The MAXX Exposure is a classic. Running from Beachy Head at dusk it runs for 80 miles overnight along the South Down's Way to QE Park in Petersfield by dawn. It has always clashed with other things but this year I decided after a hard week training to do it as a big long ride. In fact it was the longest ride for me in months as all my riding has either been short intensity or racing.
There was an additional incentive to do it. Firstly Exposure Lights and Quest Adventure who support the event brilliantly also support me brilliantly so it was a payback. Secondly Rob Dean who has been laying down some strong rides of late was in the mix and I fancied laying down a marker!
Setting out from Eastbourne we rode into a chill wind. On my left magnificent vistas of the downs, to my right an incredible view off Beachy Head and right in front of me big Rob Dean unleashing the fury. Rob's a big guy so I knew the climbs would be a little tough so I edged up the pace a little up the first rise and found myself clear. Mmmm.. this might be a long lonely ride. Yet to me this didn't matter .. before my big trip to Hawaii this was the perfect way to say to see one of my favourite places in a beautiful season.. a goodbye for now if you will.
Come the first downhill and catastrophe was the order of the day. I had broken my front gear mech .. again! I stopped for a few minutes and adjusted it/bent it so I had the middle ring only - with my smallest gear of 34/32 some of those downland climbs were going to be 29er tough!
I pushed on and caught Rob coming into Alfriston and then on the big climb out wound up the speed - the gearing I had on offer left me no choice.
Last year the Maxx had been an ultra competitive affair with two of the best marathon riders in the UK, Matt Page and Ant White going head to head in perfect conditions. This was going to be a solo effort and into a nasty headwind.. I decided to get my race head on!
After a quick hello to Jon at the Woodingdean turn I passed checkpoint 1 in the same time as Ant had in 2009... got me thinking! I then found my rhythm and that old favourite position was in the offing once again - spinning a gear and forward on the saddle driving forward. Around me an amazing Harvest Moon (The Neil Young song spinning in my head) and back in the distance little lights all across the downs of fellow riders.
By now the lights were on and what lights! Rory had loaned me the killer combo of killer combos.. The Exposure SIX Pack and Diablo. Sometimes when a new product arrives you see a mild improvement .. an evolution if you will. Not so the SIX Pack! Cue the Revolution! The brightness was simply amazing.
The little red lights of Truleigh Hill signalled the arrival of Checkpoint Two and the boys from Quest. I came in quick and left quick - but with a nice BBQ and sound set up on any other night I would have stayed... By now I was almost 30 minutes up on Rob and inside record time. It was just me, my bike, owls, bats and badgers.
At 11.30 I came down to Cocking and the last checkpoint. Rory was there and I thanked him for a great trail, a great event and some great lights. The last hour was an enjoyable push with some stinging climbs! Come 12.23 and I was home. 6 hours and 8 minutes a new record despite the headwind and by 13 minutes. A beer and two burgers followed. I had 54 minutes from Rob D in second.
What a great ride. Doing what I love most; riding my bike over long distance quickly. Now for the intensity as I lead into the biggest race of my life.
Thanks to Quest, USE/Exposure and Clif for the fantastic energy boosters!