I was expecting a damp cold windy weekend in Wales for Howies Battle on the Beach... It couldn’t have been more different! 2 days of glorious sunshine, no wind and amazing clear skies day & night.
After a long walk down the beach at Pembrey on Saturday morning and a late decision to change the rear cog for a bit more speed down the beach, it was time for a blast. My planned session consisted of 10 mins at race pace, which saw me shooting up the beach flat out, before turning around and joining Sundays course to finish my session which meant I was out longer than expected as I took in the whole lap, but this left me feeling confident for Sundays race. I had the choice of my Singular Swift or the Rooster 29+ prototype for the race – the Rooster won-out due to the 3” tyres and sandy trails looking like they would cut up a bit on Sunday.
Sunday was race day, and was my first real chance to see how the training over the winter had gone. After a nice lay-in on Sunday morning after Saturday nights catch up and chin-wag over a couple of beers, I jumped in my MuleBar kit, packed my pockets with Kicks and MuleBars and headed for the beach for a warm-up in the sun. Unlike Saturdays session, the slight headwind and reversed and was now an almost non-existent tail wind... good because there would be less battling the wind that I was told about from last years race, bad because there would be nothing to slow the geared boys down!
After the riders briefing I headed down to the start to ensure a good position and to not be caught back in the pack of 650 riders heading out on to a 3.7-mile stretch of beach... This gave me a front row start in the soft sand heading out to the beach for the start of the 3-lap race – it couldn’t have been better! At bang-on 12pm the race got underway, I got my head down and pedalled like mad, only to be passed by the guys with gears! I eventually latched on to a quick pack after a helping hand from fellow Wild Boars rider Pablo gave me a tow and a chance to catch my breath. As we exited the beach things began to stretch out before the first singletrack and climb, but things came to a walk at the first climb as the guys on skinny tyres started to struggle with the loose trails. As we hit the flowing stuff after this bottleneck I came in to my element and started picking off the guys that came past me on the beach and continued to do so over the rest of the race.
The toughest part was the last lap... having no-one to draft down the beach made it a long, painful, head-down, elbows on the bars slog. The rest of the last lap was spent racing Paul Flynn of Pivot Boom Pods on his fatbike as we picked our way through lapped riders.
After 1hour and 34minutes of racing I crossed the line in 41st position overall, 13th Vet and 2nd Singlespeed. Looking at the laptimes, if I had got through that first bit of singletrack a little earlier, it would have been really close! Next time...
However I was really pleased to be placed so high overall and chuffed to be ahead of some names I thought would be in front of me, leaving me feeling really good about the coaching I have been receiving from Jon Fearne at E3Coach.
A quick thanks to the folks that have kept me focused over the winter and helping me out for the forth coming season – Jimmy & Matt at MuleBar, Jon Fearne at E3Coach, Singular, Fibrax, Goldtec, Hope, EDS Bikes and Triumph. It’s looking like it will be a good year!