EC WALES 2004 - 26.10. 2004

The weather forecast for the weekend was foul, and Swansea did not disappoint. The prediction from UK Kickbike supremo Pete Sheterline was that a great deal of sporting fun and fearsome completion, (and of beer and camaraderie) would be had, didn't disappoint either!
An efficient team of officials were on parade outside the welcoming Swiss Cottage Park cafe to sign the competitors in and make encouraging noises. I needed a little more encouragement than most, when I found that I was to make up the third member of the Czech Republic womens team, especially after being introduced to Lucie and Anezka and being told, "These girls are quick!" So absolutely no pressure there then!
The relay race comprised mens and womens teams, with each member racing one lap of the 2k circuit of Singleton Park. It was an excellent course, with a combination of up and down, flat and bumpy, in and out of the trees, all made slick by recent rain, the wrong sort of leaves and even those deadly conkers to catch out the unwary. The marshalls variously popped out from under the shelter of trees, sat smugly at the top of the nasty climb with a camera, or cheered as if we were really doing something heroically sporting every time we went past. I do like cheery marshalls!
We were not daunted by the smart red and blue uniforms of the Czech Republic teams, oh no. How often have you seen bikers with all the gear and none of the action; we weren't scared. Only... well... they could kick as well... they, ahem, kicked our asses! Not that there wasn't a fantastic race, but the men's team were clear winners, and the womens team, (with only one place surrendered during my lap,) won the womens category.
Restored by vast quantities of very welcome mugs of tea form the cafe ( always a good idea to have race HQ by the cafe) the rules of engagement for the individual race were renegotiated, so that the men raced over 20k and the girls over 10k. The clouds darkened and threatened, and by lap 4 what had been a pleasant whizz downhill became a slog into wind-driven rain, the sort that comes up at you and gets bits of you wet that are normally protected by convenient overhangs. By this time Milan had lapped me once or twice; he even lapped Lars once; that man was flying, (as the finish line photo will attest.)
Milan was the clear winner of the men's race, and Lucie followed in her father's kick steps by winning the womens race. Lest it be thought that there was no Brit competition, mention must be made of the first man over the line in the first round of the relay, who was not Czech at all, but our own local star, Rob; and Graham, (he of the legendary Mountain Mayhem team) came in strongly in 4th place in the 20k.
On the Sunday, the rain confined itself to a heavy but wetting drizzle, ably supported by an onshore blast of wind, so it still managed to insinuate itself into every pore; wonderfully refreshing for a 1k sprint along the seafront. The British contingent was increased by the addition of Xavier, (he of the legendary Kickbike ride around Denmark.) Since coming second to Graham in the 'boat race' in the pub, maybe Milan's form was a little off, but he was beaten into second place in the sprint by Pav, although Lucie managed to hold off Anezka into a close second.
Once racing was over on Saturday, the famed Kickbike fraternity business of "a few beers" came into play. Some of us made a modest start in the pub, two doors up from Pete's house. Philip and Lisiane, who were over from Lausanne to watch the action joined us for this part, sharing their photos of the weekend's action. Graham was getting nicely into gear when the Czech lads appeared. When Milan downed three-quarters of his first pint in one swig, and asked daughter Lucie, (who was the group's hardworking interpreter,) to ask Graham how many pints he would down in a good night's session, I guessed there was some serious drinking to come. Milan had an interval of a pint of cider at some point in his six or seven pints of beer, and then there was the boat race, with English honour upheld, so Pete's arrival to call us into the presentation ceremony at his house was timely.
Pete and Helen had made industrial quantities of wonderful spaghetti bolognese, which was enormously welcome, and was washed down with large quantities of wine and beer. Their large kitchen table, so obviously the scene of many a happy party, accommodated the whole gang; the mood mellowed, and then the guitars came out. Xavier and Pete passed one back and forth between them, covering an impressive range of styles and eras of music. Sadly, the rest of us on vocals were lacking somewhat in the lyrics department, not to mention the musicality dept. Needless to say, this hampered our enjoyment and enthusiasm for the task not one jot! (Note to organiser... provide more song sheets next year; book Xav again next year!)
Overnight accommodation was conveniently just up the hill from the pub. When I made my weary way up there just before midnight, I found a place to put my sleeping bag and went exploring for the bathroom. It was through the kitchen , where the fan oven was whirring away, gently roasting an oven full of soaking trainers! Subsequent loads of clothing were done in the same way at breakfast! I think there were 10 of us who found somewhere to rest our heads that night, but Graham definitely had the airbed with the most air!
It was a hugely enjoyable experience for me. I had never seen anyone on a Kickbike before I got mine, and watching the flying Czechs go downhill like speed skaters was a revelation. I have not only firmly resolved to be there again next year, but to bring an army of folks from the gym, just for the great crack of it all.
Huge thanks to Pete and Helen and the great team of marshalls, and the support of Swansea City Council.


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