It’s race day. And for Mad Dog Ace Woodley and his Surly Karate Monkey there is no place to hide. It’s time to send it. It’s time for the MacAvalanche finals!
Words and photos: Ace Woodley.
There is a term used down south a lot, “weapon” you ride like a weapon, you are a weapon, loose translation is you’re messed up, I have transcended this to a being reclassified as a f##ked up Doomsday Device, Dr Strange-love would approve. It’s Sunday, it’s race day, time to Slay a mountain.
I had a good nights sleep curled up in the car with two sleeping bags, I was up about 7-ish and time to build up the rigid raider. As I pulled it from the car the bars didn’t swing free and smack me in the face like normal, they just stayed in position. Not good, I did some damage and the headset has seized, crack it free, spin the bars for a few minutes to get them moving freely then check everything else. The brakes are reset and cable pull adjusted, the pads are a rizla paper clear of the rims, levers fully out, sorted. The freewheel is still working, I blew out the grease with finish line chain lube, I only hope the cold dosen’t affect it today as I have two spare freewheels now but no 1/8″ chains, so stuck with what I have. Bike ready, fuel up time.
After having this fry up last year, now when I go up to Scotland I drop in to Glen Coe just for the breakfast, £6.80, kept me going until after my race, and I eat early because the climb up to the start is hard work. Bit nervous, chairlift opens, track opens from second chairlift only, I go up for a roll down.
The pools of water between the chairlifts are frozen over, it’s nice and sunny, blue skies, gentle breeze but still very cold.
The second chairlift is balance the bike on your lap, light weight bikes are nice for this. I have a roll down from what was the start of seeding, ground is frozen and rutted, it’s harsher now than yesterday. The bog is chopped up, line choice is now so random, what worked yesterday won’t support me today, I hit a hidden water hole, straight up to the front axle on a 29″ wheel stops the bike dead.
I am not expecting this and not loose, I tweak both wrists and end up in the water as I sail over the bars. A few riders lost shoes in the bog and had to stop and fish them out, many things to slow you down other than ripped mechs and burst tyres, the mountain is fighting dirty.
I clear the top of the downhill track, pull over for a rest and take some photos of others. The rest of the track is a bit wetter, looser and some big rocks have moved about. I roll down and stop practice. I am wet I want to dry out before heading to the start as it’s going to be much colder up there. I wash the bike, check the brakes, and leave it in the sun so the freewheel stays warm.
Others prep bikes ready for race run, uplift closes 11.30, pre race brief 12.30, group C is called out. The event is broken down this year to three main groups that will race separately.
Group C is mostly stragglers and those that DNF’ed in seeding, group A is mostly worldcuppers and try hards. However C get chucked down first so we get first crack at the snow and chop it up nicely for the fast boys. The plan is for C go up together, others will be held down at the second chairlift, this is to cut down the time hanging around up in the snow and speeds things up. We start the trek upwards and get our first look at what we are about to ride. I also start to worry about the chance of my rims and pads icing over as well as the freewheel.
Rich Thomas comments on this in his film of his run, we are both from sea level, being in the car-park is high up for us. Getting up the mountain is really hard going and I have a lighter bike this year.
It’s strange the air is so dry, and the glare off the snow sends your vision off, last year we were up there longer and I could only see in black and white, the glare got me. We await the last of group C to make it up, riders are called to grid and line up, we have a 5 minute warning.
Mad Dog Ace Woodley and the Surly.
Thanks to Jonathan Sunter for taking my photo up there, we swap cameras and snap away.
5mins, 3mins,2,1…10 secs, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GO!
I don’t know how to ride in snow, there is a knack to it, we scoot, pedal off, bodies everywhere, I go down, bike hits me, go again get a roll on crash in the first corner with the orange netting (this crops up in another film you see me get up and try to ride down) I am now second from last, the track is well chopped up, the key is to run wide over fresh snow, it’s really grippy then you hit a soft spot with a hole under it and over the bars again or get cross rutted and high sided.
I catch a few riders then lose them, then catch them, snow sky snow sky, the track levels out and I’m off and run again, jump on and firm ground. By now I am knackered and out of breath, dry mouth burning lungs, get a roll on and pedal, we come to the chairlift where the others are being held, they go wild when they see me coming sat down trying to pedal the monkey through rocks…yeahhhhh.
