Through my lifetime of mountain biking I have always wanted to do a big event. When I was younger I dreamt of the Malvern Classic or doing the Megavalanche but never got around to doing anything. Anyway, as previously I had talked big, and done nothing about entering a big race. But being in a better financial situation and encouraged by Chris Foster, when the time rolled around, I got myself a place on the Ard Rock Enduro.
So what is the Ard Rock? At its simplest it is a Mountain Bike race. At its most complex it is a 5 stage DH race with epic and crushing, un-timed, transition stages. So as of September last year I began training for my debut on the enduro scene.
(if you only want race news skip down to “The Race”)The Pre Amble
It was short lived. During one of my early morning training rides in October up at Lady Cannings I had a little crash. It wasn’t an epic crash but it was enough to break my wrist. So that was the training on hold until January. It’s a funny thing about that time of year. Christmas came, food was eaten, beer was drunk and I started to slip a bit. New Year arrived and nearly time to get back on the bike! More food was eaten and increasing amounts of beer was drunk. Next was my Birthday and more food was eaten……more beer was drunk.
One thing led to another and I never really picked back up on the training. My local mountain bike scene was relatively quiet and I was really letting things go. I did buy a new bike which got me out a bit but I wasn’t getting out as much as I needed. With a little help from Gemma Jones however I managed to get some laps in in the month leading up to the event. Was it enough? How Ard
could it be? Let’s find out!
The date rolled around, van was rented, days off booked and my bike had been fully serviced. I was ready to go. Except I didn’t have the Friday booked off like I thought and, when going away for two nights to camp, you need to think about food. Friday at work was spent in mild panic and thoughts of putting off my leaving date till the Saturday. Somehow, through the combined efforts of my wife and family we got everything together and I set off for my destiny.
Arriving at the event was that of excitement and wonder. I recognized the village from the videos of previous events. Rarely do you see something that looks exactly as you expect it but I instantly knew where I was. A queue and camping paid I toured camp one only to find no vacancies. A trip to camp two and by 2130 I had found my spot. I had lost the light by this point so it was plan B for camping and I made my bed in the back of the van.
Van living suits me, at least in this country, sleeping with the door ajar letting the cool night air swamp the van I was in my element. Well I say that, but in the night, a call of nature came upon me. It was only a pee, and being on my own, I decided to try something new! Let’s just say I won’t be trying to pee in a bottle again. Especially not in the back of a van where I cannot stand up properly. Still sleeping was comfy and I wasn’t too cold or too warm. I fell asleep with my hand grasping a Schwalbe Magic Mary (I understand that sounds like a sex toy but it is in fact a fairly aggressive mountain bike tyre)
Saturday morning arrived for me at 0645. A bright and sunny day greeted me as the van door opened and, more importantly, freshly cleaned portaloos. In fact, of all the places I have been, these are some of the cleanest portaloos I have seen. Apparently the mountain bike crowd are a clean bunch and not once did I find anything as disgusting as a CSC toilet. I wandered up to the bridge to have a look at the river then did a quick tour of the event village. Too early for most but there was a queue for coffee. Prices for food were not the usual hugely inflated type but reasonable. £2 for a decent cup of coffee I wandered back to my van.
With over 27 and three quarter hours till my race I had a bit of time to burn so I sank it into preparing my bike and kit for the coming race. Tubes were taped to frame, notes left on bars and my bag was packed. I now had 27 hours till my race. I chilled in the back of my van for a bit, now converted for daytime activities, I sat out of the sun and read some magazines. I could see people passing on the stages above me. There is absolutely no data here so it was a big change for me. I like to check my phone all the time and perhaps that’s a bad thing. But then I like to post snippets of my life and look at other peoples. I don’t see a problem with that myself.
I wander up sporadically to the event, watch people starting their races, tour the event village, try and score some freebies, and also sneak up to a house in the main village. They have a BT router and that means I can use it too. I find, however, on my trips to the internet that not a lot was happening. Maybe that or I just feel awkward stood outside a person’s house, an old couple are probably cowering terrified behind the door.
I buy a pizza for dinner at 1530 and have a beer from the tent. My intention was to miss the rush at 1700. It was worthwhile as the queues got bigger from 1600 and, despite being British, I don’t enjoy queueing. By 1700 they hand out trophies for the days racing. It was all very pleasant but imagine my excitement when they announced the winner of the woman’s race. Tracey Moseley! Not a surprise for her to win but I wasn’t expecting to see her. She is definitely up there with my all-time favorite sporting people. She is all business in interviews and doesn’t seem to pander to fads or popular opinion. Also she looks exactly like she does in photos which is unusual for the famous types. It was a good moment for me.
