Riding, and racing, at night is something more specific to mountain biking than other cycling disciplines. Yes, you may train with lights on the road. And there are a couple of pretty cool floodlit or light assisted cyclocross events around. But being able to go fast at night is an important skill for any competitive mountain biker.
Stage 6 of the Ingkerreke Commercial MTB Enduro is a night stage – 23km of trails. Thankfully, it was the same course that is used in Stage 5 for the time trial in the morning. Any mountain biker can tell you that trails change their character at night. And many racers do as well. Those who are strong and confident in the day can lose out at night. And those who have great skills have the chance to shine at night – if you will excuse the pun. Unfortunately, I was in the former category.
‘Thunderstruck’ was playing on the start line, and it was a dust storm as everyone took off. I tried to find my pedal. Ben Hogarth lead the charge, but it ended up being Andrew Blair taking the lead, no doubt helped by running two super powered Radical Lights to light his path. I bounced from rock to rock and blew through corners, struggling with a commuter light and a poorly focused head lamp. An amateur move.
The front group was away, and I was back on my own, and then in a group of Veteran riders and people from a little lower on GC. There were no shifts in the upper GC in the mens. Blair finished with a good gap, but the rest were all pretty close – Both took second from Hogarth.
Melissa Anset took another with, but only just clear of Sarah Holmes, then Terri Rhodes. Naomi Hansen and Kath Bicknell came in together – Naomi being greatly assisted by the Radical Lights of Kath – and her great night riding skills.
The last stage tomorrow will no doubt have some last ditch efforts by those who still have something to prove.
Full race results are available online.