It’s been a long time in the wilderness, but seven months on from injury I finally feel comfortable again…
Back in the day you could turn up to a race like Beastway with some determination and sharp elbows and do pretty well. Then someone (who wasn’t a pro) went loopy and realised that with a bit of training (like a pro) they could beat everyone else. The trouble with that is that it meant that a bunch of other people went loopy and realised that if they trained too, they could also compete. This hideous self made mess means that even someone (like me) who would rather eat frites than go to shampoo and conditioning class (or whatever it’s called), has to go out training too if they want to be in the mix.
So having raced myself back to some kind of fitness I turned up to Redbridge last Wednesday with my elbows sharpened up just in case. Luckily I was early enough to get a practice lap in with my team mate because not only was the lap incredibly long it was super complicated. Somehow the organisers managed to squeeze in four miles of racing into the tiny Redbridge/Hog Hill site and credit where credits due, it was bloody brilliant. Banked downhill corners, off-camber corners, grassy drags, fast swoopy downhills, big rooty sections, super steep climbs and plenty of dusty singletrack made for a cracking lap.
Sitting on the grid between Rob Purcell (Neon Velo) and Gaz Hurst (KTM MTB Racing) and with Chris Panayiotou and Mark Shephern (Fruit4London) on the inside it was clearly going to be a pretty quick one – Gaz and Chris had won in this series before, Mark is always quick and Rob is at the top of the National Masters standings at the moment and so naturally led us into the first few turns with me clinging to his wheel and everyone else close behind.
The grassy turns seemed to deliver more grip than you’d expect and I was loving the steep climbs up the downhill switchbacks, but as we flew past the club house for the first time, Rob began to put pressure on us, gapping us for thirty seconds by the end of lap one. I’d settled into a nice pace with the two Fruit4London riders, but I was keen not to do too much work, hoping that Gaz would make his way back to us. After another lap I could sense that Mark was beginning to suffer and with Gaz now a minute or so down I knew my job was simple – I had to break-up the train I was in or risk Mark and Chris working together to drop me too. With Mark slightly off the back I dropped the hammer for half a lap and put as much pressure on the two of them as I could.
It worked. Kind of. Mark was now 45 seconds behind us. The downside was that Chris was still holding my wheel and now sensing that I was tiring, he’d picked the pace up further. I yo-yoed back and forth from being on his wheel to being ten seconds behind and then back again, before finishing the penultimate lap just five seconds down and in touch.
Even though I was pushing as hard as I could, the last lap was sweet with the sun setting over our heads, but on the grassy drag halfway through the lap Chris had found another three seconds to demoralise me with. Down through the woods for the final time I was working as hard as I dared and riding my bike suddenly felt natural again. I’d done enough to secure third place which after so long, felt like a win and with some quality riders racing I knew I could go home with a smile on my face.
- Rob Purcell
- Chris Panayiotou +3’17
- Glen Whittington +3’26
- Mark Shephern +4’46
- Markus Sheilds +6’57
- Garry Hurst +7’13
- Dave Cov +7’19
- Richard Farkas +12’37
- Ben Swann +14’32
- Ben Reidy +16’41
Glen rides a Colnago Master and races a Scott Addict at local road races, both available via The Velo House. He races a KTM Aera Pro 27.5 hardtail in the UK National Points Series and the Eastern XC Series. He receives personal sponsorship from Helly Hansen, KTM and THE.ÆIGHT.BICYCLE.CØMPANY. He’s also supported by Lazer helmets.The KTM team is supported byContinental Tyres, Torq Fitness and Four4th Lights.