Here's a little write up.
Everyone was massed together at the start and it went off pretty quick along the tarmac access road. I tucked in second row and enjoyed a bit of drafting, we went on the gravel, then took a sharp left hander and into the first climb proper. Things started to stretch here, I knew I wanted a good position going into the single track, but couldn’t hit the red on the first climb. As we approached the first bit of single track I noticed the top 6 had opened a little gap and I was on the back of this group. I was close to going to hard, so I let myself drop off, knowing that I’d then have a nice gap to play with on the singletrack to catch back up.
Knowing the trails I was a bit quicker on the down hills and soon caught back onto the tail end of the lead group. It was going well and I could see the leaders no more than 10-30 seconds in front. Then, the guy in front of me fell just before a rooty climb (at the end of the A3 track). I had to dismount to get round him, but by the time I was going again the leaders were round the corner and I’d lost sight.
I tried to pace myself and take the descents smooth, but fast. Not pedaling, but staying off the brakes and picking my lines. I soon had gone past 3 people who were in front of me at the first singletrack. I reckoned I was up in about 4-5th half way through the opening lap. Then, I starting passing people right left and centre. Really slow people… I went past them looking bemused, and they looked back, equally confused. I hadn’t even done a lap myself, so I couldn’t be lapping people. Had I gone the wrong way or them? I hadn’t seen the leaders since the bloke in front of me fell, so maybe I’d done an extra bit without realising?
I cleared most of the slow bikes as I hammered the final decent. I headed into the finish straight alone. Someone shouted my name, turned out to be Tris and Nix, but I didn’t really twig until I was out of the finishing area and heading up the fire track climb again.
The second lap I was totally on my own. It was odd. I thought the trails would be clogged with riders but I was alone. More tape had been put up, and there was a diversion off some of the A3 techy section and onto a fire road… at first I thought this must have been the section I missed on the first lap, and why I was now massively off the back having only just caught up with the very slow riders.
The diversion was only tiny though, so this couldn’t be a massive shortcut that I missed. I was now totally confused.
At the start of the third lap I changed bottles and picked up some gels. A couple of mates met me on the fire track climb and rode with me for a while. It was good to chat and get some understanding of what the hell was going on and where I was.
The laps then just started ticking through. My friend shouted that I was fourth, and as I came across more rider to lap them I could work out how far back I was by how many other riders had lapped them. I just kind of got into a rhythm, a bottle change every other lap, a gel at the start of every lap. A piss now and again. I pushed on the climbs, then descents took it easy, just conserving energy.
It was pretty confusing still as to where I was. I finished my 7th lap just inside the 4 hours so carried on for a 8th. If I’d known I could stopped there, the guy behind me was ten minutes back and wouldn't make the cut for the final lap. The two in front were 20 minutes a head so I was never going to catch. I didn't know though and had saved back some energy for the last lap and was hitting it pretty hard. Then half way round a stone slit my front tyre. I only had one light on my bars so couldn't really see the damage or get a new tube in. So I had to do the second half of the last lap half running and half on a flat front tyre.