At some point they began the raffle. I had bought a strip of tickets in the morning, and with much excitement I waited. The big prizes went, RockShox Pikes, Fox 36, hope wheels and so it went on. I had a few close numbers but not the illustrious match. Then he announces “A Santa Cruz Jersey in Small…..Yellow 680!” It was my number! My goddam number for a Jersey I cannot wear. I considered not picking it up and letting them pick a second number. But then why miss my chance to walk up to the stage? I decided I would collect my Jersey then be a philanthropist and give it away to a small person nearby. People would smile and cheer, lift me onto their shoulders and carry me away back to camp for beers and a party. But as I took the Jersey a woman ran over said something. I couldn’t really hear her over the crowd “….jersey…..carbon……over there……man” and she pointed to the opposite end of the stage. Confused I wandered over to the end and saw a gentleman at the Santa Cruz stand, coolly sipping a bottle of beer, he gave me a nod. It turns out the jersey was just a token, a representation of what I had really won, a carbon bar, from Santa Cruz! Unfortunately, it wasn’t available at the time so he took down my details and said they would be in contact.
I had hoped, with all the likeminded people, I would make a friend to enjoy the event with. It wasn’t to be. People seemed to be in tightly formed groups and with all the noise and beers I couldn’t make myself seen. I was to remain at the event alone so I retreated to the van. Was it lonely? Not really. Sat in the van I could people watch, tinker with my bike and wheelie around the campsite to the cheers of drunken people. And always Kath was there at the end of the phone when I felt the need to talk.
I found myself in bed for 2150 and slowly drifted off. Only one call of nature this night and no attempts at bottle peeing. I was woken by the door of the van blowing open. It appears the weather is turning for the worse overnight. I am rained on as I make the 5-minute round trip to the camp toilets. Nobody is stirring so it must be early morning.
0800 and I don’t want to get up. It is very cold and windy outside the van and I am reluctant to rise. This is unusual for me as I am now firmly an early riser. I don’t think I have been woken by an alarm in over a year. When I finally open the door my fears are confirmed. Sporadic rain and terrible wind is thrashing the hillsides around us. Today should make for an interesting race.
With a start time of 1145 I have a lot of time to burn. I had made Kath bake me a cake before I left and I feverishly tucked in to 3 slices for breakfast. I had a big day ahead, so I needed all the energy I could get. It was much warmer to be up and moving around, so already fully kitted up for the day, I wandered to the Event village. I chat to some of the store holders but try and avoid being drawn in to any sales pitches. I am easily talked around and at the Santa Cruz store that could be a £9000 mistake I cannot currently afford. One day perhaps. I stop and look in at the SRAM tent. I recognize the mechanic but I cannot place his name. He has been super busy all weekend servicing bikes. I absent mindedly fondle a derailleur while staring around the tent. It falls apart in my hands! The mechanic comes over and apologises to me. This is new! Normally when you break things you have to pay! Apparently someone broke it earlier in the day so I had nothing to worry about. I enquire about a replacement 11speed quick link (if my chain snapped on the race I could repair it quickly with one of these) and someone went off to get me one. Wallet in hand they gave me the link and walked off. No Charge? I then look around, they have no till, they are changing things for people, servicing and no money appears to be changing hands! Maybe I was wrong but they seemed to be doing some pretty big services to various shocks. I wonder if this was the same for Mavic and Shimano.
1100 hours I cheekily pop in to get my number. It says you need to arrive around half an hour before your start time but people have had their numbers on their bikes for hours so I chance it. 4353! I mean it’s not the number 2 I get at Midlands XC championship but it will do. Big event, big numbers. Now the wait for 1145. Olly knows! She gives me a call to check on my nerves. I don’t really recall having nerves. I thought I was nervous but I wasn’t doing any nervous things. Just sitting around waiting. I did make the odd friend temporarily here. People asking about my start time, if I was doing it alone and if I had heard about the track. Stories were exchanged about the track and what we had heard of peoples’ accidents from yesterday. Yeah I am getting nervous. One last call to my wife and 1145 rolls around
A rag tag line up before the timing gate we have to pass through to activate our chips. It won’t start the timer when we leave, just make sure it’s working while we are close enough to get a new one. We are given the go and we all, slowly roll out of the start. It isn’t a start like a normal race. The real start is at the top of the hill. The Race
247m of climbing greets you out of the start. Mostly on road but it’s a tough start even to put the peaks rides to shame (although I reckon the Jacobs ladder ride is comparable to the ard rock) People chat amongst themselves and I get my chance to start making some friends. People observe my back wheel spitting out sealant. A quick check and it’s still around 45psi. 45psi I hear some of you cry? Yes. It is a road start so I thought it would save me some energy. I will let it out at the top I tell myself.
