In order to share the burden (ahem – I mean Honour) of keeping VB.CC full of new stuff, it was my turn (PFitzp, otherwise known as Mr Dr Bants) to write up a race.
Hillingdon is a favourite for us Southern Central League-ers, only being 25 mins away from VB’s Tech HQ in Slough.
Along with reduced fields, thanks to many regulars not being ar$ed with the trek around the M25 and usually the threat of some kind of weather event to really make things interesting, you can likely bank on some kind of result out of the ordinary – it might not necessarily be a GOOD result, but it will be different.
Unlike last year, when most of the field didn’t make it out of snowbound Northampton and those of us that made it found themselves several rows further forward than usual, this year it seemed everyone that entered had made it. However, there is something about Hillingdon mud – it just sticks! And 2018 was a repeat of 2015 – As a result, many would ultimately not finish and be left with only the need to purchases rear mechs and hangers for their efforts (btw – who knows their rear mech hanger part number/type/model until it gets ripped off in the mud? Some only to discover you have to get it from China!)
Our plan was to be there early, flash the Bant’s logo and get the van into position as per the map in order to help Thommo when he arrives for set up. However this plan was scuppered when Google Maps showed that ol’ GoggleEye (have you noticed the burgeoning Pierce Brosnan barnet?) was already on his way around the M25 before we left the house! He is dedicated that man! (and Yes, we share our location on G-Maps, it’s part of the VB joining procedure!)
Set up was fairly brisk, with the Bant’s cheering point pre-marked on the map (super big thanks to Murray Winterfrost and the TCC Team) overlooking the undulating Northern half of the course. Whilst this meant we were far away from the core of the registration, prep and gridding, we had prime view over the pits – a place that promised nearly as much action as the course.
Gazebo up, 2 (perhaps ill-advised) sides added in the morning breeze and it was time for Junior Thommo to hit the course – and hit it he did with a stellar performance of 5th place, one of his best this year.
Next up first to ride the full course as the rain started to fall hard, Molli Molli Molli showed how much we need her to defect 100% to Bant’s to lift our positional average with another win in the U16 girls. Course feedback from Ms Keenor? “It’s muddy!” Cutting insight there.
Time for the squadron of matchy matchy V40 VBs to hit the course – and to roll out the next bit of team kit purchased and squeezed into the Nath-mobile.
All the talk in the preceding 24 hours was what pit bikes can we get hold of and just how much water can you get through during a 40 minute race? As it happens about 120 litres across 5 riders with some doing half lap changes. This means a small army of George, Jason, Molli, Kate and even Stevie Pellow, who brought his bike JUST to be a spare, were called up to fire up the mother of all super-soakers.
The start was unusual for this season, in that there was a good 500m around the Hillingdon cycle circuit on tarmac. Cue the usual charge though with all the VB crew gaining places to enter the first bend in the Top 20 – FACT!
Then we hit the mud and at a sharp right turn and bottleneck. Some went down early, making back half of the field dismount over the first rise before dropping down and then winding up and down the slope, past the rather quiet VB fanzone (as everyone was in pits), past said pits, up a rise and a straight dash to the far end of the course with a nasty little adverse camber descent to track side. Once over the start/finish for the first time, the field hit ‘the spiral of death’ – well really just a mud bog slowing anyone that dared to take the short line and not hug the tape.
In short, Nath had a stormer, going full pro with half lap changes of bike, joined by Kevvo. I however, did not do half lap changes and swapping to the FitzRobbo pit bike after 1.5, only managed just over ¾ of a lap before there was much snapping and subsequent dragging of rear mech in spokes. So a run of a few hundred metres back to the pits ensued – watching the positions drift away – back on the main bike and starting a felorn chase back to the group. Just ahead, Kevvo had hit the deck (makes a change) to eventually finish one place ahead in 43, with Tommo hitting the dizzy heights of the top 20 and Pogo firing his way to season’s best of Top50. Mark ArtyBants Sanderson finished the V40 posse with a 60th.
Finally, to the women’s race. A smaller field this week with only around 30 taking the start. As usual, Dr Bants was gridded right in the middle, but that meant 2nd row – all to play for. Unfortunately for new Bant recruit Laura Lawson (La La) didn’t even get that far, with another mech parting ways with bike during the first 50m of mud during her recce.
Having already lost her Pit bike, Kate scrabbled around the team for a replacement. Unfortunately pickings are thin in tiny sized frames, but thanks to Molli for making one of her race winning steeds available. After a cracking start, Kate took a poor line in the mud spiral and lost 30s in lap time having to run. Her usual claw back through the field resulted in a head to head once again with Gemma Bitaraf. With 150m to Kate got past and took a lead onto the tarmac, but Gemma was not to be denied, stealing a podium on the line in Senior Women – not that Dr Bants was bothered – much!
The long journey back meant that the VB area was gone pretty quick this time, but as ever, a great race in challenging conditions on a course that definitely brings its own unique elements to the CCXL circuits, with plenty of tricky little traverses and all that mud! Happy New Year all – 3 to go!