Big Dog is back for 2018- Duncan reports...
Mid-August means one thing on the MTB circuit - Brighton Big Dog. Now in its 10th year, the race as ever saw a good turn out from RCC MTB with a group of 14 of us taking part covering a range of categories including mixed pairs, male pairs and a couple of OneDer Dogs.
We rocked up in drips and drabs around 10am with a certain amount of apprehension with the general consensus that for one reason or another preparation was a bit lacking this year. None the less, conditions were near perfect on the day - the sun was out with a light breeze to keep us cool, and with riders gathering from all over, the excitement started to build.
The 12-noon start time came around in no time and having got the obligatory BBD mugs (black and gold to celebrate 10 years), a fill up of tea and registration sorted, we found ourselves jostling to get into position behind the start-line. Whilst the clock was ticking down, the organisers gave a confidence boosting warning on the course conditions – exposed, wet tree roots aplenty and parts of the riding line gone thanks to the recent heavy rain – not exactly what you want to hear but cause to take it easy on the first lap.
This was followed by a heart-warming remembrance to a Brighton Big Dog rider who had sadly passed away in the last year - a fitting reminder that life is short so enjoy every minute of it, preferably on bouncy, knobbly fat tyre bikes with friends and family cheering you on (and appropriately three actual dogs as mascots).
And then we were off, to try and complete as many of the 6-mile laps as we could in 6 hours. The front runners went off at a blistering pace whilst some of us (Adam and I) got off to a pretty pedestrian pace due to being a bit too relaxed getting to the start line. After about 2 miles in we got going proper and with a bit of space managed to get stuck into the fast flowing single track that the ancient woodland of Stanmer Park has to offer.
Mid-way into the race the trails were bedding in nicely and confidence was building as we got a sense of where you could push it and where to take it easy - mainly on the long uphill drags to conserve energy for the twisty and steep descents through the woods at the back end of the course.
Deeper into the race and fatigue started to set in requiring a lot more concentration, especially in the narrow tree-lined sections where it was all too easy to come a cropper if you had a wide-barred trail bike. The marshals were regularly spaced and did a great job, giving tips on obstacles ahead, good lines and generally giving shout-outs of support, along with the many spectators and dog walkers lining the route to cheer on weary legs. Special mention goes to the chap with a full drum kit on the first climb helping everyone keep a nice steady pace.
And so ended another year of Big Dog and its safe to say many of us will be back next year in force for this brilliant event that leaves you 100% spent but with a big grin on your face…in the mean time we have plenty of time to get fitter and who knows maybe get a RCC MTBer or two on the podium in 2019?