As you approach the top and get towards the start of stage one two things happen. One is the wind. The wind will come to play a major factor of the day. As you get close to the edge where you drop in to the timed descents it ramps up too close to 50-60 mph. The second is the queues. The queues are not to become a feature as the day goes on they get smaller to non-existent in the latter stages.
Finally, I recognize nerves. I am at the start of stage one and I have some idea of what’s coming. Rumours of impossible drops and super sketchy rocks I am now nervous. Let’s do thisSTAGE ONE
A nice track, reminding me of Angel Bay in Wales, following a dry stone wall, reminding me of Derbyshire, rolled along for the first 10-20 metres. Then the gateway to hell. A left turn into a ferocious wind. Conscious that, A- people are following me and B- people can see me, I thrash at the pedals…but nothing happens. A combination of the climb, followed by the queue in the bitter wind and then the ferocious wind has left my legs flaccid and weak. At one point the wind stops my progress entirely. Mercifully the track begins to point down. Finally, some gravity assistance against the wind. It wasn’t easy though as the wind, now unable to stop my forward momentum decided to steer for me. Drops that would have been a walk in the park are marred by my wheel being pulled away to the side of the tracks. The side of the track of course being made largely of football sized rocks. I could probably ride on them but I don’t fancy trying. This place reminds me of riding with Mat Hughes in Angel Bay. Steep stony drops in an old quarry? I can do this. If you have seen my videos, or any others, trust me it is a lot steeper than you think. I manage to pass a few people through this section, people surprised by both the wind and the steepness of the terrain, and I am also passed by faster riders. I do my best to let them pass easily but it is hard to hear people coming.
The quarry like, stone rollercoaster, gives way to a peddle along some grassy fern lined singletrack. Not really downhill but the wind behind you it isn’t too hard to make progress. At this point I forget I am racing and just sort of roll along. But then it starts getting steep again as you near the woods. I have heard stories of these woods. People crashing and ending their race here and potential for life altering injuries. Not the thoughts you want racing through your mind as you enter a section. I can even hear a crowd cheering and you know where crowds like to gather? Where people crash. Anyway the section arrives, and it is steep, I mean STEEP, with roots and ruts that have have become so deep they easily swallow all 27.5 inches of wheel I have to offer.
I call out to the crowd “WHICH WAY? LEFT OR RIGHT” To which they call “LEFT” I look at the lines and go right. I can only assume they are a bunch of trainee paramedics looking for practice or a bunch of murderers looking for new ways to kill people. Left looks terrible, right looks better. I’m committed and things are going well. Half way down a rut takes the front wheel and I start to pitch over but I drop the front brake and lean back and tank it through. Over the bars at that point would have been about a 10-15ft drop onto my face. I am very pleased with myself for cleaning the section. Stage one has been a good start.TRANSITION 1 TO 2
Choosing not to rest at the bottom of stage one I pressed on through the throng of riders recovering and repairing bikes and bodies. The day before I had been staring up at the hill from my van and I could see a track. I thought to myself "that looks fun to come down I wonder if it's stage 2?" I could see someone on it and they didn't appear to be moving. At all. I retrieved my camera with the zoom lens and had a look. They were going up! Loads of people, all pushing. I smugly thought to myself that I would be pedaling up there just like a roll around the peaks. When I finally got to it I realized how wrong I had been. I didn’t even try to make a show of it and admitted defeat at the foot of this rocky monster. At the top the wind was whipping up again and I was greeted by a group of riders hiding, like sheep, pressed tightly against a dry stone wall. Now, I decide, would be a good time to begin unleashing my secret weapon. My regimented routine of sustenance! I had in my pack a variety of energy gels, energy bars, flap jack, water and an isotonic mix. Mixing my fluids to stave off cramp, I consume an energy bar. Not stopping long however I pack my litter and press on with some new friends to chat to. It’s a relatively flat ride along the moors before you meet up with the back of the next queue. The wind is bitter and people are beginning to put on windproof shells. Sadly, I am not that prepared but I am not feeling the cold. 10 minutes later I am at the front of the queue. I am ready for stage 2STAGE 2
The wind is blasting at what seems like 1000mph. After the long wait in the wind and rain my muscles are tight. There is a quick briefing from the marshal that I cannot hear over the wind and we are waved off. I have chosen to follow two young lads. I know they will leave me so that will give me some breathing room in the front. They fail to start! The wind is so strong they simply cannot get going. A second attempt and we are pedaling into the ferocious wind. The course starts to drift to the left and at this point I am no longer in control. The wind has the bike, I am pushing it forward but I can no longer keep it on the track. As the trail drops away to the left I am forced along the top. If I don’t do something I will be way off course with no way back. I try and turn so I am facing straight to the wind to reduce my profile but it is impossible. I have to get off and clamber down back onto track. There is a poor guy on a fat bike who seemed to be having a much worse time of it completely at the mercy of the wind.
