Big Dog2012

Photos from the event are available from russgillespie.co.uk.

I had booked my solo entry for Brighton Big Dog 6 hour months ago because I’d had such a good race last year, achieving a surprise 5th place on a rigid singlespeed! Recently I had been feeling some doubt on how well I could do after a poor performance at Bontrager 24:12 and I had been struggling with motivation to train properly.
I arrived in Brighton friday afternoon, and rode a practice lap with my good friend Ronnie, from the Brighton Mountain Bike Club, he has always supported my racing and encouraged me to set my sights higher than I imagined I could. The practice lap was slippery and slow going, so my nerves were on edge and I was dreading another potentially boggy race! I’d chosen to race geared for the first time in years due to the lack of single speed class, I must say a big thanks to Scott Swalling for lending me the geared wheel, I would have struggled on the wet root sections if I’d ridden single speed.
Saturday morning arrived and I was feeling calm and more relaxed after the bad weather I had expected had not arrived. Lining up for the start I spotted the usual fast faces I have come to recognise, therefore starting the race I decided a top 10 finish was the race aim.
After an unusual short two lap warm-up, the race started. I felt ok off the start, remembering to keep my head and not take any silly risks and as the first lap progressed I was out on my own, behind the lead group, but in-front of the main race group, I was happy with my position as the course still felt slippery, and a few uphill sections remained difficult to clear without stalling.
The second lap felt much better, the course was clear of riders and the slippy patches had started drying and sections I had ran the lap before where now ridable and the singletrack was fast and flowing. The third and forth laps were within +/- 1minute of each other, and I was feeling good, clearing the technical climbs and enjoying the course.
Come the seventh and my last lap I still felt good and had an out-side chance of catching 5th place, I attacked every climbing trying to make up 4minutes. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, I finished 6th overall, with the fast guys still in front, despite this I feel it was one of my best races despite the lack of podium, trying to compete against semi-pros on my 25pound, steel framed bike with nine gears is always going to be a compromise on a fast course, hilly course, but it’s given me the encouragement I need to make steps next year to progress into being one of the fast guys.
I always enjoy going back to Brighton and I it was an opportunity to meet new face in the bike scene, including Sarah from Halo Headband, thanks for the sponsorship and the words of encouragement from the Brighton Mountain Bike Crew.

With regard to the Bigdog all I can say is that it was once again an enjoyable if painful day out. The course is superb for what is essentially an XC race, really well organised and there is a fantastic atmosphere. I am happy as I know I was a bit quicker than last year, as although my times are about the same I know the course was running about 4-5 minutes slower. It was also fun overtaking people rather than being overtaken. I think my only real mistake was getting caught at the back at the start as there was some big bottle necks not only over the first few climbs but also down the first few descents as people were unsure of the slippery conditions. Next time I will have to make sure I hustle to the middle of the pack at the start. Me and Alan (team Brighton Explorers no.207) did ok finishing 50th, with a slightly better start we might have had an outside chance of another lap but to be honest I am not sure if my legs would have done it anyway. All in all great fun and time to start ‘training’ for next year. (Tom)

Considering we only entered 3 weeks ago, we were chuffed with our performance. I had laps of 57, 58 and 1.00 bang on. Tom had a first lap amongst the massed of 1.00 and then got into the rhythm of 53 and 54.
I fell off three times. Twice on the first lap and once on the second. I managed not to fall off in the third lap, despite riding into a tree. All in all, an excellent day! (Alan)
Had a really fun race! We lost Rich from our team so moved into the very competitive male pairs class, and neither of us have the XC race fitness to come close to podiuming. My tactic was to blast out fast on the first lap, as I can go pretty quick for about ten minutes, which worked beautifully, right up until ‘Badger’s Plunge’ when a flint slashed open my rear tyre and I spent 12 minutes fighting with anchovies and goo getting it to reseal. That put me right back with the slower riders so I spent the rest of the lap fighting my way through traffic, which cost me even more time but I had fun overtaking both up and downhill. My teammate Jason put in a surprisingly fast first lap and turned up at the changeover point whilst I was just running back from using the facilities (kudos to pitman Ronnie for getting my bike into the right place!) but despite that organisational fail we started working our way back up the table (we were 60th at the end of lap 1).
My lack of XC fitness started telling halfway through my third lap when cramp reared its ugly head (I could have done with a granny ring for once!) so I spent the rest of the race doing pain management (lower back from pedalling sitting down vs cramp from standing and stomping – usually my preferred approach). So that was the bad bits – the mechanical and the nasty pains. The good bits totally overwhelmed them though: This is my local stomping ground, I’m fairly quick on the downhill bits, my tyre choice was pretty effective and I was feeling in the zone. I actually rode some of the downhills substantially faster than at last year’s bone dry Big Dog! And fortunately no-one seemed to have a problem with my shouts of “coming through fast” and much of the time I managed to overtake cleanly. Totally lost the back end through ‘Into The Jungle’, the boggy heavily foliaged bit near the end of the lap, and was reovertaken by a Klein retrobike but that was my only off. Had a satisfying moment when I heard a “leader” shout at the top of A&E (the rutted swoopy descent up near the top of Stanmer) and then didn’t see so-called leader until I was well back onto the fireroad climb. I think that was when I set the fastest Strava time of the day on that segment, there was no way anyone, leader or not, was catching me down there!
So apart from the leg cramp and back spasms hurting a bit, it wasn’t as tough as I was expecting – last year was too hot for me really. And I loved the conditions, there was way more grip on offer than most riders realised, and I know the best line choices so I could really push the limits on the descents. One small bug – I think the chicken run was a lot quicker than the bombhole but I rode the bombhole each time because it’s more fun! By the end of the race we Phoenix Knights (no. 297) had worked our way back up to 28th and it looks like we’d have been just in the top 20 if we hadn’t lost all that time with the puncture and then getting stuck working through traffic, so we’re pretty damned pleased! And after the ignominy of placing much lower than I expected in my first gravity enduro race I realise I’m pretty fast when I know a trail and am not against DH racers and suchlike! I ache rather a lot today…

The whole event seemed to run really smoothly and the marshalls and so on did a great job. The course marking was excellent this year, no moments of confusion on my part. I’ve been to every Big Dog, onederdog in 2009 (my lap took over an hour and I was scared witless much of the time – I’d only just restarted riding MTBs for the first time since the early ’90s and it’s a pretty techy course for an XC race), marshalling and onederdog in 2010, team in 2011, pair in 2012, and I swear it gets better every year. (Alex)

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