This year, for the third time, we had the opportunity to take the South West Youth MTB squad to the Inter Regions MTB competition. With it having been held in Hadleigh for the past few years, we had always believed that 'at least it can't get any further away!' so they held it in Glasgow instead, on the Commonwealth Games circuit. Thanks for that.
The SW squad has limited resources and so weeks of price comparisons ensued, to try to find the cheapest and least horrendous way of getting ten people, nine bikes and a mountain of kit from one end of the country to the other. In the end, Carb Cycle's Simon Harmer did the hero drive, while we sauntered up with Easy Jet, obsessively counting heads in our group until they had their tray tables upright and seat belts buckled.
Glasgow airport, hire cars, sat nav battles, spot the Rab C Nesbitt lookalike, all the way to the posh digs at Paisley University. The boys and girls teams had a flat each and never the twain shall meet, overlooking the Paisley drunks and competitors already on their rollers.
Cathkin Brae is bloody freezing. Putting an event arena at the foot of a massive wind turbine is a glaring error, but we love wearing thermals and hoodies in July. First up, as always, was the skills comp. This year's format was - standing start, quickly into bunny hop, straight into 3 metre wheelie, ending with front wheel dropping onto a box and a track stand there, side hop, over a tricky skinny, cone square turn and repeat on the way back. Sound easy? Crack on lofty, and then try it four at a time, timed and closely scrutinised by a referee and all the other riders. Only two riders did clear runs, and every mistake cost a 10 second penalty. The SW's Patsy Caines won the girls' event, the first of several podiums for her. The team finished seventh out of twelve, a spot we managed to maintain throughout.
Just enough time to cool down, eat, drink, warm back up before the start of the handicap races. Based on the results of the skills, riders are set off in groups, ten second gaps between them, winner of the skills goes off first, 30 minute race...BOOM! SW's Tristan Davies snapped his chain on the start line and will be constantly reminded to check his chain from now on. No technical assistance and so he started running with his bike, from the start line! And it was a good job he did, as his teammate Max Hinds punctured his featherweight, tissue paper tyres, opted not to run, and left Tristan as our essential third scorer. The girls' team hold it together, Patsy taking 2nd, and we manage to hold on to our 7th place.
Cool down, eat, drink, warm up and it's time for the dirt crits. And you thought the vets' race at the Soggy series was tiring! Two heats in the dirt crits for both the boys and girls, leading to either the 'A' or 'B' final. Fiona Barron gets her usual flying start in her heat and leads it out for the first half lap before the wheels fall off. Her sister Helen makes it to the 'A' final and holds onto the front group containing Patsy Caines until the final lap. A long day in the saddle results in seventh place for the team. Cool down, eat, pack the van.
Back to the digs and no need to impose a curfew tonight. These events are awesome for dispelling all those 'big fish in a small pond' issues you get in Regional racing. Have a look at how all-round good the rest of the UK's kids are and be inspired. Now go to bed.
Another early breakfast and the kids again refuse to try black pudding or square sausage. What is the youth of today coming to? Load the van again, off to the venue and it's time for the team relay. After lengthy team chats, we nominated our two boys and two girls who will do one 1.5 km lap each. Pretty straightforward, but some rock gardens for the unwary. This is the time when the riders start getting tired and those mystery mechanicals start to blight everyone. We finish the race in sixth, with Patsy unable to out-sprint a six foot four youth boy with a full beard. She is SUCH a let down;)
Cool down, eat, drink, and let's go and recce the route for the cross country race!! Woo hoo! Morale, by now, is low. The course is awesome but not even the combined power of Torq gels and Pot Noodles can mask the pain. The race brings us more mechanical misery, but the whole team finish, albeit in a previously unseen level of exhaustion. Patsy took the win in the overall, the team remained stubbornly in seventh, say 'thank you for having us' and let's go. Load the van again, wave goodbye to Simon and off to the Harvester for unlimited soft drinks (a never to be repeated mistake!), another sat nav Mexican stand off on the way to the airport, interminable airport faffing and home by 0100.
Thanks to - Simon Harmer for being a diesel demon, BC's Justin Knox for raising the funds, BC's Ric Jameson for putting on a great event, and all the parents for all they do for their kids.
Well done to our 2016 Inter Regional team who were - Alex Whitemore, Finn Woodrow, Max Hinds, Tristan Davies, Helen Barron, Fiona Barron and Patsy Caines.