Finally, on my way and we are descending nicely. The wind stops me once or twice but I am making a little progress. The terrain drops again through some tight switchbacks. I am forgetting to use the high line simply trying to survive on my way down but I appear to be doing better than a swathe of riders in front of me. There is a lot of traffic building up through this section. I am passed early on and then pass a few myself but am eventually held up by someone. It is difficult for me at this point because I don’t have the power to gun it past him but I do have the technical skills for him to be a nuisance to me in the difficult sections. I decide to be polite and bide my time for a section I can push past.
Things get tight, people get impatient and going into a relatively easy grassy drop the traffic packs up. I desperately want to pass but a guy passes me on the line I was about to use. He was a little too eager and hits the rider in front of me going down the drop leading to a small crash. Fortunately for me that was my opportunity to make a pass and a shoot through and get my head down to finish off the stage. Some more open track through the ferns punctuated by some stealthy rocks brings you out into the next transition.TRANSITION 2-3
I don’t stop at the end of the stage to recover. I fear that stopping will cause my muscles to fatigue so I opt to keep peddling. The start of this transition is fun. Singletrack weaving through the ferns with decent technical sections. I pass a few people who have stopped out of the weather for sustenance so I check my clock and see if I am due food. No food for me yet. Dropping into the bottom of the valley it is all very picturesque. Looks like it’s up and up from here. I make a few friends as I ride along chatting about the previous stages, where we all come from, what riding is like in our areas. People are friendly and you cannot help but feel re-invigorated at these times. Glancing down at my GPS however does not fill me with joy. Despite all the effort we have barely gone any distance at all. A brief trip through a small wood we are spat out onto a road next to a pub.
It seems to be a good day for the pub. Many riders have stopped for a beer and in all honesty, if I hadn’t been alone I would have joined them. But I am conscious I have 5.5 hours to get this done so I press on.
Lots and lots of road riding at this point. Climbing and climbing on what appears to be the opposite side of the valley which I find confusing. I don’t have time to check the map to get my bearings so I continue on. Sporadically I get to talk to people but in general they are fitter so slowly but surely peddle or push off into the distance. Yes, push. I have to mix it up between some pushing till my back hurts then ride until my legs hurt. It’s not a perfect system but I have to make it work. At the top of the hill we peel off back to some off road trails. Nice wide rocky farm track not unlike the peak district roads I ride so frequently. There is an ambulance coming up the road with its lights on. It’s not going fast and no sirens so I assume, perhaps, that it is just coming up to see the Mountain Rescue van parked on the road. As I press on however I see why it’s there. A mountain Rescue Landrover is crawling down from the start of Stage 3. As it passes I catch a glimpse of a person on a back board. This doesn’t fill me with confidence.
At the top there is a small mound. About thirty mountain bikers are relaxing sheltering from the wind. At least it’s behind us for the start of this stage. A little food eaten I again opt to press on. What would I do sat there on my own anyway?STAGE 3
I wanted a clean run at the start of this stage to ensure no traffic. Sadly, that wasn’t to be but I risk following people into the stage. I assume they are going to be faster than me. Dropping into some gravely turns we descend into photographer valley. They pepper every turn as you crest a corner they lay in wait. I try and look cool but frankly survival is paramount. I have lost sight of the people who started ahead of me but then with all the lumps, bumps and turns there isn’t much visibility.
A punchy uphill and I spot the traffic. Obviously there is something ahead and there is a line of people peering over something. As I rattle up behind the man at the back of the pack turns to me and says “f*ck me that’s a right drop!” I am not close enough to see yet but I am eager to get to it but the queue is holding me back. When I finally get to see it I can agree it is steep but nothing I haven’t attempted before so I want to go but there still seems to be some faffing in front. One guy goes for it and I assume I will be let through next. The guy in front of me decides to walk it! But he doesn’t offer for me to pass. I decide to impose myself and ask if I can go through. Its slippery and steep and the bike is making all the decision I just monitor the speed. I would rather ride down this than try and walk it with a bike. I make it to the bottom though and ride it out.
