I’d never been to Newnham Park before. Its very well established as one of the UK’s best XC race venues, and last weekend it played host to a new event – Nightrider 12, where I was racing in the pairs category with fellow Torq rider James D’arcy. The 11km course was fast and flowing – the wooded singletrack lined with bluebells weaved in and out of the trees and the open climbs glowed beneath a waxing moon. It was a good course that offered several challenges at race pace in the darkness.
Racing as a pair requires a completely different approach to what I am used to from solo racing. With 50% of the time spent resting, the other 50% sees you riding much closer to your threshold. Our early laps were fast paced and we soon established ourselves in 3rd place. The two leading teams were locked in battle for more than half the race with barely minutes between them. As I became more familiar with the course I was able to flow much more smoothly on the singletrack sections which compensated for the natural fatigue that accumulates at 3am when you’ve not had any sleep.
My knowledge of the course was tested when I misjudged the burn time on my Exposure Race Turbo light. Its clean white light gave excellent coverage of the trail, but when the battery gets low it goes into a flashing mode which provides just enough light to see where you are going for about a third of the time. The strobe effect on the undergrowth was almost hypnotising. Fortunately I was able to hand over to James at the end of that lap, but it was a mistake that cost us five minutes.
Dawn emerged around 5:15am, with sunrise following at 6:30am. With the end in sight now and third place nearly assured (we were a lap up on 4th), I took the opportunity to try and enjoy the course in the daylight, where I found different lines and tried to nail some sections I’d been cautious of in the dark. We’d both worked hard through the night to successfully hold our third place, and it was a relief to cross the line just after 8am with 22 laps under our belt – mission accomplished.
I was really pleased with the Kona – the handling through the singletrack was excellent, and the short-travel suspension gave good comfort and control over the rougher terrain and the firmness I needed for the climbs. The simplicity of Exposure lights also takes some beating. Having previous been used to HID light systems, I found the trail easier to read with the Exposures. Lightweight and bright, I was able to ride full-tilt into the deep pool of white light they cast in front of me at a speed I was hardly able to match even in the daylight!