it all started 2 months ago when I spotted on-line that there was to be a World Championship Beach Race over in Holland in the middle of November. I contacted the organisers John and Wout to ask why there wasn’t a Fat Bike category, their reply should have flagged up a big red warning sign in my head (but it didn’t) they said “Fat Bikes aren’t popular over here in the Beach Racing scene over here in the Netherlands”
So after several more on-line messages 2 entries to the race itself were gleamed on the condition that myself and Michael Travers rode our Fat Bikes. Passes were gained from the other halves and ferries either way with overnight sleeper cabins (to avoid hotel bills) were booked.
Having ridden Battle on the Beach in March this year (2015) I was optimistic that we could make a good show of ourselves on Fat Bikes, now I’m no racer but I have a good all day engine while Michael is a good all rounder. The course was 31 miles over two laps so we started to train and race on our Fat Bikes.
750 riders signed up and knowing how popular beach racing is over in Holland I was optimistic about a top 400 finish, you know mid table mediocrity – I know my place. Michael was aiming higher.
Fast forward to Saturday 14th November at 11.25am.
Michael and I found a good spot on the start line in the middle of the pack and next to a semi pro team. Looking into the far distance about a mile away into the sharp teeth of a biting and a really strong head wind. I notice Michael was shivering for a short moment in time, I thanked my extra layer of fat for the insulation. Time ticked by until the starting cannon and I do mean a proper cannon started the race dead on 11.30am
BANG, and we were off, luckily the faster riders provided shelter from the head wind and I kept a good place into the first corner in around 150th place. From here it should have been plain sailing with the now strong tailwind but it was here that all the planning and training came crashing to the ground and I still don’t understand the Physics of why my 4.8″ Fat Bike’s wheels were so hard to rotate in the soft sand and wet stuff but the lighter weight 29er wheels with their skinny rounded 2.3″ tyres floated over stuff that was holding my wheels up from rotating so fast.
In my attempt just to keep up even with the tail wind on the flat my heart rate topped 184bpm (using the old method of 220 minus age I should max out at 172) it was here when (how can I word this nicely) a “portly” fellow in an XXL full team Radobank kit over took me on the sand near the edge of the sea on a lighter bike with its 2″ wide tyres that I had the 2 following thoughts.
1) It’s official Fat bikes are terrible at Beach Racing in Holland.
2) And the Dutch have found a way to beat the laws of physics. How can they float and keep their wheels turning much quicker and easier than I can?
I was haemorrhaging places on the left and on the right, I have never been passed by so many riders in such a short stretch of a race and all of those riders where cruising while I was “blowing out my arse”, at a very high heart rate. I maybe dropped 200 places before the climb out of the beach where my Fat Bike helped me re take about 20 places, I held this position on a short tarmac section and dropped onto the other beach but then the cross wind was just as bad as the head wind. I tried to find shelter but the riders kept on slowly pulling away and I was looking to the next over taker to shelter behind for a short while until they pulled away on bikes that shouldn’t be as fast.
It was when I was heading back into the evil head wind back to the start/finish/end of lap 1 that I got in with a group of 7 riders that I could actually keep up with but my heart rate was still in the 170’s and I was definitely in the last 25% of the riders. I noticed that the tide was coming in and the beach was shrinking, with a quick calculation by the time I would be back to this section on the 2nd lap I would be much high up the beach and in the really soft stuff where some riders were now pushing after taking a wrong line. I chose there and then to bail after 1 lap and not go out and do a second lap, enjoyment over endurance every time when I have nothing to prove.
A fair few other riders did the same as me, so I wasn’t bailing on my own and at least I didn’t get lapped, my single lap was done in 1hr 20mins where as the winner finished his 2 laps in just 1hr 35mins at an average speed of nearly 19.5mph were I struggling to maintain 10mph on the sand.
So I crossed the line to get my first DNF of the season, chatted to the organisers John and Wout, cleaned my bike, got changed, loaded the car, grabbed my camera to go and get the following shots of the race.
Beer on the beach to finish
A goody bag, raffle prize, race number and sand from Holland made it home to Merseyside
Would I do it again? Yes for sure
Would I do it again on a Fat Bike? Not on your life
By the time you are reading this I have already ordered some beach racing specific tyres to try out on my Travers Rudy 29er on my local beaches. On New Years Eve I’ll be signing up for March’s Battle on the Beach in South Wales and hopefully what I have learnt this weekend will set me in good stead to at least finish the race before the tide comes in.