I lost about thirty seconds in the queue but it feels like 3 minutes. I need to get a move on. Another couple of entertaining corners and I run into another jam. I have no idea what they are doing. They don’t appear to be waiting for anyone, don’t appear to be sizing up the track they are just blocking the entry. I am not waiting this time and push past. More rocks, more photographers and more fun. I really like this bit of the trail. It’s like riding Angel Bay back in my youth with Mat Hughes. It all seems so familiar.
I am passed a few times in this section. Pulling quickly out of the way I then use these guys as a target and push myself to keep up. After a few more corners it opens up into farm track. At this point I forget I am still in stage and need to crack on. I merrily plug along without a single ounce of a rush about me. It’s only as I get to the feed zone that I realise the timing gate is there. I f*cked up. OopsTRANSITION 3 to 4
Opening with a sponsored feed zone I get the camelback replenished. I have used about 60% of my water so I opt for a partial refill. There are free Cliff bars here too so I grab two and try to eat it fast. Eating it fast is not happening. It is tasty but it wasn’t designed for quick consumption. Chatting to a group of guys they seem pretty chuffed to get this far and as they said “Only two stages left!” I glance down at my GPS
“Guys we have only done 18km. We still have about 25km to go”
This is not popular news. It looks like a few people are quitting at this point also. The road leading down from this stage appears to go straight back to the camp if you follow it. Tempting.
Again I am not hanging around and press on. I am painfully conscious of the time and I see it ticking away. I cannot understand how I will get back to the start in time. The tarmac roll down from stage 3 is fast. I think I am going about 55kph here. It staggers me to think that WC Downhillers go 70kph off road. 55kph seems fast enough and I catch a car up quite easily. Sharp left turn then a simply gargantuan tarmac climb. I could grab onto this car and get a tow if I am careful! Nah I am here to do this properly so I get off and push. Again I am swapping between pushing and pedaling. It’s tiresome and sapping on your soul. Further up the road I find several mountain bikers at the side of the road. The first has been the victim of a dreaded puncture, the next two are having a break, the next guy is spread-eagled on the road. First Aid thoughts coming to mind I wonder if I will be doing some chest compressions on him. A car slows down and stares at him then drives on. I guess he is okay. Turns out it was a cramp. This would become an increasing feature as the race went on. I assume that my regimented mixture of isotonic drinks and water are paying off. No cramp here.
After the road we are back on the moors. More pedaling, more hills and more wind. The wind is hitting directly from my right now and I use an old technique from the prom I used to employ. You can sort of lean into the wind when it’s 90 degrees on. Using your bike and body as a sail the wind will drive you on a bit. Saving a little energy at this point is welcome.STAGE 4
Slow start to this stage. I forgot to start the GoPro so I am riding singletrack one handed. Stupid mistake really but at this point I do not feel competitive. Soft grass gravel and the now so familiar boulder fields are on the menu and a little bit of traffic ahead of me. As I catch people I don’t feel faster than them so do not really press them too hard. But as I pass them and get a free bit of trail ahead of me I realise I go much quicker. Rarely do I pass people on my group rides because we seem to know each other quite well and set off at our own respective paces.
I pass a guy at the top of a steep section. I don’t know why I did it, because I wasn’t showing off, but I chose to sort of boost the bike into the steep section without really looking. It wasn’t a flat drop really but a little off camber causing me to need to correct slightly. At this point I looked up. An anvil shaped rock was coming up with the bick (pointy bit) facing squarely at my front wheel. f*ck. I was too tired to panic though and in a lazy, relaxed way I managed to avoid a bike and body destroying crash. I feel the statement “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” suddenly becomes relevant.
