The first time I did a mountain bike race, I borrowed a demo bike. It poured down rain for the entire race and after a snapped wheel, saddle, chain and a turn in the wrong direction, it took me 7 1/2 hours to complete the 100km. I swore I would never do a mountain bike race again.
2 years later, I signed up for a 6hr enduro. This time it didn't rain but the course was extremely rough and rocky. I didn't have any mechanical problems but after 128km, I could barely clench my fists together and my back ached for days. I swore I would never do a mountain bike race again.
2 years on and the Flight Centre Epic has rolled around. Again, I neither own a mountain bike nor have I ridden one since the last race I did. I had absolutely no intention of participating in the event and was happy to sit back and let the other guys from work suffer through it. Then I opened my mouth.
I made outrageous claims that I could beat everyone, knowing full well that I didn't have the equipment to even attempt to prove it. I was quite content until one person said, 'Fine. I have a bike you can borrow, let's see you do it.' So I entered the race.
It was only 87km, a walk in the park. Problem was, 2 years was just long enough to forget how bad the last mountain bike race was. I was quietly confident of beating the guys that I had told I would.
I turned up to the race having ridden the bike for exactly 387m. It felt fine. Well, I actually had no idea how it was supposed to feel so I just assumed it felt fine. I was equipped with 3L of water, 3 spare tubes and all the tools I would need.
I started the race in the Elite category (a mistake in itself) and chose to just sit at the back of the bunch and not get in the way. This turned out to not be a good idea as I just inhaled huge amounts of dust as the bunch went all out on the dirt trails. After 14km, I was covered in a fine layer of dust but I had ridden ahead of my work rivals and had a comfortable lead. Then I got a puncture.
As I sat on the side of the trail changing the tube, one of the guys from work passed me with a big smile on his face. I changed the tube as fast as I could and hoped that I would be able to catch him. I got back on and at 19km, I got another puncture.
Again, I sat on the side of the trail and changed the tube as huge amounts of people from the age group categories passed me. With 68km remaining, I thought that I still had a chance of catching up. I got back on and at 30km I got another puncture.
I was down to my last tube and wondered what would happen if I got another puncture in the middle of no where? I got back on and was extra cautious, making sure I didn't hit any sharp rocks. Then my chain starting breaking apart.
I quickly repaired the chain and got back on. By this stage, I was somewhere in the middle of the age group categories. Then at 32km, I got my 4th puncture.
I had no more tubes and had no choice but to walk. I started to push the bike through the grass and trees, keeping an eye out for someone that I knew to give me a spare tube. I knew that if I did see someone from work, they would probably just laugh at me and keep riding. Many kind strangers stopped and offered me a tube. However, with 29 inch tyres being all the rage and me still riding a 26 inch, their kindness was futile. I kept walking.
After what felt like an eternity, a generous man with the right size tyres offered me a tube. I sat on the side of the trail and started the change it. At that exact moment, everyone else from work rode past and laughed.
I changed it as fast as I could and rode as hard as I could to catch them, knowing that if I got another puncture, I would have someone to borrow a tube from. I had conceded victory to those that I mocked at work. Somewhere up ahead of me, my work mate was laughing to himself. Well, at least I thought there was.
At the end of the first lap, 50km into the race, we stopped at the feed station to refuel. There, wrapped in bandages and his arm in a sling, was the guy that was supposed to beat me. He crashed out of the race! I had done a Steven Bradbury!!! All I had to do was finish!
In the next 37km I got another 2 punctures, taking my total to 6 for the day. I rolled across the line after 7hr10min out in the sun but with only 5hrs of actual riding time. Thats 2hrs spent on the side of the trail. I can say I beat the guys from work and rub their faces in it.
Problem is, I can barely use my fingers to type. My hands are so sore and my back is killing me. I still have a filthy bike to clean and I don't even want to look at it. I now remember why I hate mountain biking so much and, again, vow to never do it again.