First round of a new season of races only a week after the end of the last ones, what could go wrong? Not too much, traffic was slow heading towards Shouldham, then I missed the turning but arrived just before midday, signed on and went for a walk.
I have never been to Shouldham Warren before and it's similar to the off piste sections of Thetford, Brandon and Santon Downham, but lumpier. I met Jon and we went for a sighting lap, there were a few interesting sections, two steep climbs and a small pit.
Just after 2pm we all lined up for the start in lines of six for our respective categories, yours truly was right at the back, with Jon in the line in front. The whistle went and we were off up a fire road climb then looping back down to the start/finish fireroad and into the first section of singletrack.
This was twisty, sticky and rooty with an off camber lump which caught people out (yes me!), small section of fireroad then up the first 'nadgery' (TM Jon) climb with people having clipless moments as they ran out of steam. The course went left into the first technical section, a couple of rollable drops followed by a little climb causing more stalls (me again).
There was a very lumpy and muddy downhill section from here into more singletrack though trees and rhododendrons, out onto fireroad and another wider but smoother steep climb followed by a wide descent. From here on it was mainly singletrack either rising or falling with no real places to catch your breath.
Towards the end of the lap there was the other technical section, a small pit with a rollable drop entrance, small bump and a loose climb out. I tried to make this but stalled at the top, stopped myself rolling back, then got out of the way rapidly as another rider was approaching.
Even though no photos were taken of my fail, the rider behind me was Jon! so I have to mention that I did have an off and managed a very tiny cut to my left knee. More singletrack after this and then a nice swoopy drop to the start/finish line.
The next lap about half way round I was overtaken by the leader, so that meant one less lap, dropped a gel, went back for it and lost places and bypassed the second technical section. Each lap became harder, especially the climbs, but some sections were riding in nicely.
The bell went to signify the last lap, the fast riders were still going strong, I was starting to flag. Down the final section of singletrack and an attempted sprint finish. I crossed the line having completed 4 laps, finishing in 46th (out of 54) place feeling slightly sick but pleased with completing the race
Richard Hall (rshall)