This was to be the last round of the Three Ring Circus, and my first. With the Scott 6+6 getting closer, I thought a double up of racing along with some cold cold camping would help me prepare for my coming goal. I had attempted Wingello before (read it here!) and my head wasn’t in the game that day, but I had a feeling things would go a little better this time.
We arrived early for the night performance, got in a bit of single trail love before the upcoming race. Things felt pretty good (and cold), and when the time came to get ready for the night race I was excited. Twenty two kilometres of mostly singletrack, and in the dark the trail presents an entirely new challenge. Drums broke through the quiet and a couple of awesome volunteers were drumming away an amazing beat at the top of a tough climb. That rhythm definitely made the climb easier. It felt like a quick race, and crossing the finish line I was handed a bowl of delicious and hot soup! Perfect way to warm up, that and the fire pits they had available!
Overnight, I have definitely figured out to keep warm, but the camping comfort level is still in progress. The wind howled, many times scaring me awake. I was hopeful that the morning would bring a calmer day, but I was wrong! Another crazy windy day, many people were blown off their bikes and walking some of the more open sections. We got to explore some newly opened sections that were incredibly fun, and the singletrack was much more sheltered from that crazy wind. The three loops had their own personalities. The initial loop of fire trail split us up nicely, even after the self-seeded start. The 27km of the second loop was all sweet singletrack. The last loop was a hard core climbing fire trail, with many riders hopping off to push their bikes. With the 5km to go sign in sight, I decided to push every last bit of energy into it and sped up.
What an amazing feeling to finish. Over 80kms for the weekend, an amazing atmosphere with Schitznel von Boom and the Grandmaster, heaps and heaps of free stuff from Osprey, fantastic food from the local school, who could want more?! Thanks to Wild Horizons for putting on such a great event, I think I’ll have to hit up the Highland Fling too!
The circus gave me a lot to think about. I’ve been riding a lot of lap based races of late, and this point to point style was a long missed style. It was nice to not feel the constant heat of a faster rider appearing behind me and anxiously searching for a spot where they can pass safely. It was not nice, however, to realise how much more lonely it becomes. It was nice to have space to myself, to enjoy the trails without that pressure, but I also missed the interactions with people as they lap you or you lap them.
I’m starting to realise that the best rides I do are the ones where the interaction with the support crews, the volunteers, the other cyclists is fun. Relaxed, jokes, having fun whilst pushing hard against the clock, those are the best events.
I also realised in this race that I’m getting fitter. For the first time, I was catching people, lots of people, and most of them I caught on the uphills, especially on the final loop. What an great realisation! I have been working hard and it’s hard to tell, hard to measure fitness sometimes. To be able to ride up these hills, to pass people and not have to walk on inclines that would have crippled me in the past, what a great feeling!
I still have a long way to go, it’s a road of constant improvement, but I’ll take the little wins, every single one of them!