Mule, Steve Day, finishes his season on the podium.

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It’s been 4 years since the last time I attempted Dusk till Dawn at Thetford... back then, since then, only Mountain Mayhem in 2012 has been wetter.

This year couldn’t have been more different. The couple of hours rain on Saturday did little to the ground (phew!), but the clear skies that followed the rain meant that as soon as the sun dropped, so did the temperatures – so by 8pm (race time) there wasn’t much warmth left in the air, a bit of a shock after the extended summer!

Thetford doesn’t offer any big hills or technical sections, but does have lots of twisty undulating singletrack that leads to some fast racing. No running start at this one... just a mass start behind a quad, consisting of a quick sprint round the block before joining the main course. Something went wrong somewhere and we ended up down a closed fire road after the quad turned off, meaning what was the lead group now had to carve their way back through the pack before the first stretch on singletrack. Oh well... The rain had left a few small puddles that were soon dispersed on the first lap, and what was left was some lovely fast grippy trails and fireroad linking sections. Somehow the organisers managed to find a hill, and put 2 climbs in the last mile or so of a 9-mile lap – somewhat unexpected!

I settled into my race and found myself battling with Tom Stewart of Madison Genesis and we constatly swapped 1st & 2nd solo for the first 8 laps. This part of my race was made up of 3-lap, 2-hour sessions between stops, after which point I decided that if I didn’t back off a bit, I may not be able to finish as the pace was quite frantic and I lost sight of Tom. By this time the temperate had dropped close to freezing and the ground had started frosting over across the fire breaks between forest sections. As I rode through these open sections, I could feel the warmth being sucked out of me. At this point I decided to have a quick pit, a swig of luke warm coffee and top up on an Eastern Express MuleBar energy bar.
It was also time for a change of gloves (the earlier rain had soaked my foam grips, and as the temperature dropped my hands got really cold) and add some arm warmers to keep the heat in. Just as well I did because as dawn approached the temperature seemed to drop further resulting in a partially frozen water bottle on one lap!

As the last few hours of the race approached, I found that I was 21 minutes behind Tom, but has also dropped to 3rd with a 9-minute gap to 2nd due to a couple of ‘wobbly’ laps where i don’t remember seeing many people for long stretches of time. I packed my pockets full of MuleBar cafe cortado and strudel kicks energy gels, picked up a large water bottle and got my head down, determined to at least get back 2nd. At some point in my last 4 laps I got back 2nd, but remained completely unaware until I crossed the finish line just before 8am. I was chuffed with that... one gear, same number of laps as the leader and 145miles covered in just under 12 hours in freezing conditions!

All in all, a really nice event to finish the year on. It’s been a really good one, so thanks to Jimmy & everyone at MuleBar for their continued support.

  • October 08, 2014
  • Matt Willis
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