I took part in the Aggregate 100 last weekend. A 100km gravel enduro race comprising four timed stages of varying (but I’m assured atypically long) distances, each over the hilly and at times pretty technical off-road course on the bridleways, singletracks and forest roads of the North York Moors. I punctured on the first stage (on a climb!) and then again a further four times in the section between the 1st and 2nd stages (which, whilst incredibly annoying, wasn’t timed, so was actually a good chance to recover some legs). After that I actually had to go back to the HQ at Cropton for more tubes and patches (I’d run out of both, borrowed patches from passing riders and then run out of those).
After puncturing on the first stage I'd assumed my goal of a finish in mid table mediocrity was out of the window. I went as hard as I could on the remaining stages, because that’s what you do, isn’t it? I was completely spent at the end. Even after the 16km steady ride back to the finish from the end of the last stage, I couldn’t talk. I laid on the grass for a good while.
I punctured again between the HQ and my car. 10 metres across a grass camping field. That made it six for the day!
The organisers did a rough calculation of the aggregate stage times on the day so they could present trophies and I was pleased that my VC York club-mate and good friend, Pete Hook, who I'd ridden the non-timed sections with, had taken the win by a whopping 15 minutes to the next rider. He’s a class rider and consistently disappeared up the track in front of me when we hit the timed stages, so it wasn’t a surprise at all. He flew!
This morning I saw the overall results sheet. It appears that the second placed rider, 15 minutes behind Pete, was me!
Second! I’ve come second in a bike race before, but that was the tequila race at Rapha Supercross. That was still a race but you could take a shortcut on each lap if you took a shot and let them squirt tequila into your mouth from a bidon. I stood on the podium after that night-time race with my face burning from the cheap liquor. The Aggregate100 feels more like an actual race!
This was my first experience of a race in the enduro format and I have to say, there’s a lot I like about it. Pete H has had more experience, having done a lot of MTB enduro. He knew the score and made sure we took it very steady between the stages. There's no point in blowing your efforts on parts of the course that don't count. As a result of all the punctures and the steady riding, we actually finished the event near the back of the field. We were on the course for 7.5 hours, but only the timed sections counted. As a consequence, until the results are published I had no idea how well or how poorly anyone had done.
I’m under no illusions that I’m a top-three rider in events, or even top-ten, or that I will be in future events. There were a lot of people missing from that race who who might have finished between me and Pete, but you can only race those who turn up, eh? Go as hard as you can and hope for the best.
I’m beaming a bit this morning. Thanks to Matt and Emma and everyone else involved for organising a fantastic event. I'll be back next year (with tubeless tyres).