There is nothing I like better than sitting at home with a cup of coffee trawling the net for new and interesting events I can travel too. I don’t let geography limit my selection of what I want to go and ride, and I am constantly amazed by the creativity of events in both their format and location.
With this desire to ride new events all the time it’s no surprise that I very rarely go back to the same event twice. This is not a reflection of the events being good or not, it’s just that with finite time and money, and a ‘must do’ list of events that is ever increasing it’s difficult to ever repeat anything.
There are however a few events that I will continue to go back to as long as the organisers give up their time and usually money to put these events on. Hit The North in Manchester is one of these events. Hit The North falls early in the year in February. The weather can be blizzards of snow or glorious sunshine. February in the UK is strange that way. The course on the whole remains mostly unchanged ( this is no bad thing) and the format is very simple: You race for two hours and ride a cyclocross bike or a mountain bike (or if you are fancy you have both just in case).
The course is so devised that the split between whether a CX or MTB is a better machine is a close call and it literally comes down to the weather on the day. If it’s muddy the CX boys will love it. If it’s dry then the descents will favour the MTB riders.
I went to the event this year with no expectations. I would normally have had a season of cyclocross in my legs, but as I am going to Trans Iowa and it falls relatively early in the year, I have concentrated on just being on my bike as much as possible for as long as possible. The start line gridding is one for rider’s honesty. If you genuinely believe you are ‘Nick Craig’ fast (or actually Nick Craig) then you take up the first few rows. Then the speed of rider filters back. I decided that the first half of the pack seemed appropriate for my unknown level of fitness.
The race started as I was casually looking the wrong way, not on my bike, and with a jacket in my hand. Not exactly textbook. All that meant was that I had a lot of people to ride with for the entire race. The course was perfect for my El Mariachi singlespeed: a lot of flowing stuff with a few short, sharp climbs which weren’t too bad. I felt great flowing round just picking up places as I went. Even the horrible muddy ‘field of dispair’, a long muddy push, allowed some mid-race banter between riders.
There is a lot to be said with racing with no expectation or goal. It was a very enjoyable experience and I think my final race position benefited from my relaxed riding. In fact, as I looked to eat a gel at what I though was an hour in I discovered I had been racing for 1:50 hours!
I was caught and lapped by Nick Craig 500 meters from the line on what was then my last lap. No shame as the man is getting nothing but faster and is a total gent while racing. My final results were 21st from 240 finishers and a fantastic day out on the bike.
Huge thanks to the race organisers for yet again putting on a fantastic event. I will be back next year…and the year after…and the year after…
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UK born and bred, Paul Errington came to riding bikes as a hobby, which soon evolved into an all-consuming passion. Riding fulfills a desire to challenge himself and explore adversity. An endurance bike rider above all else, the ever-progressive sport keeps him enthused. Every day on a bike is a good day. shoestring-racing.blogspot.com