The Cooley Thriller is an MTB XC marathon race. I entered last year and won the Master category so was really looking forward to getting back up there and having another go this year. The course spanned 52km's across the Cooley Mountains with plenty of climbing thrown in to keep everyone honest. When we arrived the place was buzzing and it looked like a much bigger entry than 2009. The weather was not too bad - blustery and a few showers coming in but nothing too bad. As I was on holiday for the week leading up the normal pre-race preparation was out the window so I was not sure how the race would go.
After registration we got ourselves together and after the pre-race briefing we were escorted out of the sailing club and up through Carlingford village before starting the climb into the forest. There was no official start, but once we hit the wide fireroad the pace went up. Myself and Oisin got a little caught in the narrow lanes, but made up ground quickly - both of us were keen to be as far up front as we could for the first singletrack section.
We made it through easily enough and then hit the road for the climb up the masts. This was aserious climb - 6 or 7 km with the gradient hitting the mid teens on the top sections. Once I figured out the best gear I got into a comfortable rhythm. To be honest I felt crap for most of the climb and it was not until the top did I start to feel properly warmed up and a bit of go in the legs. As we progressed up the hill we began passing riders and close to the top we got a time check of 90 seconds from the leaders which was great to hear. I had no plans on competing against the elite riders, but it was still nice to hear.
Unfortunately that was the highlight of the race for me. Coming down the first descent I took a bad line down a super steep section. I managed to keep it together until close to the bottom but ended up sliding out on the wet grass. It was a nothing accident, but I think it was at that point I managed to break two spokes on the rear wheel. One of them wrapped around the wheel causing the freewheel not to work properly, so basically if I stopped pedaling, I'd get a chain suck type effect and it would lead to the chain dropping up front.
I kept going not realising what the source of the problem was, but on another descent when I did freewheel again, the chain hopped off the chainring and got lodged between the granny ring and the bottom bracket, totally locking the cranks, and in the process twisting the front dérailleur around by about 45 degrees. So I stopped for a bit to pull it out and set off again, but I knew there were big problems. So a little further on I stopped again and fixed the dérailleur. I wanted to quit as this point as I noticed a missing spoke and a buckle in the rear wheel, but I had no idea where the nearest road was! So after about 10 minutes I decided to follow the course and drop out at the nearest road. That turned out to be the Windy Gap - about 3/4's way through the race! But thats what I did and cycled back to the car park on the road.
I'm still gutted about dropping out especially after a good start and feeling good after the first climb, but thats racing. It was the first major problem I've had all year so when you look at it like that I can't really complain. I did some more investigation on the wheel when I got home. On top of the problems mentioned above, the locking nut for the cassette had also come loose with only the quick release keeping everything together! Total disaster really.
But on the plus side it was a great 1-2 for MAD in the masters category with Oisin winning and Mark coming second.
The Cuchlainn lads put on a great show again and I plan to get back up next year to try again.
There's a whole month before the next (and final) race of the season - the XC Marathon champs. So my plan is to take a week totally off all bikes and try to sort out my knee thats been acting up a bit since The Bull Raid 12 hour race. Then one last push before cake, beer and social spins!