Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ten Under the Ben Race On One Scandal

10 Under the Ben

Left Hayfield at 8:30 am on Friday for the long drive up to Fort William. I'd arranged to meet a fellow competitor, Don 'mid afternoon' for a ride around Saturday's "Ten under the Ben" race route. Traffic was slow, and I eventually arrived some 7 hours later. Don and his pals were ready to go, so within five minutes of arriving I had my bike out of the van, a few gels in my pocket, and we were riding down the first hill.

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The weather was hot, probably 23 degrees C, yet within minutes stream fed muddy puddles cooled my toes atleast. Firetrack followed, first flat, vaguely downhill, then the climbing began. The lightweight Scandal accelerated quickly up the first hill, riding out of the saddle from the start and leaving the geared chappies behind. It wasn't a race today, just the nature of the machine, one fixed gear that gives lets say a power band of 6-25 mph, and I couldn't resist opening the throttle just a little bit.

We regrouped at the top then ambled down the first hill. Pleasant singletrack leading onto a fireroad descent, some more up and down, then the steep hill, all but the last 5 metres rideable today. I now knew I had the wrong gear that is too small a rear sprocket. Whilst I was fairly effortlessly popping up the hills today, I knew that after 50 miles these hills would really hurt tomorrow. A swift fire road descent, a short climb, then the fun begins.

The first descent. All rocks, roots, tight loose bends, smooth berms, and oh yes the Scandal was in it's element. Weight just far enough back whilst on or hovering over the saddle, that a flick of the wrist lifted the front wheel over the larger rocky obstacles, while the 29er wheels rolled over the smaller. The short wheelbase made easy work of the tight switchbacks.

Soon after the second descent, and more of the same swoopy then tight bends, plus a couple of real technical bits that this bike with rigid carbon forks had no right getting through. Apart from river crossings and a section that was like riding along a wall made of boulders the rest was uneventful.

A bit of bike fettling on my return, but I could not find the 19t (to replace the 18T) sprocket, but swapped the rear Halo Choirmaster 29er for the Kenda Small Block 8, too allow a bit more drift, and save a touch of weight.

Race Day.

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I started towards the back of the field. It's good to pass people rather than be passed early in the race, it builds confidence. My race plan was to stop only to get water and food, no sitting down, and a target of 8 laps (80-90) miles.

Another good thing about riding from the back is you don't get involved in silly crashes. My camping neighbour and, fellow competitor Graham was knocked of by some racer wannabe on his first lap, sadly the end of his race.

The weather was crazy 25 Celsius and you could see Ben Nevis, I drank loads of water.

As each lap passed I was learning more about the bike. You could climb mid gradients seated with hands towards the centre of the bar in comfort, and obviously using another part of ones tiring leg muscles, maybe I learned this as I was overgeared.

An upside descending was becoming faster and faster, and more and more fun. Locking the rear and just drifting round the middle third of the corner, before stomping on the pedals and accelerating towards the next bend, no frame flex here. No one beat me down the technical descents.

The 5th lap, and tragedy struck. After exiting a bombhole, maybe a little too fast I landed on the back of the saddle, only for the front to head skywards. Mangled seatrails, and now looking like a BMX saddle, it either made me slide off the back of the saddle, or riding on the pedals.

Back at transition I swapped over to my full susser.

The Scandal prototype will be back to race another day.

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Scandal at the end.

I finshed 10th Vet with 8 laps, which I'm rather pleased with.

Thanks to Cameron and Graham for keeping my water bottle filled at the transitions.

Full results here

Sorry the pics aren't better but I was knackered


At 7:12 am, Anonymous TimK said...

Sounds like a good outing for the scandal Rich and your right, it will be raced another day. Hopefully by me in 2 weeks at Mayhem. So what gear do you recommend for SS rather than fixie? i usually ride 32:18 on the 26er inbred, i was thinking something like 34:20?

At 7:49 am, Blogger Richard said...

34:19 would be your closest, which is what I would have run if I had a 19 in my box. We'll see about MM, I may still get an entry, though your welcome to borrow it sometime.

At 6:27 pm, Anonymous Jase said...

"It's good to pass people rather than be passed early in the race, it builds confidence"

you're not wrong there. It doesn't work on Merida events though where there's always a traffic jam to rival the M25.

Top effort mate.

At 9:24 am, Blogger Steve said...

Good effort there Rich. 80 miles offroad is good going in anyone's book. 10/12 hour events are nice - doable without being too space-cadety :)


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