All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Battle on the Beach 2015

A Cycling's Battle on the Beach is fast becoming the must do race of the year, and that was only after one year. ;)  So there was no doubt that I would race it again this year and with an expanded entry, I was joined by 599 other riders/racers.

Held at Pembrey Country Park the site lends itself to a great family atmosphere, easy access and other activities to do over the weekend, even it is just have a walk along the ample beach.  There are kids events, roller racing on the Saturday eve, and a fun event mixed in with the race itself.

Out of the 600 riders, many choose just to enjoy a fun event and ride a course that is a little different than the normal mountain bike or CX course.  It is even a little different to what the professional beach racers from the Netherlands and Belgium are used to, it is really quite unique and Matt Page and the team at A Cycling know how to run a slick event that is befitting of a great location and super fun course.

So the course is fact, technical in bits, has some short nasty climbs (some sandy), soft sand and 4km (6km on the start lap this year) drag up the beach where in the right group you can fly.  There is a mix of fat bikes, CX, MTB, MonsterX even a couple of tandems this year, with Open, Age, Fatbike and Single Speed categories.

As usual this year Matt and the A Cycling crew had ordered the weather.  I had arrived and was in relatively fine fettle as wise the Fatboy. (see below)

(Photo: Anna Cipullo (BikeSoup))

After a week of study and a training course I was fired up to race and keen to give it a proper crack.  Getting to the start line early with Sam Pantling, had myself and many friends and familiar faces right on the start tape.  Being in the first bunch down the beach is pretty key to a good result I learnt last year.

 Crowded start line
(Photo: Anthony Pease Photography)

After the required start line encouragement and waffle (you have to have some waffle), we were under starters orders and away in a flash.  The for me went something like this, out the blocks well, avoid a 29er struggling in the sand, rider over a fallen bike, get into the front bunch after a bit of slalom and pin it.

The front group formed with some very very fast boys (KOGA Race Team) and other and 4 fatbikes, Roki Read, Paul Wynn, Sam Pantling and myself.  The pace was insane30+ kph down the beach, ebbing and flowing a bit, but I was lamenting the lack of a 34t upfront.  It settled for a bit then exploded (Old Man Crispin Doyle) attacked the bunch, this was too much for me and the elastic final broke. I couldn't spin that fast my knees were already steaming.

A few other groups edged pass before I found my legs again, wheeled on to the back of a small group and wheeled suck like a leech until the soft beach exit.  I took a tighter line an floated across the soft sand on the fat tyres, passing 20+ riders, I must have dropped from about 40th to somewhere in the 220s. A short stretch of road and a sharp corner and I stole a few more back and we charged onto a bumpy dirty road that narrowed and I went to work, weaving and pushing my way past other riders, at one point riding along an embankment using the extra traction to overtake a group nearly falling over itself.

So it was into the single track and the reason why I tried to stay with the front group, the queues, you have to suck it up and smile in a couple of spots as there is no way past. Soon I was on the charge again, using the advantage of the fatty on the soft sandy sections and the extra grip, not slowing much if at all for corners. The first charge through the Rollers was great, I could choose any line, so I did.  

We wiggled through the single track and double track at speed and before long charged through start finish and headed to the beach again, with a minor detour thanks to a meddling fool. But the A Cycling crew fixed this quickly and it didn't affect anyone much.

Back on the beach over the soft sand I gaped the group I was with passed a couple of other riders and then joined forces with another guy on a 29er and rolled 30 sec turns perfectly along the beach. The two of us hold 32ish kph along the beach and passing other riders at speed on their blind side.  As we approached the exit he slowed due to the wet and soft sand. We thanked each other as I speed off shouldered the fatty and climbed the sandy ramp off the beach and charged on. Towards the single track again.

My cohort and I on the beach, 2nd lap.
(Photo: Anthony Pease Photography)

After the first bit of single track, something didn't feel right on the bike.  I stopped and found my left crank arm loose, I tightened and got going again.

Back in to the single track picking lines to squeeze past or waiting patiently for the next fire road section a stole a few more places. Through the Rollers again, I spotted Anna C, we cheered each other on, the fatty made short work of the sandy climbs here and I managed to pass a couple more people, splitting 4 riders at one point as they struggled in the soft sand.

Realising my crank was loose again.
(Photo: Anthony Pease Photography)

Once again I soon passed through the Start/Finish, pushing hard, but it felt like my crank was loose again. Stopping again, this time I wanged the bolt up as tight as I could, losing a few places as I did.

Off again and on to the beach for the last time, once again I joined forces with another rider and buried myself taking the lion share of the work and belted along the beach passing others.  Leaving the beach I was determined to catch those I had already passed once.

In and out of single track I worked hard and soon climbed the last hard climb of the course and spotted Anna again who was on her last lap charged to the end.  Catching her again, we rode together for a bit until we hit the Rollers again and the fatty gave me the advantage in the soft sand.  I now charged towards the finish, in the Welsh sunshine, through the last few bits of single track and on to the road section to the finish, the big tyres rumbled to the line and 6th placed Fatbike.

6th and not far behind 5th and even 4th (maybe a loose crank arm behind them) with the sun shining at such a great event, I can say I was pretty happy.

Once again a great event, with a great course and atmosphere, with loads of like minded riders having fun, racing or not. I will certainly be back and Matt and his team at A Cycling have a winner on their hands with Battle on the Beach.

Still smile when I think of this event. :)