my only UK rally in 2016, there was no need to chase points. So I decided to call it a day realising that if I extricated the bike onto a fire road about 10 metres to my right I could ride along it for a few hundred metres to the checkpoint at the end of the stage. I declared my DNF and then rode back to the start with some of the marshals, then back to the van for an early drive home.

It’s not in my nature to pull out of a race early but it was clear my fitness was not up to scratch and the bike was starting to disintegrate around me, hence the reason for the current rebuild!

I could have entered the Hafren in November but as I have nothing to prove in the All Terrain Rally Championship, I have decided to get the bike good and ready for the Tour of Portugal in March next year

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