Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Mule Scott's Bristol Oktoberfest report

This year has flown by, the unofficial end of season race has been and gone, the Stans No Tubes Oktoberfest. Ok, so there was the Roc D’Azur in France too, but the Oktoberfest was at least local. With a huge range of categories across the am and pm 4 hour events and the full 8 hour event, there is something for everyone. The lure of sustainable and all weather  singletrack riding attracted riders from across the country as well as the usual faces from the local area. Even though there is some fierce racing for that prized winner’s pretzel, the atmosphere is super friendly.

No different for this 3rd edition was the pre race talk about the weather. Paul’s lucky flip flops have kept the weather at bay, even bringing sunny skies and warmish temperatures for the previous 2 editions, but it was looking like they were going to let him down this year, with dark clouds brewing.

I (@physio_scott) was in the old gits category this year, riding pairs with Alan Coleville (@half_arsed racer), my winning partner at this year’s Bristol Bikefest. We decided to stick with our previous formula of 2 laps on, 2 off, to give the old legs time to wind up.

Alan again volunteered for the Le Mans style run up the gravel climb, Who was I to argue?! At 9 am sharp, ish, the race was on, hundreds of riders awkwardly running in stiff bike shoes towards their bikes, but some taking a more leisurely approach at the back. With around an hour to wait, it was off to get a coffee and cake from the Luff Bus.

Come my turn, the weather was turning, drizzle wetting the trails. I prepped with a Cherry bomb gel waiting for Alan. The ‘baton’ a hair scrunchie was passed and it was time to motivate the legs to start pedaling, not too much of a task as first off is beggar bush lane, a slightly downhill, fast section of swooping singletrack through the trees.

Grip in the dry on these trails is superb and dry weather tyres keep the wheels turning  fast, in the rainy conditions, I was cursing my poor choice of tyre which had the bike sliding out on every corner on the wet, exposed stone. Over 29 sketchy minutes per lap later and it was back over to Alan. A frustratingly, slow start. Half a chocolate/banana Mule recovery bar and a cuppa later, it was time to chill before winding up again, and check out the bikes from Salsa. They were displaying a number of Fat bikes and their new Spearfish and Horsethief rigs. Their Beargrease carbon fat bike had pride of place.

With the growing popularity in fat bikes, they had their own category in the 8 hour this year. Dan Treby (@DANTREBY) didn’t think that that would be hard enough, so he commuted from his home 90 miles away, and won. Fat bike riding didn’t look the most speedy, but it was apparently, super comfy with only 6 psi in the tyres. Oktoberfest is a tough course on the body, so for my comfort I was running the usual Ergon GS1 grips and the impressive SM3 saddle. Wouldn’t ride the mtb without these now, they are that good.

And then the sun broke through. The trails dried out and the speed was back on, much to my relief, and everyone else’s! Lap times went down by over 2 minutes with a corresponding hike in heart rate as the legs pushed harder as tyres held their grip. Each of the  4, short, punchy climbs hurt that little more! The half a Mule recovery bar became a whole one (with added peanut butter) at the end of my laps!

One great aspect of these Bristol events is hearing shouts of support from random voices around the course, but never finding out who it is at the time for fear of losing concentration on the trail infront!

Part of this race is having the skill to pass. A polite request, and a thankyou always results in  riders letting you through at an appropriate spot and just keeps the whole atmosphere friendly and rolling nicely along. Having to wait a few seconds is no hardship as everyone has to do it.

The sunshine pretty remained for the rest of the day. Paul’s lucky flip flops working their magic once again! The now, back to perfectly dry trails were rolling beautifully, riders and non riders lining the course, enjoying the autumn sun shouting support for everyone. (The RunRider event on the Sunday wasn’t so lucky!).

Going out on my final 2 laps, we had about a 9 minute lead. A mishap would throw it all away, but I couldn’t slow down too much just in case 2nd place upped the ante! I got back with 9 minutes to spare before the cut off and the pairs win. We got the coveted winner’s pretzel. Thanks to MBSwindon team 2  for taking the race down to the last few laps. A celebratory burger from the Luff Bus was in order. 

A great day out. Check out the Bristol Bikefest next year for some singletrack racing fun.
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