Saturday saw the second instalment of MA3K TTT, a social meet & street racing event to decide London's strongest, sprint, climb, 5km grind, individual. Racing against the clock with a declared and unchangeable gear ratio the day was full of pain and excitement not to mention some bizarre weather.
The day began at 9am with breakfast provided by East London Fixed at Oakley Covent Garden but being lazy and having enjoyed a little, end of week exuberance the night before, I missed it. I instead aimed for the next meet at the more sociable hour of 11am in the belly of the London's financial hole, Canary Wharf or more exactly, Montgomery Square. Here I landed at around 11:15am and greeted friends from all over the London scene; individuals, commentators, photographers and teams. Everyone and anyone was there, enjoying the sun, conversation and of course, the bikes.
With bike down and breakfast half consumed I was reminded to register. In charge of the registration was Lewis who handed me a spoke card which had been beautifully designed, along with a number for the day, tattooed to my leg with indelible marker pen by Marina. I was all set, all I needed to do was spin hard through the sprint, smash the hill and survive the 5km grind, easy! I returned to my bike to mount my spoke card and happily bumped into Matt and his brand new bike, a Brother Swift, and then Jan, my Fixed Beers team mate, sporting like me, one of our new Fixed Beers t-shirts.
It being a Saturday and still relatively early as weekends go there were still a few stragglers on their way so it was decided to hang in the Wharf for an extra half hour. This clearly angered the weather gods, who I suspect long ago made a pact with the wealthy and decided to dump what felt like a weeks worth of rain, torrential rain to be exact, on our location. Escaping to one of the countless glass and metal tombstones that litter the area, we sheltered and wondered if in fact the day would begin and end as it started. Thankfully it was but a passing blow and retreated as quickly as it had commenced allowing us to mount our bikes and head for the hills, so to speak.
Location 1 – The Sprint:
The aptly named Strait Road was the location for the first event, The Sprint. Racers lined up at the Beckton Park end of the road beyond the bend. From there they took it in turns to hammer down the road, as hard as possible, to the finish line, where those not racing, including Kris and other photographers, were waiting. There being so many competitors I tried to film what I believed to be the favourites and a few friends before taking my place amongst the contenders and making my way down the road as fast as my ratio and frantically spinning legs would allow. The weather was still warm and once at the finish line I waited to see my team mate Jan who definitely hit it harder than me. This was the event where a faster (heavier) ratio could definitely help but crucially contenders had to start with one foot on the ground, and so if you fucked up clipping in at the start you lost yourself valuable seconds. It has to be said as you can see from the video below, Matt Payne nailed this.
With the first race complete it was time to head South to find ferries and hills. With the weather brewing above us MA3K decided to take us across the river, by boat. Aboard we sailed, one mass of cyclists ready to tackle the next challenge the, hill climb.
Location 2 – The Climb:
Now, I'm a fan of hills, for some reason I love the usually, relatively short, grind against gravity, that leaves you with a sense of achievement and if you're lucky a damn good view. For me this was a typical hill, not crazy long and soul destroying like Ditchling Hill, but short, steep and relatively painless. Going against the advice of MA3K and others I filled my bag with beer and bananas then hammered up the hill for the first time and dumped my stuff at the top. I thought, if I could do it fully loaded relatively quickly I should fly up without the bag.
Once at the top we broke out the home made EU flag once again, marked the road with water soluble paint for the finish and the spectators took their positions. To reach the bottom I, like many of the others, walked. Not wanting to waste precious energy and rubber skidding down to the start line, this made sense. The location was Plum Lane and like any public road it had its fair share of traffic heading both up and down, but being a quiet back road it was infrequent and largely gave way as each cyclist began their battle. This really wasn't the place for heavy gear ratios and took a few victims, with racers having to walk or carry their bikes to the top. I had a pretty good accent though, hindered only by a van coming the other way, which caused me to slow before I hit the really aggressive stage of the hill. A good time was under a minute and I'm hoping, once the results are published, to be happy.
Hill done it was time to move again but the weather as before had other plans. We huddled under a tree and sheltered once again. Thankfully this was only a passing shower and after about ten minutes it had slowed. With bags on backs, the bikes rolled again. However it seems we judged badly, what was a light dusting became in a matter of seconds an ungodly hellstormish fucktorrent of rain, turning us from relatively dry happy campers to utterly sodden, but not saddened, cyclists. Wet through but undeterred we set off again. Next stop The 5km grind.
Location 3 – The 5km Grind:
Crossing the river again, this time through Woolwich Tunnel and after a quick pit stop at the Lee Valley VeloPark we arrived at our final location Lesney Ave, a quiet and I think closed road. We holed up under a bridge which became the centre-point for the final challenge. With a staggered start, three at a time, riders would set off, looping up and down the road seven times. This was a lot of fun, not only because you had to run a gauntlet of snail death in either direction but also because two volunteers had been chosen to mark each hairpin. This meant you had a lot of help and encouragement at either end of the course as well as the encouragement in the centre as you passed the start/stop line. Check out the pictures of my team mate Jan battling up and down.
By now well into the early evening it had been a long day and my strength had really began to waver, as it finally became my turn to hit the grind. Up and down, up and down, up and down; the sound of my body quickly crumbling, peppered by the crack of snail shells crushed, crushed and crushed until it was all over. Thankful to have survived and looking forward to a much needed beer we headed to Crate Brewery.
At the brewery, in the yard and with a lot of cheer and fanfare, prizes were handed out for each category. First, Second and Third places as well as Riser-Lyf were handed out. Each received a gorgeous hand painted sprocket courtesy of Cole Coatings Workshop as well as a whole host of goodies provided by Motoreen, Restrap, Schwalbe, Brother, NLTCBMBC, 19/19, Velociposse and of course East London Fixed.
Huge, in fact, gigantic thanks to MA3K for creating this incredible event and bringing all the various groups in this thriving scene together for one awesome day of fun, pain and partying. Thanks to Kris for the sick graphics and spoke cards and thanks to Lewis, Marina, Thomas, and all those who helped tirelessly all day long to keep the event going from start to finish.