This weekend saw 700 people on a start line on the Pembrey coast. When I say the coast, I do mean the actual line where land meets sea. The Battle on the Beach course involves a 7km time trial on hard packed sand followed by an 8 km wiggle back through trees and dunes to complete a lap. This well organised race, unique to the UK, attracts competitors from Holland who are well versed in riding their bikes on flat, fast surfaces and have plenty of their own coastline to practise on. Beach racing there is a big thing which is why having Dutch pros at Battle on the Beach is testimony to it’s popularity.
Cross bikes, mountain bikes, Fatbikes and tandems all lined up on Saturday night to begin the weekend of racing in an after dark individual 11km time trial. We were set off at 20 second intervals to enjoy the sound of our own breathing, the feeling of surreal speed and space under moonlight and the drag of tyres on sand for a 30 minute hard effort before collapsing into the bar at Pembrey Country Park for essential carbohydrate replenishment ahead of Sunday’s main event.
The UK Fatbike Championships was what I was targeting this weekend and so it was I found myself standing astride my Specialized Fatboy with 5inch tyres amongst the tiny cyclo crossers in their team lycra at 12 o’clock the following day. We set off en masse and were soon spread along the beach like ants. I went backwards off the start line being dropped off skinny wheel after skinny wheel until we turned off the hard sand and into the soft dunes where my massive tyres came into their own. Unfortunately by then all the cross bikes had stalled in the deep sand in the singletrack and so I had to wait until the queues had cleared and I could let the Fatboy go.
Each lap I would gain time in the technical trees and dunes then hemorrhage it on the sandy sprint. I would try to hold wheels and would manage for a while before involuntary grunts that I didn’t recognise as my own would escape from my mouth preempting the inevitable, sickening moment the bunch would pull away.
Overall, I managed to hold my own in the main field to finish a respectable 83rd, just a few minutes down on the overall open female category and first female Fatbike. Turns out I finished 3rd female in the evening time trial too. It didn’t make me want to take up xc racing again but it did remind me how much fun can still be had by making your legs go round fast. I’ll be back next year to defend my title!