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Round number 4 @Lee Quarry. The final round of the Brownback racing series for 2013.

Round 3 resulted in an early bath. A broken seatpost whilst leading the awesomely titled “Silverback class” had me ducking under the course tape and back to the car, tail firmly between legs.

Chin up. Round 4 beckoned and an opportunity to redeem myself. The usual race machine was put to bed and the tough full suss bike was drawn from the stable and prepped for action.

BBC weather forecast, Channel 5, Met Check, last weeks Country File on Tivo all gave the same lousy prediction. Rain, rain and a bucket load of rain. As the doubts began to niggle at the grey matter I felt I was letting my Silverback status down. Rain or no rain, Man flu or Man flu, It was my destiny to be on the start line.

“You will go in the next 10 seconds”

IMG_0563Lap one had me tailing Ian and in second place. The rain had yet to materialise and the rocky hard packed race route made for fast riding. The odd puddle lap by lap dressed you in the mud of battle and the up, across and down course design had my nod of approval. Ian began to pull away and I soon lazily accepted a second place finish. With a novel relaxed approach to the rest of the race I found myself appreciating my fellow competitors and supportive marshals. Friendly banter and supportive comments where shared and shouted.

The distant sound of cowbells brought forth the final lap for 2013. My dropper seat post (how did we ever survive without it) enabled me to clear the doubles on the downhill sections with out the fear of my extended saddle kicking me up the rear and sending me over the handle bars A-Team style. As I turned the hair pin corner to start the uphill finish to my surprise Ian was only a few yards ahead.

The battle was on for a victory

“You can take the race out of the racer but you cant take the racer out of the race”

My mind instantly became raked with indecision. Was Ian playing coy. Had he taken a tumble, had I taken an accidental short cut, what I did know was I had the game face on and VICTORY WAS TO BE MINE. I had to decide my plan of attack. I had to make a clear and rational decision based on terrain, distance, energy output and equipment. Will my Transition full suspension bike out perform a carbon Santa Cruz hard tail. Can my man flu handle a last minute sprint. Did I have it in me. Indecision, indecision, indecision.

As we climbed the rocky ascent to the finish line I hugged Ian’s rear wheel. I looked up and ahead to the impressive chainring monolith finish line gracing the entrance to the quarry. We edged our way closer to our goal but my impatience was to get the better of me. My nerve snapped and I attacked. I lurched to the right stomping on the pedals. My rear wheel fort for grip as marble boulders spun and flew from beneath the Maxxis tyres. My suspension kept the rubber searching for grip and I edged in front. Lactic began to fill my legs and sting my brain. Steady breaths became gasps and lungs began to burn. “Fight the demons Stuart”.

I allowed myself a look. I dreaded the decision to look back. Had the attack been worthwhile. Had I broken the imaginary elastic or was there a counter attack waiting for me. I had nothing left to offer. It was to be a look back for victory or a realisation that 2nd was a fair result.

I pumped the air Murry style, pointed the finger Vettal style (wont do that again) and passed beneath the finish arch. The sickness feeling was coursing through my stomach and throat. Searching for breath and gasping for the last few drops of water in un bidon I ceased pedalling and sat astrid my top tube. I discretely praised my bike giving her a pat of approval. I joined Jade in the finish arena who had been seen hunkering down to keep out of the wild wind and shared my victorious if unseen last minute victory from the jaws of defeat.

It was a great way to finish the Hope race series for 2013. Brownback racing ltd had put on another great event and the sponsors had supplied the victors with an impressive array of delights. Look forward to what the 2014 series will bring us racers.