Yep, the season is almost over. In the last years, I was always surprised how fast a season passed, but this year I have to admit I was looking forward to the end… Bad luck, stupid mistakes, injuries, …, too many things have gone wrong leaving me now at the end of the season with a lot of physical problems, but also a wiser man (I hope).
Anyway, there was the last marathonrace of the season in the beautiful north-side of Balaton, in Balatonfusfo and in this time of the year (autumn) with millions of colors, I couldn’t resist… Sure, the weatherforecast was awful, but how bad can it be for a Belgian, born and raised in the mud? Well, pretty bad! J
With the start at 10.30, there was room for a normal sundaymorning routine with friends and family before to jump in the car and to start today’s swimming-lessons. Hmm, 8 degrees, windy and lots of rain, well, I guess it can only get better, or not? It wouldn’t. So, everybody gave up on the idea of warming up and the little crazy group of long distance racers (18people) only went to the start at 10.25. For the first time in my life, I also would be testing to race in my Endura FS260 rainjacket and with a windproof hat. Sure, it’s not what I learned in Belgium, but I got older and after living so many years in nice temperatures now, I start to have troubles with the cold. When we finally get going, I don’t feel in a race, everybody is now starting an individual fight: man vs nature. Nobody thinks about racing the others, as we all understand it will be a hell of a job to get ourselves + the bike in 1 piece to the finish. After 700m, we leave the asphalt and things get clear pretty fast… No grip, slippery fat mud etc… So, start looking for the right line and hop hop! I still remember this kind of riding and so I get up and away from the group. The tire choice with the new maxis beaver in front and a semislick in the rear (not to dig too much in the mud) is working and I keep the drivetrain in the clear. As today there are no opponents, only the killing conditions, I also switch to 90% and start what I hope will be a nice training. And for the first 20kms, it is! But, conditions are getting worse, finding grip is getting harder and I realize after drifting all over the place, a full maxis beaver setup would have been the right choice… Still thinking about that, I arrive at a field. We have to go 800m along it and after 10m I realize it’s this kind of mud that will lock up the bike in no time. Still I pray that my narrow tires + brutal power will save me, but no, I end up halfway with 40kgs of bike. Waaaw, I need to go to the fitness this winter as lifting the huge weight to my shoulders is almost impossible. After 400m running, I have to get the bike in some river to clean the wheels and after some time, I can ride again… I check the bike and the drivetrain is still clean, I managed to survive this field with no damage, oeff. The trails are good and I am enjoying it. The clothes keep me in perfect temperature and so I just go from feedzone to feedzone, taking time to fill up and to eat, even to clean my glasses. But, too good doesn’t exist and surely not for me in 2015. After a steep slippery descent in a ditch, I want to accelerate on the next flat section and suddenly my rear derailler locks up!? Whats that? Again, I look at the chain and it’s perfectly good? Ok, have to be carefull! But now I hear some noise too. It seems like 1 of the jockeywheels is jammed. So, I decide to stop for inspection. 2jockey wheels are good? Hmm, but I see the derrie is way up too high so the upper wheel is touching the cassette? Hmm, broken hanger? I take my tool and take off the derrie. Hanger is fine, so I look at the derailler: some part is missing, the ring that holds the derrie in the correct position on the hanger. How can that break??? Still don’t understand, but when my friend, the leading enduro motorbike comes back to check, I explain its game over. But, after putting back the derailler, I notice that the natural chaintension keeps the derrie out of the cassette on 4 gears and so I can ride on those! So, a little scared for more troubles, I decide to continue. All works fine, still sometimes I lock up, but, being carefull, I survive. Powertraining!!! At km 45, I have to make a decision: to turn right and quit to the middle distance or to go left for another super muddy loop and a realistic DNF? Well, as it is the last race of a bad year, I realize this is the choice between ‘quiting for sure’ or ‘quiting probably’ and so I continu for the long distance. If I make it, I finish the season positive, If I quit now, it’s another failed day for sure… With the kms going, I understand the new technique and my confidence is going up. Sure, my legs are tested as I have to climb on my 5th gear (32-26), but I have to say, climbing in muddy condition requires bigger gears, so it works! What could have been a nice training at 90% is now becoming a real 100% fight to survive, but I enjoy it. Next problem to expect: running out of brakes. Sure, no brakes can handle 85kms of this shit and with the brakepads at 30% to start with, even my good avid xx brakes will get into troubles. I had set them up for mud with a maximal clearance between pads and the disc, had been avoiding touching the brakes in the “almost possible turns” by clicking out a foot and drifting instead of a short brake, but around km 70, I felt things were close to the end. So you see, this was an interesting day, far from boring as there was always some detail to keep you distracted from cold, wind and rain. I almost forgot to enjoy the scenery ;). But, maybe my body has let me down in 2015, my RAM podium never did! And so today it was doing again a great job! Finally, I killed the front pads 10m after the finish J. The last 15kms were super! Nice trails up and down, all rideable, really great, but as it just can’t go right this year, surely something still had to go wrong 50m before the finish… Maybe it was my muddy glasses, maybe it was me being tired, but somehow I was roughly thrown of the bike onto my damaged left side after hitting something on my right!??? What? Well, at the entrance of the football stadium, there was a metal pole. On that pole, an artist had made a shape of a tree with metal wire. All I had noticed was some green wires and somehow I must have thought it was a flexible construction as I went next to it just hitting it slightly getting in a good line to jump over some stones (like you would do with a pinetree..), but this construction was made of 1cm metal stuff not moving at all and so I found myself again on the floor!
Anyway, I made it, I won the battle as even the stupid crash didn’t keep me from getting to the finish in 1st position with a bike in 1 piece only with some new scratches and blue scars on my body. Racing in the breathing rainproof FS260 jack was an eye-opener and also the hat was great, so, will go testing some more stuff now like booties etc…
So, what now? Recovery! I have injuries that will need time and so that’s what I have planned. Sure, I will ride, but racing, well, not for some weeks I guess…
Looking forward to friendly rides in the autumn colors testing some new clothes and equipment, so, see you around!