We thought we’d ask this year’s Hacksaws Challenge winner Rob Borek to give us his perspective of the race he’d been waiting for all year. Accompanied by our own high res post-race photos.
“Last weekend saw the return of what is generally considered to be the gnarliest fixed gear event in the south west, Hacksaws Challenge. This was my second year taking part, last year I had just begun to get involved in riding and racing fixed gear bikes, and was super stoked to come away with a 5th place finish. This year my aim was to improve on last years result, which seemed likely with a year of time trialling experience on my side, A lot more alleycat experience, and 10 months of messengering in my legs. A few people mentioned to me that they thought I might do well, this made me nervous, and I felt that I had to perform. I placed even greater pressure on myself by opting to ride a full on time trial setup: tri spoke, aero bars, and 101” gear.
Everybody(myself included) was so nervous on the day of the race, and I received several texts throughout the day long the lines of ‘I’m scared’. After what felt like the longest day ever in the shop Tim and Gabe arrived, I got my kit on and we waited out the minutes before it was time to leave, doing a few last minute preparations, considering the consequences of not turning up, and generally letting the nerves get the better of ourselves. I got a couple of texts from Ed(previous winner) entitled: ‘How to win Hacksaws Challenge’ these stuck in my mind for the entire race, but for legal reasons cannot be shared with the general public.
There was a decent sized crowd at Queens Square by the time we arrived, about 30 riders and a load of other people with cameras and cowbells! I received my number, removed my outer layers, leant my bike against a bench, and lined up for the traditional le-mans style start.
The bells rang, and we were off! I got a good start, calmly getting clipped in, getting my gear going and putting in a minute of good hard riding to get the the front of the pack. Me, Gabe, and Jez got away really well, having some luck with the first couple of sets of lights, this gave me the opportunity to warm up a bit before riding hard, whilst the others were smashing it to try and catch back up to us.
Tim rode super hard for the first few miles to make up for a bad start, and eventually got to us. This was vital to me as I had no idea how to get through Keynsham, and had planned on following him. He led me through the series of mini roundabouts, and were were among the first few to reach Dene (Il Soigneur) at the checkpoint.
The main road to bath after Keynsham was horrific, the traffic was solid and I was having to ride at full speed between it in order to stay at the front of the race, this wasn’t so bad until a car pulled seemingly from out of nowhere into my path, it was one of those ‘world in slo mo’ near death kind of things, I pulled my brake so hard the back wheel came up (brakes are death) and just about managed to nip round it. This shocked the riders behind, with only Luke Penny keeping the speed up and staying on my wheel.
Me and Luke rode together right the way into Bath, with no riders to be seen behind us, we knew we could both be in with a chance if we worked together. He rode a much lower gear than me (86”) and so I towed him along the flats, and he paced me up the hills, we worked well together like this all the way from Bath back into Bristol, and despite my best efforts to drop him, the traffic meant I couldn’t get my gear going as easily as I had planned, and Luke stuck on my wheel.
I managed to stay ahead the whole way back through Brislington, down Bath rd, and past temple meads, I had a bit of a gap, maybe 100m, and then cocked up the mini roundabout right before the square, sliding out on the damp slippery tarmac. At this point I thought it was over, Luke slowed when he saw me crash, I looked at him and shouted something about sprinting for the finish, which I tried my best to do, and I think he was happy to let me take the win, and claim 2nd place in his first ever Hacksaws. He rode insanely hard and is definitely someone to watch out for in the future!
I crossed the line, and I couldn’t believe I had managed it it! After a couple of weeks of hype, a day of insane nervousness, and 1 hour and six minutes of the hardest bike riding of my life, I had won Hacksaws Challenge!
Massive thanks to DJC, for putting the race on for another year, to everyone who rode despite the tempting prospect of sitting in the pub instead, and to Gabe for bringing me an emergency malt loaf at 3pm. Special mention to Swede who finished 5th overall and 1st brakeless, (we all know that’s the one that counts), to Jon, for getting hit by a car and still finishing 12th, And well done to Lucy for winning the girls category for the second year in a row. If you didn’t ride this race, do it next year!”