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2018. A shit-happens kind of a year.

2018. A shit-happens kind of a year.

2018 was a bit of a strange old year for me.
I was still firmly in the recovery stages from my shoulder operation by the time The Puffer (Strathpuffer 24 hour race) came around in late January. I was entered to race in the solo category along with a bunch of other mates with the same idea. It turned out that the trail conditions, fairly heavy with snow, were a bit too sketchy for me; I was still under strict guidelines from the Consultant Surgeon not to take any risks. So instead of racing I elected to man the pits and support the guys instead.
It was a nice way to experience the event, and I got a tremendous buzz from helping and encouraging my mates to finish, even though I would have much preferred to be racing. Hey-ho. This year I will be racing in a quad team for Alpkit. I’m really looking forward to this even though I am a bit short on fitness.

My first real disaster came a few weeks later whilst out in Nepal for the MTB-Worldwide Pokhara IV Stage Race in February. For the most part things had been going pretty well, right up to the point were I crashed my bike and hit my shoulder hard. I thought that I’d buggered it up again, it was really painful for a couple of weeks afterwards. On my return to The UK I went to see my Consultant Surgeon and had the shoulder MRI scanned again. The surgeon seemed happy with it and said that there was some swelling in the joint but nothing to worry about. 

If I’m honest the surgery hasn’t been as successful as I’d hoped. A few friends have had a similar operation and all came out of it showing real improvement; unfortunately for me I haven’t, and it’s been a bit of a blow to my morale. It’s much more stable than it was pre-op and the constant pain that I endured has largely dissipated but it still locks up quite often when I’m sleeping, and it still feels very fragile when extended or rotated. Hey-ho again; I’ll make the best of it.
I spent most of the year working long hours and saving hard so that I can have a sabbatical over this coming Summer and Winter. At times it has felt never-ending but now I can see light at the end of the tunnel; I’m looking forward to going on some big adventures.

My next adventure came in May and June when I headed off for my third trip to Sri Lanka.

The first part involved cycling the whole of the island with my friend Phil, going from the north coast to the south coast via the most westerly and easterly points, and all done on a local singlespeed bicycle to raise money for Helping Paws, some 804kms. I also elected to continue on back to where we began, Colombo Fort Railway Station, adding a further 250kms to the total. It was a very tough endeavour but one that I thoroughly enjoyed doing.
Unfortunately the trip ended with devastating heartbreak when our friend, Nepal National Mountainbike Champion, Narayan Gopal Maharjan was killed during stage four of The Rumble in the Jungle mountainbike race. Narayan fell into a river and, being unable to swim, was swept away with the current and drowned. The grief, particularly for those of us that knew him well, was overwhelming.

The Manx 100 was a race I had been admiring since its inception and in 2018 I had a window of opportunity to take part in it for the first time. However… you really can’t make this stuff up… the only weekend it rained during that entire glorious summer was the weekend of The Manx 100. On our way to Liverpool we were notified that the afternoon ferries were cancelled due to the stormy conditions in the Irish Sea. According to Nigel, the race organiser, this was the first time that he’d ever known a ferry get cancelled in July. We diverted to The Lake District, and it subsequently pissed it down for the whole weekend.

For the first time in seven years I had decided, for a number of reasons – most of which were financial,  not to go to Nepal for The Yak Attack, which meant that I didn’t have anything in particular to train for and I really struggled to garner any motivation to get out and ride.

On the plus side of life I did build a new bike 🙂 Alpkit had very kindly handed me the final prototype of their Sonder Bikes new model – The Signal Ti – to take out and thrash in Nepal (It’s featured in several of the images above). See here for my build article. 
I had no intention to build a new hardtail whatsoever, no intention at all… until I rode this bike. What a bike it was; the  best trail hardtail I had ever ridden. I spent the next few months assembling an array of new parts in the Spring sales and as soon as the new frame was released I set about assembling it. It’s a trail dream machine. (Not long after my mate Mitch reversed into another vehicle with our bikes mounted on the back of his van. Fortunately only the rear wheel was damaged and I’ve since had it rebuilt with a new rim – *breathes huge sigh of relief).

2019 is going to be better. I begin my sabbatical at the end of April and I have some stuff planned and some loose ideas about what to do with the rest.
In the mean time there is the matter of another Puffer to do for Alpit/Sonder Bikes along with Rich & Tom Seipp and Pete McNeil from Adventure Pedlars. I’m not very fit but I am looking forward to it.
And the week after that I’m heading out to Nepal for some winter sunshine and the second edition of Pokhara IV.
Onwards and upwards 🙂 

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About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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