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Syncros Endurance Race Report from Bristol 6 Hour9th JUN 2010

Bristol Bikefest? What can I say? I guess I'll just start at the beginning: I'd been looking forward to the event for a while. I'm settled here in Bristol now and it feels like home, so a home race on my home trails. The weather was looking like it would be kind to us, the trails were running well, and I was starting to get all the indications that I might be in OK shape. Certainly I'm in a very comfortable place as a rider and my thoughts on the event and racing in general are all based on enjoyment and fun rather than any great outcome.

Bristol Bike Fest - Syncros Endurance

I've also been working much more on the mental side of things with regards to what I want from competition. I know I can win races, and I'm sorry if I shouldn't say it and people find that arrogant, but I know I can win solo 6, solo 12 and solo 24 hour races. I proved that a long time ago now and I've moved on from any need to prove myself as an athlete. I do like competition though, I do like the process of training, the fun times we have when we get together, and then putting that all into a heated environment to see what we can do under pressure.

I've been looking at my mental game and a view to enjoyment. I've been looking at racing intelligently and using the truth of what science has taught us about pacing, about power output, about energy. All that information is out there and many of us already know it. It fascinates me that so many otherwise intelligent athletes throw all that information straight out the window come race day! I'm trying not to and it's very, very tough not to react to the attacks o others and the early pace in a race. Bristol was my first attempt at making pacing work as the number one goal of my race.

The week leading up to Bristol had been a heavy week of training for me and my last block before I taper back for Mountain Mayhem. This worked pretty well for me in that I couldn't get to preoccupied with Bikefest other than to do my training on the course and simulate some race pace as part of the block. I knew from those rides in the week that i was going to be able to comfortably average 25 minute laps around the slimmed-down Bikefest loop. I also knew that had I wanted to I could have gunned a couple of sub 23's if I'd been racing on a team. So if you look back at most solo race results you'll see that most riders gun a few, then slip back a bit to a sustainable pace, then pay the price for the early fast laps and fall back a bit.

I figured that gave me a window of 23 to 27 minutes so anyone going consistently faster than 23 was going to beat me. Anyone faster than me early on but within that window who hadn't paced them self properly was probably beatable by the end of the race. That is all assuming that I don't pace myself badly and fade also. The plan then was to start fast to avoid the traffic and then settle in with laps that were no faster than 24 minutes (but if I were really sensible 25 minutes) and then keep the pressure on as others started to fade.

Looking at the start sheet it looked like it was going to be a really good indicator of my fitness. Ant White and Ian Leitch, who are both also on the Mayhem start sheet, were entered. Along with Adi Scott and Graeme Forbes. All 4 riders who I know can race hard and fast for six hours (and beyond) Only the best 3 would make that podium and they'd need a bit of luck and some good solid pace to be there at the end. As it happens neither Ian or Ant turned up for the start, at least I didn't see them there, and I can only guess that they either had a great day racing the day previous and decided to head home early to celebrate, or a not so great day racing the day before and so decided to head home and rest up for Mayhem. Either way I hope they will both recover and be at their best for Mayhem as I'm really looking forward to the competition.

I got a bit carried away at the start. I guess I've not raced a whole lot of enduro in recent years and being in a good event. I ran to my bike hard, got clear and then hit the first singletrack at a good lick. As I reached a safe point for team and pairs riders to pass I eased a bit and waited for the other solo contenders to appear. Graeme was pretty much on me straight away and rode off shortly afterwards. He looked comfortable, not like he was hauling his ass, we would have to see if he was just faster and fitter or just looks really comfortable at pace.

Adi caught me about halfway around that first lap. He was riding as Adi rides, such a strong guy, aggressive attacking style and strong on the climbs. I kinda resigned myself a long time ago that I'm never going to be a flyweight climber. I live in the power sections of the course, lots of ramps and short hills work for me. I've built my own style of racing enduro around my strengths so I climb sensibly, descend well and then hit the flat or rolling stuff that others tap through with a good solid pace. I didn't react to Adi climbing away, I just rode back up to him when my strengths suited. We continued like that for some laps.

So my early laps were a tad to fast but I settled well and I wasn't losing too much time to the two riders up ahead. Graeme took 45 seconds out of me on lap one, 42 seconds on lap two, 46 seconds on lap 3, and then only 25 seconds on lap 4. If he was pacing his ride well then he was clearly fitter than me. If he wasn't then time gap simply wouldn't be enough when he faded in the second half of the event. I was a little over pace but not enough that I expected to fade massively. Adi never really got away and we swapped second place repeatedly.

Approaching the two, to two and half, hour mark always give you the first indication of who has overcooked it slightly. I felt OK although I knew that I'd burnt a couple of matches and so couldn't afford to get into a fight until the last couple of hours. Adi had clearly burnt a lot of his and the sting was suddenly gone from his attacks. for the first time in the race I caught him on a climb. The temptation to go right then was immense but with over three hours of racing I decided that a slightly slower lap at his pace was better than using my energy just yet. I followed and observed for half a lap. He was either bluffing or I was now stronger.

We approached the end of that lap and I clocked Graeme with an upturned bike and fixing what looked like a puncture. Adi seemed cooked. Time to find out! I took the pace straight back up to the previous pace and didn't look back. Friends around the course started giving me time checks. It looked good. Settle in, stay on a sensible and sustainable pace, wait to see if Graeme had anything left to hunt me back down. From that point on I just reacted ever so slightly to the riders behind whenever I needed to. If the gap shortened I'd lift my pace a notch, if the gap opened then I'd allow myself a slightly easier pace.

It made me smile a lot. Riding an awesome bike - I rode my slightly heavier Blur LT which just excelled in the Bristol rocks - in the sun, through the dust, pushing my body, executing the plan, leading the race. Absolutely bloody marvelous, what an incredible buzz! It was good, a really, really fun ride.

Bristol Bike Fest - Syncros Endurance

The guys behind started to slow a bit more towards the end but I decided to see if I could get out with enough time to complete a 14th lap and also to see if I could stay on the pace. I did and I could, and that felt bloody marvelous too! My average in the end was 25:17 which if I'm honest with myself is a bit disappointing as I held a better pace than that on my six hour training ride on the same course 7 days previous. It does prove the point to myself that I can go faster overall if I don't react to others early on. I reckon I could have held that for a 12 hour no worries, and given that I start 12's slower...

So now I'm really looking forward to Mayhem and seeing what sort of pacing strategy I can execute there. I wasn't expecting to find this sort of fitness this season, I was hoping to be here in 2011, but who's to complain? I don't know if it's good enough to take on racers like Ant, Ian and James (Leavesley) in a solo 24 hour. I will be looking to enjoy Mountain Mayhem as much as I did Bristol Bikefest. Nine days to go and I just can't wait...

Rob Lee Team Syncros Endurance
Seven Deadly Spins
Follow the adventure on twitter : @RobLee7ds

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