We now join the seeding track and know whats coming, I start to make up some time, and pull away, then hit a bog hole, the time it takes to extract yourself then pull your bike free then fall over again then try and get going I am caught up. I duke it out through the bogs with a couple other riders, they go down, I pull away, then hit the DH track at chairlift one.
I use the first berm for a brake test, clear the mud and water then nail it, hitting the smoother lines, trying to keep wheels on the ground, the wagon wheels skim over the fixed rocks quite well, direct steering, ride it like a big BMX, exit right to the jeep track and pedal away. Never look back…never! I can’t hear anything behind me and have other riders in sight, if I nail the jeep track I can make up time.
We drop back into the heather and bogs, I can hit some ace high camber lines and ride round some of the drops and holes and straight line from gate to gate, gaining ground on those in front, then we hit the track again. I can’t risk the shortcuts so stay on the track, feet bouncing off the pedals, brakes grinding and a warm rubber smell, this final section is scary, fast big rocks, hole shot the gaps, launch over some of it, but barely in control and hardly hanging on, chasing down the rider in front, I can’t catch him but he’s not pulling away either, then the last turn drop off the embankment and finish and I’m not last in Group C!
I still don’t know my time or overall placing, haven’t looked yet.
Have a little rest, then go to clean up quickly and catch group A.
Jonathan Sunter hosing down, bagged 3rd in group C and my rigid raider Karate Monkey.
The headset went, the brake pads had metal poking through before I finished the run, broken pedal before I raced (smashed that at the DH enduro) broke my bell as well, it don’t ting anymore. The wheels are still true and no pinch flats. The wheels are 700c road/track double fixed set, the deep aero section makes them strong, I did expect to smash them.
Pat Campbell Jenner is doing the Mega on Schwalbe Hans Dampf tyres as well but he is going tubeless, I can’t afford a tubeless 29er wheel-set so made do with what I had. Front tyre was 25psi rear was 35psi, I reckon I could have gone lower psi, that would have been faster but trade off was higher risk of bashing the rims.
I used Schwalbe light weight inner tubes, this is the catch with 29er’s there is not much choice in super-duty rubber, the Hans had a bit more meat than Conti Rubber Queens and more than the WTB Bronsons, a wider rim would have helped things as well.
The v-brakes worked well, shocking pad and rim wear and constant checking and adjusting, for those that only know disc brakes, you don’t know how good you have it 🙂 Cantis were shocking, Vs are better but nothing beats a disc!
Other issue was seat post needs chopping down a bit, about an inch would have been perfect and much nicer in the snow, if I took this seriously and added a suspension fork and disc wheels and gears I would have been in B group, don’t think we will see a 29er do a world cup DH but there is something in the madness, and I hear Box won a Gravity Enduro on a pimped 29er.
Anyway, clean up, pack up and back up the track for group A to come down.
Mac winner Joe Barnes.
Up top is Group A top 4, Rich Thomas, then Fergus Lamb, then Greg, then Joe Barnes with this years race winning bike and the times of all groups.
With the awards done, Pete scullion from Hotlines iXS shoved a bag in my hand and the race to leave and head for England began. Again the weather has been unbelievable up there, sun-burnt again, it was a different story over Sunday night as the mountain was hit by more snow, see Glen Coe ski resorts Facebook page for that.
Why do it on what I did ? Why not, I was curious as to what a 29er is like, I am also doing another Klunker race this year, that’s a few miles DH so this would be good practice, and because it would be fun (it was) I will most likely be taking to sussers later this year so the chance to do something mental while I can could not be passed, good chance I might do it again with better brakes,wheels etc etc.
Some of the riders over the weekend are Mega curious, the Macca is not as long, not as big, not as many riders, not as mental…but it’s a great taster and some of the Mega curious lot are now off to do that next. Great mix of riders and racers, locals have a massive advantage and able to ride in snow, will Joe and Hannah Barnes make it 3rd time winners next year ? Rich was close, couple of crashes blew it, next year should be an interesting scrap.
Big thanks to all the marshals and Ski patrol and No fuss team and Glen Coe resort.
Freebies from IXS, bottle of German beer, drinking that next, lanyard for keys and things, nice one too, stickers to cover up the damage to the monkeys paint, and a weird little angel devil fella that’s getting zip-tied to the head-tube later.
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