August rolls round and the focus turned to one of my favourite events of the year, the Brighton Big Dog. It’s an XC race held in Stanmer Park near Brighton over 6 hours, with solos, pairs and teams racing against each other. Nigel, the other half of the illustrious “Pies ‘n’ Thighs” Cape Epic race team is one of the organisers which came about following a one off event in 2008 run by Gary Fisher, one of the founding fathers of mountain biking, and it’s a supremely well-organised event but with an incredibly relaxed atmosphere which makes it a firm favourite with the serious racers and fun riders. The other great thing about the event is the quality of singletrack on the course, particularly in the second half of a lap as the majority of it is downhill to the start finish line. The downside to all this late fun is a few nasty hills in the first third of the lap, but you always know once they’re out of the way that you can enjoy yourself for a while.
Once again I’d opted to solo the race as a Purple Bike Shed/Redhill CC rider, so I wouldn’t get to enjoy the copious amounts of tea and cake available in the spectator area, and 6 hrs of short, sharp climbs and rooty singletrack were going to be a fair challenge. I’ve been commuting a lot of late, so my fitness has improved, but most of that route is relatively flat, so my hill climbing is still as poor as ever, although I don’t think I’m ever going to be troubling whippets to King of the Mountain titles.
The great thing about this year was the uptake from the number of BoB’s (Berks on Bikes), Redhill CC and Dorking Cocks riders who’d made the journey down to the south coast. Having a small amount of involvement in all of those means that on most laps I’d have people to speak to and try and stick with or chase down.
Midday rolled around and I started a long way back down the field but I made steady progress on the first lap and assumed a pace I thought I could manage for the 6 hrs. Pausing each lap to grab a new water bottle and potentially a small amount of food, I was neck and neck with BoB’s Jon Clucas for the first four laps, and saw a number of other riders to say hello to which helped to spur me on.
This year’s course was a little shorter in distance, but contained nearly as much climbing as the normal old route, so my legs certainly felt each of the lap. Cramp late on during the 7thlap meant I knew I had to be careful with pushing too hard, but conveniently time was now running down and I knew I would only manage one more lap before the 6hr cut off came into play. The final singletrack sections of the last lap were taken as fast as I could manage, enjoying the fact that I wouldn’t need to do any more climbing once I crossed the line.
The recovery drink (half a pint of Dark Star bitter) was thrust into my welcoming hand on finishing, and I then got to meet Catherine and Steve amongst the melee. Having Catherine arrive meant that I didn’t have to drive, so it seemed only fair to celebrate with a couple more beers before moving on to the beach side venue for the after party.
Overall, I came 33rd in the men’s solo and I was pleased with my 8 laps. I think I would have struggled to have got 9 laps in within the time, so I’m happy with the position and the way the race went. And yes, I’ll be back in 2014 for BBD number 6!