Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Gorrick Autumn Classic

It had to happen eventually – the sun shone and it was a beautiful crisp morning for Gorrick’s 20th anniversary bash. Gorrick have been the staple diet of budding and experienced cross country racers since November 1992. In that time we have almost started to take for granted the efficient organisation and superb courses. Gorrick have become the standard by which other events are judged. It is at these alternative races when your entry has been lost; you discover your timing chip didn’t work; or you got lost because there wasn’t enough tape marking the course, that you appreciate what a slick operation Gorrick is.

After a quick count back this was coincidently my 50th Gorrick race! (I was amazed by that stat!!) My first race was February 2002 in the Novice category. Totally under prepared I pushed my broken bike across the line 49th out of 62 starters! Season after season I trained harder and raced better until I worked my way up to the sharp end, of what had by then been renamed the Open class. I started to collect some of Gorricks famous 'ash tray' trophies before being convinced to move up to the Masters category in 2011. My first season in Masters was a tough education, no longer racing at the front I found myself struggling to even stay in the top 20. This year I finished in the top 10 at three of the four spring series races. Sunday's Autumn Classic would provide the last opportunity to demonstrate my improvement, before another winter of hard graft.

The course for Gorrick’s birthday was a flat, big ring blast with all the usual Gorrick twists and turns. In fact squeezing past with so many riders on track proved extremely difficult. 

By keeping my elbows out I somehow found myself on the front row for the start. The horn blared and I was fighting hard to maintain my place at the head of the field as we charged full pelt down the first 1/2 mile of fire road. There was bumping and barging, with riders chopping and changing lines, so I was relieved and even delighted to enter the first singletrack section still in third. With so little opportunity to pass I concentrated on hanging onto the two riders in front. Unfortunately we caught the back markers from the earlier races and I lost sight of them midway through the first lap. Once the track opened up a few fasters riders came through from behind and I was in 8th place, chasing again to hang on to their wheels. Losing ground in the tighter sections I clawed it back on the climbs and by the end of the 2nd lap I was up into 7th. The riders in front had gone so it was a race to the line between me and the guy I had just passed.

Cutting every corner and squeezing every ounce of energy I could muster, I maintained a small gap. However, as we neared the finish a quick glance over my shoulder revealed my pursuer had been joined by another rider. Working together they were closing in! The last easy passing opportunity was a flat section of fireroad before a sharp left turn that would take us down a steep gulley. I could hear and almost feel them breathing down my neck as I dived into the narrow decent, staying tight to the inside to ensure nobody crept past. There were still a few tricky corners to navigate but they would have to ride around the outside as I deliberately positioned myself close against the marker tape each time. A tyre buzzed my rear wheel, into the final bend but I held my nerve and was across the line. 7th place my best Gorrick result of the year!