Exeter = 100 miles away and takes an hour and 40 to get to for me.
Bude = 60 miles away…and also takes an hour 40 to get to.
That’s nearly half the distance but takes just as long to get there and although in Cornwall, it might as well be in different county. Well, to be fair, it nearly is.
Needless to say, I rarely ever go to that part of Cornwall let alone to ride my bike so having signed up to the third edition of local MTB group Dept. 26’s mini enduro last weekend, I was looking forward to seeing what the trails were like, and looking forward to racing for the Southwest Syndicate for the first time since May.
So being a locally organised grass roots race, I was expecting minimal taping, a questionable timing system but almost certainly a good atmosphere, banter and an eclectic mix of racers! With the forecast for heavy rain, I was also expecting some dirty, slippery trails in the woods as well. Looking on YouTube to see what the trails were like revealed a nice little selection of steep rooty corners and the odd jump or two so seemed like there could be some good stages to race on regardless.
Taking that into account, it was time to switch to the winter set-up for the Rallon, so off came the Tomahawk tyre from the rear, the Minion DHF from the front went to the back to replace it and the trusty Shorty went on the front with a Mudhugger guard. A couple of clicks less on low speed compression on the fork for them roots and it was good to go.
Race day was Saturday and registration was open from 8.30am. With no practice allowed but a track walk recommended, and early sign-on was encouraged to check out the 6 stages before race runs began at 11am. With a long drive on the cards, I was up at the crack of ass to get there in good time, turning up at 9am to get entered.
The enduro stages were spread across two woodland sites, with Stage 2, 4 and 6 being on the flatter and more open registration side and Stages 1, 3 and 5 being in the other steeper, tighter woodland. After picking up my number board from the sign-on area, where there was a roaring camp fire, PA system blasting out some tunes and some lovely ladies cooking up burger and bacon baps for a fee, I walked three quarters of Stage 2 aka ‘Lakeland Monster’, the longest of the race and then back up the first half of Stage 4 ‘Spookies’. Despite the preceding week being amazingly clear of rain (the day before was glorious sunshine), today was most definitely the opposite; the mudfest was on point and Stage 2 was a good inch or two deep in mud, especially in the flat, pedally sections – which were also conveniently covered in a myriad of roots in places as well. Stage 4 was a bit more hardpacked and ‘well jumpy’ with several rollers and gap jumps…it looked like a load of fun.
11am and there was a quick riders briefing including a quick introduction to Dom Ferris of Trash Free Trails, a rad initiative promoting and campaigning for keeping the trails we ride free of litter. I hate seeing gel wrappers and energy drinks bottles dumped by the trail side at races and at local riding spots like Poldice, so this is certainly a worthy cause. Everyone was lined up in number board/alphabetical order and then set off in 15-30 second intervals.
Over to Stage 1, (‘Boobies'(!)) which was a pedally traverse followed by some tight rooty turns and a short fire road sprint finish. I was doing ok until the final tight left hand rooty turn onto the fire road where my front wheel went out from under me sending me down to Chinatown and 29th fastest. Stage 2, the pedally epic I’d walked earlier, started ok but then felt like trying to ride through porridge in the flat middle section. The legs were turning but the wheels barely were! Despite opting for glasses over goggles, I still managed to get some mud fling up under the lense and had to ride for about 10-15 seconds with one eye shut until I could blink it out clear. I caught and overtook the guy ahead on the mid stage climb and was catching the next guy towards the end but couldn’t quite get to him by the finish. 19th fastest.
On the transition, I quickly nipped to my car and swapped my glasses for goggles and went on to Stage 3 (‘Christmas’) which was nice, steep and twisty down through the loam and trees and was a lot of fun. I nabbed 18th fastest, getting up to speed a bit more. Back to Stage 4, the jumpy line, and as I rolled in from the start my goggles were smeared/misting/dirty so as I came into the first couple of jumps, I could barely see anything! When conditions are warm, wet, muddy and rainy, no matter what you’ve got covering your eyes, nothing is perfect but in these condition glasses were the best option in the end. I had to go for the chicken line, slowed, whipped them off and consequently had to take the next chicken line as well before getting back on the pedals for a fast feeling finish and 18th fastest. Stage 5, ‘O Canada’ was fairly solid until getting unclipped and tripoding the final traverse to the finish line, though was still 8th fastest on that one and then Stage 6, ‘TTF’ was a flat XC pedally leg burner to the end and 13th fastest.
Crossing the line back into the start area and each rider was handed a couple of free beers courtesy of race sponsor and local brewery, Kreft Beer and everyone got a free specially designed T-shirt as well. More enduros should finish with free beer around a camp fire like this!
So yeah, despite the rain, wind and mud, it was a top event and well worth the trip up. Dept. 26 have got some great trails in their little woodland areas so a massive thanks to them for putting the race on and sharing them with us. Also, massive respect for a well-run race…timing wasn’t an issue, the food was tasty and the music wasn’t too bad either. I finished 17 of 50 in the end which was a little disappointing but no worries…fun was had and the runs were rad.
I’ll be back next year for sure and hopefully in much drier conditions!