First off there was the whole - S1 rider racing masters. Not going to go into this but an Elite I ain't and while some people seemed to think it was a case of trophy hunting, that was far from the truth. Anyway, it annoyed me a lot and did not help preparing for the race.
So the day of the race rolled up and we made it down to Kilruddery in plenty of time for getting setup and doing a lap of the course. And it was a great course - lots of swoopy, technical single track with a few little kickers thrown in. Also added in was the tombstone. More on that later. It was a course you could really enjoy riding or racing on. But not one that I could say I'd be strong on as there was a serious lack of climbing - fireroads or the techy type.
There was a new section put in to allow the feature dubbed Tombstone to be included. it was approximately a 5 foot slab of rock at an 80ish degree angle before it transitioned into the trail. It scared the shite out of me and Gene and standing there for 15 minutes looking at it and watching other riders take it comfortably did not help. So we decided to take the chicken run and then spin around that section to go at the drop at a race pace.
As the lads rolled off I decided at the last minute to give it a go. There was a line to take - start on the left and as you were on the rock slab, work the bike slightly across to the right. I started on the left and was down the rock section in a flash, but I made a couple of simple errors. The main one was my weight was centered in the middle of the bike, which meant once the fork hit the transition, I was going over the bars. The other mistake I made was with the fork, which I had been fiddling around with over the preceding few days. It was down a few PSI and it only aided my flight over the bars.
I landing head first into the ground with the top/back of my skull. That pushed my chin into my chest and stretch my neck further than its ever been stretched before. The crash was over in a flash, but I still had enough time to think about how far my neck would bend before it broke. Once I came to a standstill with the bike on top of me I wiggled all fingers/toes and was relived to feel them move as commanded!
The lads got the bike off me and I sat there for a minute trying to get myself together. The body was fine, but (in hindsight) I was concussed with serious pains in my neck. But I got back onto the bike and made it back to the car in one piece. I was chatting away to the lads and felt OK, but as the adrenaline faded, the splitting headache kicked in. To compound matters another fella ended headfirst into the ground at the same spot which held up the start of the race. The organisers also decided to remove Tombstone from the race... feckit, wish they decided that the day before!
Anyway, I went out for a warm up on the singletrack and I did not feel right. I was flying along on the technical stuff, but it seemed like my brain could not keep up with my legs in terms of processing where I was and what I should do next. In my delirious state I chose to just take the positive out of it (that is my legs felt good).
So we were called up to the start. I was on the second row on the outside which was a bit tricky as there was a sharp right, then left before a run down to the singletrack entrance. The whistle blew and we were off. The outside line did not work out too good at the start especially on the greasy grass section, but I tried to just keep it together until the straight open piece. I was probably in 10th place when we got into the singletrack and was rightly stuck. It was impossible to pass so all I could do was sit in and wait for a point to get through. And that was half way through the first lap on a short fireroad section.
By the time we came around to the start/finish I was 4th and feeling great (I think). Despite, Kev, Mark and James being miles ahead I thought it was a great challenge/nothing to lose type situation. That lasted about 200 metres into the singletrack when on a sharp left turn (I think), my foot came out of the pedal and into the front wheel! The wheel locked and I took my second trip of the day over the bars. This time landing on my shoulder/head. No damage done to me this time, but when I took a look at the bike I'd managed to break a spoke. At this point I just thought I was a danger to myself and the other riders on the course so called it a day! It was a miserable end to a pretty shite weekend all told. Well done to Kevin and Mark who had a great race on the day with Kev winning out. James came in 3rd.
The headaches lasted most of the following week which meant crappy sleep most nights. And 3 weeks later as I write this I still have pain at the base of my neck - but its getting better with plenty of stretching.
But I a lot of ways I feel lucky as it could have been a lot worse and with just 1 broken spoke on the bike to show for some pretty hairy racing I can't complain. Glad its over tho!