Sunday, 2 April 2017

Battle on the Beach 2017

This past weekend we had the privilege to be part of Battle on the Beach, the UK's largest cross country mountain bike race in Pembrey Sands. 

I went along with Carl & Terri from Squirtlube and we were responsible for running the bikewash. 

Last year Squirtlube kindly sponsored two entries as prizes for the Tango Cycling Competition, so this year was my second opportunity to ride Battle on the Beach. 

We arrived at 12:00 on the Saturday and set up camp, gazebo, pressure washers, product display, pop-up stands you name it. People dropped in to get there chains lubed, degreased when they were worse for wear and others washed their bikes for race day. 

Squirtlube works best on a degreased chain, so when Carl offers to degrease your chain for you well then that is an offer you don’t resist, you take him up on that as you are investing in the future of your chain. You will NEVER have to degrease your chain again, you just apply Squirtlube and rinse it off with water when you are back from a ride as an added bonus you won’t have dirty hands or calfs from a black oily chain ever again. 

Sunday morning the riders of a Cannondale tandem arrived for lubrication on their chains. Carl offered to degrease their chains as he was busy doing that I started speaking with the lady. I asked how they decided to get into tandem riding on which she replied she had a serious spinal injury and can’t feel her right leg, so riding a tandem is the only way that she and her husband can still ride together. She starts with her left leg in the cleat and then her right leg just follows as they pedal forward. 

My sixth sense told me that there was more to this story and I somehow asked her if she went to the Olympics, she corrected me and said Paralympics, off course. I thought awesome and asked how did it go and was it amazing? She replied non-chalantly oh yes very well thank you, I actually one a gold medal in kayaking by 1.5 inches! Inside of me I thought, “What?????” How incredible here I was speaking so casually to a gold medalist at the Paralympics in Rio. 

Carl completed the degreasing work on the bike and we put Squirtlube on both chains, the tandem was now in top form and race ready! 

Terri and myself were so apprehensive about this race, all the people made us nervous. I hardly rode this year for various reasons and wasn’t coming back from my ‘training camp’ as Carl refers to it in South Africa, instead I’ve gone into this fat and unfit. 

Glorious weather at the start and the whole weekend! 

We were lining up just behind the start of the beach as the beach was already filled up and before we knew it the gun went off and we had to make our way through the lose sand onto the harder sand on the beach. 

I started off well by making it through without unclipping, accomplishment 1. 

The first 6kms are fast paced on the beach and breathtakingly beautiful, before you turn right and head into more grassy dual track! I don’t particularly like that part it feels like you are on a bad kids ride at the funfair, up and down over little bumps. 8km in you turn right onto singletrack, unfortunately this part gets very congested so we had to have an obligatory rest. 

Shortly after this part the first Dutch riders started lapping us followed by more pro riders, they thankfully give you plenty of notice so you have enough time to get out of their way. 

This race is for any type of bike, so you see people on fatbikes, regular mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes, anything goes. 

As a thoroughbred mountainbiker who loves singletrack I find the cyclocross bikes frustrating, it just doesn’t look like they can have any fun what so ever on singletrack. 

Doing a race is such a mental game, I usually try to motivate myself just to get over halfway, once I’m over halfway I’m like a horse who smells home apart from on Sunday my legs went on strike at the 36km mark the same as two weeks before. Everything in the sockets of my hips just freeze up.  

Lap one completed I headed back to the beach, my aim was to get through the sand without stopping. Job done! A lovely man local to Swansea offered me his backwheel on the beach as he was only doing a 2 laps, that was an offer I couldn’t resist. 

On lap 2 I had some recurring issues with my saddle post and had to stop twice to sort it out, on lap 3 though the singletrack was now clear and you were able to ride it all which was fun.

Lap 3 also had a new diversion which was quite nice and fast, well it could’ve been faster if my legs didn’t seize up. My legs were also threatening me with cramps at 500m before the Finish, I just though please not now, just hang in there legs. 

My personal aim was to complete the race in a similar time as last year and according to Strava my average speed was down with one tenth of a kilometer per hour, I’m satisfied with that considering the amount of riding I’ve been doing this year. 

Competing in Battle on the Beach make me realise what great athletes Cross country mountain bikers are. To maintain the speed they do on a technical demanding course along with the fatigue in your legs and your brain’s concentration through singletrack. Battle on the beach is perfect for my riding style, long steady climbs are not really my thing and I’m so grateful that there ain’t any real hills in this race, if there was any well then I’d be in big trouble. 

Back at camp I just needed to sit down which I did. Two guys came round to wash their bikes whilst Carl went to the Finish line for Terri. They were able to use the Bio-Bikewash on their bikes, the bikewash is solvent free and completely bio-degradeable. The new improved nozzle creates a foamspray onto your frame and when water is added dirt just falls off and leaves your bike shiny. I explained the benefits of using Squirtlube to them after drying their chain before then lubing their chains. 

As we were almost finished packing up shop, the tandem riders arrived around the corner of the van. They just wanted to thank Carl for the work he did on their chain. The Paralympian, now identified as Anne Usher also brought her medal along for us to look at. What an experience and honour to hear about her journey not just to Rio but even coming back from  Rio, the events she has had access to including receiving an MBE from Queen Elizabeth on the Friday before the race! Thank you Anne for popping past and sharing about your profiling, training, lifestyle and even doping control. All the best for your training to go to Tokyo, we will be watching you!

With Anne Usher and Carl Hutchings, Anne wanted me to wear her medal, I had to decline as I couldn't wear something I didn't earn!