Sunday, March 4, 2012

Banbury Star Hardriders 23m TT - The Battle of Sunrising

On Sunday, 23rd October 1642, A bloody battle between the Royalist and the Parliamentarians was fought on the "ledge of Oxfordshire" known as Edgehill of which the western side is known as Sunrising.
On the Sunday, 4th March 2012, a new battle was fought on this same ground between cyclists and the elements and one which can be considered as equally as gruesome!

My battle begun at 7.45am after waking to the sound of rain falling heavily from the grim sky's above. I proceeded to run through my typical race morning routine of loading the car, preparing my bottles and downing my hearty breakfast, which of course was fit for a king!
I left my comfortable abode behind me as i set off for the race HQ Located 4 miles over the top of Sunrising Hill in the Village of Wroxton, a mile or 2 north of Banbury. After pulling up in the car park and stacking claim to my own personal space, I sat a pondered about what I was doing here and what the best course of action would be.

I stayed in the warmth of my car as much as possible, managing to change in the passenger seat in order to preserve as much heat as possible. With my armour adorned and my weapon primed, I headed out on to the field for a pre-battle warm up. I quickly realised how cold the air was as it pounded my face and slowly began to overwhelm my clothing. This would be a cold ride and suffering is something that every warrior would have to accept.

The course itself is amazingly simple, head out north bound down the A422 toward Ettington where a turn of 180 degrees directs you back down the same path to finish in the same place as you begun. The course, like is say is simple, the process of the completing the course however is a little more tricky. 4 miles for the start/finish is the the deadly bite, sting in the tail, the nail in the coffin  known as Sunrising hill. A lengthy, twisting slither of tarmac which pitches up to 16% for the duration. Dangerous coming down and painful going up, this is usually the main enemy of this event but today there was a third enemy, the weather and one which would shape the outcome of this battle for many.

After warming up and quickly returning to freezing point whilst lining up at the start, I began my personal assault on my powerful challengers and quickly realised i was fighting a loosing battle. My legs and lungs still recovering from training in the week, I didn't feel comfortable on my valiant steed and felt twitchy as I descended Sunrising. After arriving at the bottom I ploughed onwards towards the turning point only to be inflicted with my first war wounds; The cold. It had took over my entire body and forced my system to divert all blood flow to my core in an effort to keep it warm, this meant that hands, feet, face, arms, legs and shoulders all lost vital heat and quickly turned ice. One i had reached the turning point I could no longer change gear, move my arms or even blinc without feeling the debilitating effect of the cold. However, The most savage chapter in this battle was yet to come but closing in fast.

It had been snowing since i started my ride and it continued to fall as I approached the foot of the "ledge", I went to perform the simple task of dropping my chain in to the small ring but even this left me swaying all over the road as i battled with my non existent fingers to make the shift. Eventually it dropped down at which point I tried to rise from the saddle. This again was a task that should have been simple but with my arms and shoulders having some time off from general opportating duties, I could barley support my upper body and struggled to control the bike as it swayed with the action of my pedalling. Its the first time i have almost fallen off going up hill but to my relief, I had won the battle and made it to the crest of Sunrising Hill. However the war was still to be won and as I drove on the pedals I tried in vein to shift back in the the big ring. As more force is required for this task, i found myself using both of my near useless hands and swerving all of the road. I had to pull over, shift the gear and then get going again. Not the fastest technique but the only way of performing such a task.

With a tail wind blowing snow and rain in to my frozen back, I dragged my wounded carcass back along the A422 to the finish line, crossing in just over the hour in 7th place overall. Leaning my bike against the car i stumbled in to the HQ which now resembled a WW2 field hospital! Riders shivering violently as there bodies tried to vibrate muscles in an effort to generate heat, other helping one another to remove sodden gloves and helmets due to numb and useless extremities. We had all fought a vicious battle with two worthy adversaries but ultimately there was a winner and a worthy one at that; All of us!! Everyone who had ridden had finished and regardless of time and placing, we were all worthy warriors.