If you've read any of my posts over the last couple years, you probably know that 4hr races are not really my thing, but it's always fun to catch up with the MTB crowd and ride new and interesting trails....and lately it seems racing is the only MTB riding I've been able to do. I'd never ridden any of the trails at Adare before, partly because most of the opportunities to race there have been "sprint races", and because I thought it was further away, than it turned out to be. I only entered the race on the Thursday before the event, waiting to see what the likely weather conditions would be. The forecast was good, and with no real rain in the previous 2 weeks, I was hoping for a track in good condition. When I arrived at Adare, there were riders returning from test rides. The general consensus was that the track was in great condition, with just a few wet patches. Sounds perfect...
As soon as I got out of the car, I was hit with a wall of heat. It was going to be a hot one, not the conditions I have been riding in lately with all the rain and general lack of riding. My setup for the day was an esky with food and hydration sitting on the side of the tack. Waiting for the race start the temperature was climbing, and with little shade we were sweating just sitting around.
I was told at entry there were 6 or 7 rider in the Single Speed category, which was a reasonable field, but I had expected more in such a short race. I was hoping to start somewhere towards the front, but I couldn't get with in 30 riders of the front row, which isn't so surprising looking at the results which show that there were probably over 150 riders on the start line. I got away to a reasonable start and made up a few spots on the flat sections before the single track. The "Maze" section was tight and twisty, but most of all fun...and there was dust. It's been months since I last saw dust on local trails. Out of the Maze a short sharp descent then a grass section, followed by a reasonable climb that presented good passing opportunities for me. More fun single trail and a long off camber corner that took me 6 or so laps to perfect. Then came the climb that on a normal day would have been the iconic section of the course. Averaging 10%, but with sections approaching 30% and a killer switchback. From here it was down hill to what on the first couple of laps was a damp section, but still ride able. Another gentle climb and it back past the homestead, some flat single trail and back thought the start/finish chute. Before the race I'd been given some false info on how we were to go through the chute, and followed "Hubcap" out to the teams transition area. Lap 1 was complete in under 20mins. For me, short laps make for a mentally challenging course...it was going to be a long day.
Lap 2 was nearly as quick, but by lap 3 the track was deteriorating in the low area. By lap 4 it was an axle deep quagmire, and mud in the brakes sounded horrible. It started to feel like my rear brakes were stuck on for the uphills, and barely working on the downhills. Just before the 2 hour mark, I was starting to think about withdrawing from the race. I really didn't feel like replacing my brakes, and usually any stop in a race this short really compromises any sort of result. I think I was really feeling the heat, and in the end the thing that kept me going was the need to do some more MTB racing before the up coming 24hr. At this stage I was really just riding to consolidate my position in the SS category.
Somewhere early in the race I managed to get some scratches on my arm and with heat, they were stinging in a mix of mud, sweat and dirt. I was being very generous when letting other rider past, and each lap the mud hole got deeper and the hills got bigger. Looking at the track profile earlier in the week, it had looked harmless enough. LunarC was similar, and it was an 8hr race, so I figured I'd get away with similar gearing of 33/21. I probably didn't factor in the short length of the track meaning that the steep bits were coming around twice as often. I also hadn't factored in the heat or mud and the last couple of laps really hurt, and despite still being able to smash past most geared bikes on the bottom of main climb, I had to resort to walking the part leading up to the switchback. Getting back on to the bike was tough, and descent was not as much fun as it might have been with my brakes only just doing their job and knowing that at the bottom was that horrible mud pit.
I crossed for the 2nd last lap with about 15 minutes to, and for the first time I was glad it was a short lap, but with a little bit of extra energy knowing it was the last time to wade through the mud, I was off. Imagining every rider coming from behind as an SS competitor, I pushed as hard as I could. I finished with 11 laps in a time of 4hrs 14mins covering 57.4K. I didn't see another single speeder once we left the start line, so I had no idea if I was first or last. In the end there were only 4 riders in SS, and I managed to finish in 1st place, and about 15th overall. So, my first time at Adare was a success, albeit a very hard race in trying conditions, on what was a tough SS course with some steep stuff and a fair bit of flat that would have been fun to smash in a bigger gear. Congrats to everyone that got out there and gave it a go, thanks to the volunteers and organisers on a well run event. Thanks John P for the fantastic venue, I can't wait to ride it in the dry.