Mountain Bike Club Cork pulled off a great event in Ballyhoura in the form of the Irish National Mountainbike XC Marathon Championships. It was a calm, bright, but crisp cool 26 September that presented itself for the occasion. A 63km course, including 1560m altitude gain awaited the racers. Mike Jordan, mountain bike legend from the institution that is The Cycle Inn, provided team transport. Sign on, preparation, 11 o’clock roll out.
The first long opening fire road climb immediately forced a selection. Over the hill and down the far side, about half way down, I passed an unlucky rider lying in the ditch clutching a shoulder, one of the races two casualties with a collarbone fracture. The second casualty was to suffer a broken leg. While I did not suffer any injuries, my back tyre took more more than it could handle as I hammered down a steep rocky descent, resulting in a puncture. I attempted to re inflate the tubeless tyre, but due to some mud stuck inside the rim, the seal didn’t hold. Time for plan B: Convert to tube set-up. Easy I thought to myself and whipped out a tube for the job, only to realise that what was written on the box, did not correspond to the tube inside! I walked to the next marshal point and luck swung back in my favour: The marshal had one last tube which he kindly gave me. Finally got the tyre back on, inflated it and was off again, but paid with a 40mins penalty for my unscheduled stop.
At this stage I was the lanterne rouge and due to the time loss had lost any motivation to fight on, since being realistic, it would not have amounted to much. Nevertheless, I decided to enjoy the day for the ride that was in it, so continued to ride at a steady, yet not too strenuous pace. After a few hours, as I neared the finishing kilometres, it occurred to me that there were no more course markings. Not great form, clearing the course markers before the participants are finished, but I managed to find my way back to the finish nonetheless, or should I say where the finish had once been!
Mike had finished about two hours before, having stormed around with the top guys and was worried sick after hearing about the two casualties, thinking I may have been one of them, with every minute I remained absent. I even missed the prize presentation where Ryan Sherlock was crowned National Champion with Kate Elliot receiving the women’s title. While I didn’t end up finishing last, making back a handful of places along the way, I can’t boast about it being my most memorable ‘race’. When deducting my 40mins puncture repair from my finishing time, it placed me firmly where I would have liked to have finished. Moral of the story: If you want to do well, stick with what you’re best at, in my case shorter distances and make it all down hill while you’re at it!