The annual Runners versus Riders race is 10 miles of lung-bursting strength sapping agony. It’ll be my first race in over three years, I’ve trained hard and I want to do well.
Warming up before the start I’m a little nervous. This manifests itself in the form of phantom pees, almost as soon as I’ve put me willy away I wanna go again. This is normal, and a good sign. Also warming up are Doc, he looks fit and purposeful. Gary, he always looks fit, has won before, and in my mind is the man to beat. Marcus is here, he only shows if he has some form, and he’s a past winner.
As we sit on the start line there’s a young whippet on a Litespeed titanium with trick bits next to me. Someone is telling him that he’ll go well and will win! We’re off!!! I jump into second place on the tarmac so as to keep out of trouble but take some shelter. We start the climb accross the field towards the forest. The ground is very soft, like riding with flat tyres in porridge. Dave Price (Pricer) puts in a stinging attack, and Gary goes after him. There’s no way I can match that.
We cross the road into the forest, I’m in third place. Litespeed lad comes past me and opens up a gap. The climb through the forest is a tough one, Gary has caught Pricer and is almost out of sight. Down the ramp and onto the fire road. The gradient eases slightly, more my sort of climb. I clang down the block a couple of gears and mash on. Litespeed lad comes back to me in no time, I slow for a second behind him then lift it past him to deter him from hanging on. I catch Pricer just before the singletrack at the bottom of Chemical Bank. I scramble past trying to look smooth and strong.
Onto Chemical Bank now. A 5 minute stagger up an impossibly steep hillside with bike on shoulder. I can see Gary up ahead, and I’m hoping I won’t lose too much ground on him. I can hear riders behind gaining on me, but I don’t look back. As we crest the climb Dr Rob comes past, he’s going well, I try to hang onto him.
Into the muddy trail that winds along the top before diving down toward the next road crossing. Dr Rob is flying. Round a sharp corner, and there is Gary stopped by the side of the trail pulling brambles out of his block. Dr Rob takes the lead, but he doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. Being the ‘gent’ that he is I’m guessing that he’s easing a little to give Gary a chance to get back in. I pass him as I want to capitalise on our good fortune.
Down across the road and into the steep gulley that leads to the pipetrack. There’s a rider pushing hard from behind, I hope he doesn’t push me off. In a gnashing of brakes, gears, rocks and mud we spill out onto the pipetrack and a rider on a full-sus wearing Climb-On kit comes through (Jon). I chase after him, he looks very fit, he’s strong. From time to time his rear wheel slips under the power from his legs.
I manage to get back past him, and work hard to try and gap him. Each time there is a climb I give it my all hoping that his heavier full-suss will sap his will. The gap between us yo-yos from 10 to 30 seconds. I can’t desend like I used to and I know that I must have a good buffer if I’m to hold him off on the descent from High Vinnals.
Racing down from Monstay to Vinnals car park like a man possesed I still have a good lead. On the granny ring climb up to the summit I spin for all I’m worth. The last couple of hundred metres from the top is so slippy I’m off and running/staggering, breathing hard, feeling sick, still a good lead. Onto the bike and down across the moorland like a nutter.
The track down through the trees is bumpy, with holes in among the tussocky grass, I grab a handful of brakes just before a big hole. I’m hitting things, slowing, Jon has caught me, he’s right on my wheel. In a moment of self preservation I move over to let him through. He thanks me. I try to hang on to him but in a few smooth flowing moments he is gone leaving me to rattle and bang my way down this hideous descent.
Down across the fire road the track is a little easier now, straight but rocks roots and puddles everywhere. I go as fast as I dare. At the bottom there’s a little swithchback I can see that he’s not that far ahead, I push on. As I make the return on the switchback I see Gary! He’s not that far behind. Hitting the ramp again (only this time we go up it as the last climb) Gary is only 15 seconds behind. I bury myself to the top then give all for the last desent. I ain’t gonna catch Jon now, but there’s no way I’m gonna get caught either.
That’s how we finish, Jon then me then Gary. My first race in three years and I loved it. My thanks to Jon and Gary for a great race. Having some tough riders to batter against makes it all the better. I crawl away to eat, drink, and lick my wounds.
BTW, the runners set off half an hour after the riders, and the fastest runner set a time 7 minutes quicker than Jon. Given the soft going, and the amount of carrying this was too be expected. Here’s the full riders results.