Day 6 – Hail To the Howes
Today was the best mountain trails I’ve ever been on and the first time this week that I felt one with the bike. I’m surprised that it took me a while to get used to the feel of a new bike and looking back, I should have spent more time on this specific bike before taking on trails a tough as this. It also did not help that I started the race with tires that were not ideal for these gnarly trails. After changing to a fatter front wheel, the downhills became less daunting. But the biggest difference was with my mentality. The day before I overheard two of the pros talking about riding down one of the very rocky descents. “Think light.” he told his mate. I thought about those words a lot during the course of the night. It doesn’t help being on a light bike with a heavy mind and body.
The next morning my teammate told me that he cannot ride. The injury from the previous day’s crash was worse than we thought. It was a heartbreaking moment for the both of us. We travelled far and went through a lot of preparations together to be able to take part in this competition. We were also leading our category with more than 13 minutes, which added a bit of salt to the wound. So when I lined up at the start, I told myself that I will not get off this bike unless there was a cliff in front of me. It turned out that there were a couple of cliffs to hike down, but apart from that, it was the best 40 km route I’ve ever ridden.
Today’s route is testimony to the genius of race-director Darol Howes. As usual, things got off with sketchy downhill through the village, crossing underneath the same bridge we did on the first day and up a sting of a climb all the way the top of the Roma ridge. Once at the top of the ridge, the real fun started. My bike and I was treated to a feast of fast and flowing trails with grippy climbs, smooth sandstone drops and heart-in-your-mouth singletrack descents. Each section fitting neatly into the next to keep you rolling. The flow never stopped, not even when I had to hike down a steep part of the mountain. Even then, the route still made sense.
I crossed the finish line in a respectable time and glowing from an overdose of flow.
A big thanks to Silverback Bikes for hooking me up with a proper racing machine.
Bike and gear tips for next year:
- Slap on a pair of 2.35 / 2.4 size tires.
- Get a dropper post.
- Do not bring your carbon shoes.
- Check bike thoroughly after each day.
- Wear gloves.
Photo credits: Wayne Reiche