Post by – Paul Coulson
With the first round of the Mud, Sweat and Gears MTB series kicking off at Tunstall Forest again this year, all the talk on the internet forums was about just how wet it was going to be or even how much snow might fall before the event. That’s when I received a call from my mate Michael Travers, who offered the use of “Rudy”, the Travers Bikes MTB for those inclement conditions we were going to be riding in.
Now reality has a habit of biting you in the ass more often than not, the week before the event I was stuck down with the most brutal of diseases known to man, yes that’s right, man flu. I’m a trooper and will carry on as long as I can but a few precautionary measures were called for, i.e. no training and a few early nights. Awaking on the Sunday morning at a reasonable time for a change, these afternoon races are very civilised, I felt okay but not great still and against all advice I decided to go and race. There was still a lot of internet chatter about easy points on offer just for turning up and competing in the quagmire that was expected at Tunstall forest. Reality nibbling my butt I drove and picked up my racing buddy for the day Paul Howell and then onto collect Rudy. Arriving at the MSG village in good time off we set to sign in and have a chat to the Guys at Velo Virtuoso about conditions, which in fact were not as bad as had been described. The track was relatively dry with the exception of a couple of sections of really wet muddy patches, which really did just drain all my energy. After a warm up/sighting lap back to the van for the usual carb loading and gel intake before heading to the start line. I did wonder at this stage should I change bikes and use my conventional geared bike instead of the Alfine 11 speed hubbed mud warrior that I was perched upon, a look skyward and with rain being given out as a forecast for all afternoon, I started my rain dance. Knowing that I didn’t have the energy levels to compete for the whole 5 laps and get a decent place at the end, (the top 30 score points only), I decided that from my start line position I would just go for it and hope the conditions changed and the soft people would drop out.
With the teeth of reality now sinking deep into my Gluteus Maximus, off we set and the pace is fast, very fast and I struggle to get my breathing up to pace to drive the pedals at these speeds. I settle back and get into my own rhythm and it’s not too long before I reel in some of the fast starting, slow riding people. At least that was my plan, when all of a sudden I lost the front end on a fast left hander just before the first bomb hole, the front slid and with slow reactions I was unable to release my feet from the pedals. The front tyre now griped hard on the edge of the track but my momentum was being thrown forward and over the bars I go, with a heavy landing on my left shoulder, I then flip over and my right hip smashes into the ground. My head pounded like a thousand woodpeckers had landed on me, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle all screaming out in pain, that’s it I thought, day over. Sitting in the scrub at the track side with my competitors streaming past, the adrenaline kicked in and as I’m not a quitter, with the marshal checking that I was okay, before I knew it, I was back in the saddle and shooting into the bomb hole.
Knowing that I was well outside the top 30 and not much hope for a decent finish, I decide to use it as a training session and to really get to grips with this MTB that Travers Bikes really has put together well. So for the next 3 laps I plod away and start to really think about the logic of this bike, I got to ride it a few weeks previously but conditions had been drier, a lot drier than this. Don’t get me wrong the Tunstall trials were wet not just wet enough for my fellow riders to experience bike problems that had plagued previous MSG events the year before. This bike has rigid carbon forks, but is really very comfortable and with plenty of time to get used to them I try different ways to make it go quick. Using my body as the shock absorbing system, after all my arms and legs have more travel than any MTB on the market and with no bobbing of the bike all my energy (what little I had) went straight to making the bike go forward, which it does very easily. The only time I missed the front suspension was when I was being lazy and letting the bike run through the corners with me seated, instead of me working the bike and standing to keep the power being pushed through the pedals. My only criticism of the bike on the day was with the tyres, a set of Conti x’s were just not going to work on the muddy sections of this course and had pitched me sideways many times losing all forward momentum, but as these are a personal preference, an easy problem to overcome.
Taking the bell at the end of my 3rd lap was heaven, knowing that I was going to be a lap down at the end of the race isn’t a great feeling on a five lap race, but it was most welcome on this occasion. So with 500 meters of the race remaining, the heavens opened up, great, no chance now of making any positions up, all I was going to do was get wetter and colder. The track immediately turned greasy with this little bit of water on the surface, had it come and hour earlier the Travers Bike would have been the ideal weapon for the job, of getting me some points in this first round, but alas, reality had left it’s gnarling teeth marks in my behind. A top 30 placing, on this day, in these condition with a rider who only days before was dying, not a chance, but if the conditions had been like Codham last year and a fitter rider (like it’s owner and creator) a top 10 place would be so easy to achieve on “Rudy”.
The Codham round is next Mr Travers…….. if it rains like last year, can I……………