Jenny and I are recovering in a tiny medieval village inland from the Italian Riviera after Iron Bike 2015. This is a race billed as: 'The hardest mountain bike raid in the world'.
I rode and Jenny took care of everything else - God bless her. After getting the prized (and very ugly) finisher's T shirt last year, this year's race was about getting as high up the rankings as possible though this would risk not finishing at all.
The days are long - usually 7 hours or more, the climbing monstrous - up to 5000m a day and the descents unbelievably tough. Part of the appeal is the extreme nature of the terrain and the fact that the risks are very high if you want to be competitive. An example is the foot wide, unsecured plank above a 2000m drop that you must cross with no hand rail.
Fabrizio Bruno and his crew of motorcyclists, doctors, translators, caterers and a helicopter do an unbelievable job in true wilderness surroundings but we are never in any doubt we ride at our own risk.
The first few days went pretty well for me with no mechanicals and no serious tumbles: I climbed to 15th overall and 3rd in the Master 40s. The final days, however, were excruciating; as riding pretty much full gas for the previous stages started to bite and Axel the Austrian was seriously threatening my chance at the podium. The fight between 4th and 3rd in our category was, by far, the tightest of all the races within the race. One puncture, one crash.....
Ultimately I hung on and a podium at Iron Bike has to be one of my proudest moments.
Jenny was a brick, dealing with the very basic camping conditions and a gibbering wreck of a partner, so a massive thank you to her.
Canyon's SLX carbon hardtail was faultless - though my choice of a 1 x 11, 32/40 set up was a little ambitious!
Mark at MTB Batteries provided the lights and they worked. Brilliantly.
Ole Blokhus (Dogstar) built me a set of carbon 29er wheels which are absolutely awesome.
I'm going back.