Lost In The Dark, Night Racing At Woodhill Bike Park

The past few weeks have seen me heading off to work with a bike bundled into the back of the car, so that come quitting time I hit the long drive up the Nor' Western Motorway to the Woodhill Bike Park for the R&R Sport Wednesday Night Race Series.

It's been a big learning curve for me, as my exposure to Woodhill has been pretty slim... in fact other than a bit of a pottering about on a bike demo day earlier in the year I'd never placed a tire on the trails, so four weeks ago I turn up in the cold and dark to compete in a 8km race on a trail I have never ridden... so hey, what could go wrong eh?

Seems a lot could go wrong, like crash, broken bike and pain, but somehow I managed to avoid all that... what I could not avoid was that some little scally-wag had been around the course a bit prior to the race and thought it would be giggles to move and or remove a lot of the trail signs and indicators, though this would not be revealed until the following week. Initially post race, organiser and trail marker Haydz from Woodhill Bike Pike insinuated we were a bunch of clueless numpties, which would later be withdrawn and thereafter we were just numpties. Hey guess what "little Timmy", it was fuckin' annoying!

Race two could only get better right?

I did have a plan after race one, I'd head up to Woodhill during the week and get some riding in during the daylight hours and have more of an idea of where I was going... but that plan was out the window when I picked up some contract work at a broadcaster till the end of January next year and now I have a desk to be at Monday to Friday. Which is a good thing, a very good thing!

For many yes, it was a big improvement and they raced around the forrest, for me... well I lived up to my well earned numpty status and got lost several times... in fact I got so lost they sent someone out in the rescue truck to make sure I was not lying at the bottom on a hill or impaled on a tree, though perhaps that would have been easier to live down. However I did have a better understanding of where the trail was going.

Race three was my always going to the one in the series I thought I'd miss, as it initially clashed with a commitment Carla had. It was looking good again until I got caught in recruiting staff for my new employer and by the time I was done, the Southern Motorway was blocked and no way could I get across to Woodhill for the 7.30 pm start time.

Race four suddenly had become quite important for me. My goal was to complete the course and not get lost, to actually set a bench-mark from where I could improve.

The drive up the motorway did not give me much confidence, it was a cold, wet and windy night. The rain only easing as I rolled up the access road to Woodhill Forest. Hopping out of the car I could see a bright moon in the sky through the trees, which swayed to a strong bitterly cold wind... my heart started to sink, as I thought this would be hard. I had enough time to set up my bike, curse not having a warm enough jacket and make it to registration with time for a nervous call home... then we were off. There is no blow by blow race experience to write about, basically everyone blew past me and were gone. I was on my own and around 50 minutes later I arrived at back at the car park. I'd not gotten lost, not crashed!

My 8km lap was almost twice as long as the fastest rider... fuck he was fast! I had to wonder what the point was of driving all the way out to Woodhill was to plow around the course that fast.

Race five will be tomorrow night and I'll be there, summer-time has started, so it will not be completely dark when we start at 7.30 pm. I'm looking forward to it.

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