I can tell I am tired because again I let my bike get ahead of me. You have to love modern brakes on mountain bikes. The Avid Guides have been flawless all day and haven’t missed a beat. Tiredness causes some lackluster performances in some switchbacks. I am not great switchbacks anyway but I know I can do better. Fairly flat, grassy singletrack through the rocks brings you out into a rocky chute down to the finish. We seem to be at the lowest point alongside a stream, some riders are sat around catching their breath and another rider falls into the stream as he tries to cross it.TRANSITION 4 TO 5
Stage 4 ended in middle earth apparently. The bottom of the valley floor in a boulder field you start to follow the stream up the valley. I fully expect to see a band of Urak-Hai running through the area. Ahead of you there is no easy trail, rocks give way to a steep slope that then gives way to a bog. It appears my miss spent youth of pissing about in the countryside has paid off. Getting through the bog is fairly easy for me and I make it with dry feet all the way through. Looking around I can see it wasn’t the same for everyone. As I round a corner I find two tired looking riders. One of them looks up at me and says “You know what? f*ck Enduro!”
At this point I can sort of agree. I am tired and I know there is still a long way to go. Every metre here is hard fought. If you are not in a bog you are clambering up a slope. Nobody rode this section.
We press on together for a while and make a few jokes to lighten the mood. As the terrain opens up they mount up and head off. I don’t have it in me. We appear to be cresting up on the moors and the hard trekking gives way to some familiar trails. Ancient stony tracks across the moorland put me in mind of the peak district and this works to my advantage. I pass people picking their way through the rocks. This isn’t a timed stage but I just want to get to the end now. A combination of my high tyre pressures and my familiarity of this type of trail pays off. I am storming along at high speed and saving a lot of energy doing so. I pass a guy forlornly pushing his bike. I am a mountain biker at the end of the day race or not so I stop and ask if he is okay. He has had three flats today and is out of tubes. I am still carrying three spares so without a thought I give him one of mine. I still don’t know of he managed to finish. I hope he did.
There is a mixture of road climbing and farm tracks that leads us back to Fremmington edge and I know I am on the home stretch. I feel full of energy again and cannot wait to get back to the start.
As I get to the start of Stage 5 I don’t stop.STAGE 5
Because I didn’t stop I didn’t start my GoPro. I didn’t care. I wanted to get back. Open farm land fields with sneaky rocks hidden in the grass and the occasional jump through a dry stone wall. I took it easy through the walls. It would be an easy way to destroy my back wheel and so close to the end it would have sucked. Heading down into the ferns I spy some photographers so I try and look professional. If you look at the photos you will see it didn’t really translate.
More open farm land with forced swoopy corners that would have been fun if I had the energy to pedal. I am just looking for the finish at this point and there it was! The finish. I roll through the timing gate to no cheers or applause just some onlookers who seemed to be waiting for other people. I had to ask if it was over and which way to go.THE RIDE BACK TO THE VENUE
Riding down the road and pushing a big gear I was looking forward to getting my time but I still felt underwhelmed after the finish. After dragging myself around 45km I felt like I had achieved something but then there was nothing at the finish for me. It was the same when I get back to the start. All the sponsors had packed away their tents, all the banners gone and no crowds I arrived disappointed. I was told to leave my bike to the side and go and hand my timing chip in. Smiling groups of riders mill around me and chat among themselves. I look around for someone I recognize but there isn’t anyone.
I call Kath to let her know I survived and she is pleased. I stare around the now depressing shell of the event and decide I won’t wait for winners’ presentation. My current standing of 192nd probably wouldn’t get me a trophy. Perhaps that is part of the problem. Everyone wants to get home and for everyone that leaves they rob a little magic from the venue. I hope the guys who won enjoyed the ceremony and I am sorry I didn’t hang around.Conclusion
Did I have fun? Yes. Even with the lack of friends and lack of data connection I enjoyed myself immensely. Sitting in the van and just switching off was good for me and I learnt that I could survive with limited things for a few days. I think I will buy a van next and start doing this more regularly. The event is incredibly well organised and all the staff and marshals are great.Everything is clean and seems to run on schedule. It is quite a magical place to be overall.
My bike was legendary eating up the track like a DH bike at times. Never once did I feel I needed anything more and it was always there with more control and poise when I ran out of both. I have considered that I needed more just riding around near my house but after the terrain at ArdRock I just need to step back and appreciate what I have.
Looking back, I already have my rose coloured spectacles. It was difficult to remember the hardship just two days after completion. All I want to remember is the fun parts, the random friends made along the way and the amazing DH sections. I will be going back next year, with more training and hopefully some friends. ArdRock is best enjoyed as a group from the venue to the mountain.
And to close I would like to thank my various, inadvertent sponsors. The Real Fudge Company supplied me with copious amounts of Water and Sustenance along with a lovely table. Michael Austin For the Jersey I raced in. Most of all my wife who really pulled everything together for me in the closing hours of the Friday so I wouldn't fall completely to pieces before even setting off from Chesterfield.