Booooom!!!!! Back in the building!
So it’s been a bit devoid of race reports in recent times on the blog. No doubt, each and every one of you has been sat there at your computer/tablet screen staring at the notifications, just waiting for an update.
What? You haven’t??! You mean you hadn’t even noticed???!
Well, regardless of whether you have or haven’t, the truth is, I got a bit bored of writing full race reports last year. Doing similar races and getting similar results meant I struggled to get creative and it felt a bit like‘Groundhog Day’…but without the creative genius that is Bill Murray to carry be along. I could have been wrong, but I felt that if they’re kind of boring for me to write, then they sure as hell will be boring to read, so I figured best to save you from the impending snoozefest! Of course, if you’ve been struggling to sleep lately, then maybe I could’ve helped you out!
Anyway, this is my last year racing in the Masters category as I turn 40 later next year, so will move up to the Veteran category in January.
Whilst I’m obviously looking for decent results generally this year, I’m also keeping an eye on where I might place in ‘Vets’ (all being equal) next year. Will I be closer to the top? Is there any chance of getting some top 10 results? To be honest…I hope so.
Anyway, it’s half way through 2019 so I figured I’d wrap up the season so far for me in something a little more bitesize or, if you are suffering from insomnia, something that might help you towards that sweet l’il nap you’ve been craving.
What: South West Kenda Enduro Series, Round 1
Where: Haldon Forest, Exeter
Result: 22 of 59 Masters (9 of 38 Veterans)
2019 kicked off with a brand new race series; a new southwest-based enduro organised by ‘Cornish Trail Pixie’ trail builder extraordinaire, Ed (with the dread) Wright and Scott Fitzgerald of Southern Enduro Series fame. Southwest riders had been desperately waiting for our own race series for a few years and finally it all came together with the first round at Haldon Forest, just south of Exeter, Devon.
There was a great turnout on a cold Sunday morning and four stages awaited us, with two being located on the Forestry Commission MTB trail centre side and the other two, being a 10 minute road transfer to ‘café side’ and the ‘rider-built’ trails there. Just like the Southern Enduro races, this series consists of morning practice and afternoon race, so although the race distance was short, you could still get a few miles in over the whole day if you wanted to practice lots, or just have a quick recce and go back to the van for pot noodle/joint/turbo session – whatever keeps you going bro.
Come race time, I had a decent Stage 1 and headed off down Stage 2 like a whippet on Red Bull…until my chain came off half way down and I was forced to pump the rest of the flowy trail, desperately trying to summon some Aaron Gwinn skills. Only no where near as fast. Stage 3 and 4 went down without issue and I finished in 22nd place.
I was pretty happy with that but even happier to see a successful SW race series kick off finally. What was even more awesome was that it tempted a few of my old Cornwall Freerider jibbing/non-racing mates to have a go. For me, that is what racing is about and especially this season – good times with mates. If I get a decent result, then even better.
What: Kernow Enduro
Where: Mount Edgcumbe Estate, Cornwall
Result: 3 of 16 Masters (2 of 10 Vets)
No sooner had the damp dirt been washed off my Orbea Rallon but I was back between the tapes a week later for another first, the shiny new Kernow Enduro. Organised by Edge Cycles on the Mount Edgcumbe Estate, at the very south-eastern edge of Cornwall, this was small local enduro, ideal for first timers as well as seasoned locals. After the mini downhill race here the previous autumn where I podiumed, I was kinda hopeful for another this time around too to be honest. Four fun but pedally stages were the order of the day on a hot and sunny Sunday. Stage 1 favoured the XC fit riders but Stage 2 had a bit more gravity assist to it. It was going well for me until the final sharp and slow 180 degree bend where, yet again, I dropped my chain, but this time had to jump off and sprint with my bike over the line as quick as I could!
Despite that, I finished 3rd on the day behind local legend Ash Mullane in top spot and my good riding mate Lawrence Jones in second. I rarely podium but it was definitely rad to share it with a mate who you’re always trying to keep up with on rides.
What: Welsh Gravity Enduro Series, Round 1 and British National Enduro Series, Round 1
Where: Bryn Bettws, Afan, South Wales
Result: WGES – 23 of 62 Masters (9 of 58 Vets)
BNES – 43 of 106 Masters (22 of 49 Vets)
So I did actually put pen to paper…or should I say fingers to touchscreen for these two races, so head over to the race report here for full details.
In summary though, I borrowed a 29er Rallon, it was bloody fast, I was pretty happy with my result and I came away 100% decided I wanted a new bike!
What: PMBA ‘The Epic’ / British National Enduro Series, Round 2
Where: Graythwaite, Lake District
Result: 79 of 171 Masters (35 of 110 Vets)
The last time I raced at Graythwaite, I did so with a fecked shoulder so this year I was looking forward to being able to put full effort into the techy, challenging trails in the Lake District. This was a two day event so practice of the 8 stages on Saturday and then racing on Sunday.
A bit of hike a bike was needed to get to the top of the trails and as I dropped in to practice the first stage of the day…hang on, sorry…as I rolled down the initial rocky gully to where the stage started, I clipped something and when straight over the bars landing rib cage first on a pile of big ol’ rocks. I picked myself up, sucked some air back into my slightly winded lungs, checked me and the bike (all good*) and carried on.
FFS, I couldn’t even get to the first stage without messing myself up.
A relatively short 14 mile loop but with 8 tricky stages and 1100 metres of climbing, it was far from an easy day out. Race day went well I felt – I made no major mistakes keeping it mostly clean but finished 79th which I felt a little disappointed with. Gotta keep reminding myself that this is national level racing and that the last time I raced nationals, I mostly finished just in the bottom half . Now, in my final year of Masters, I’m hanging around top 40%, so I’m not doing too bad.
* I say ‘all good’, but it was 6 -8 weeks until I stopped being able to feel the injury, so I may well have cracked or broken a rib.
What: Southern Enduro Championships / British National Enduro Series, Round 3
Where: Minehead, Exmoor
Result: 87 of 147 Masters (43 of 101 Vets)
Rattling them out like a student working in a pill factory on commission, BEMBA round 3 came quickly in the form of the Southern Enduro Champs at Minehead. The previous two years’ races (2017 race report here & 2018 race report here), had been blessed with dry conditions and that lovely loam and this year was no different. Actually, it was slightly different as it was SO dry that the loam had turned to dust.
Another 2 day affair so Saturday was spent practising and in particular for me, trying to clean through a tight, steep right-left corner on ‘Quadzilla’, the infamous free-fall stage, without crashing and barrel rolling my face down the hillside. Race day came, and I cleaned that corner and the stage in good time and felt good until I clipped a tree on Stage 3, sending me out the front door into the undergrowth. I had to wait for the rider behind to come through as I picked myself back up and unravelled my handlebars, so lost loads of time. The remaining stages went fine largely without issue until the final stage when I dropped my chain again (aarrrgghhhhh!!!…theme of the year so far!) half way down the stage and had to pump to keep momentum, particularly to get up a short uphill bit into the final field descent slalom. I managed it…but only just. Those issue meant I finished 87th for a disappointing result but it was far from a disappointing weekend however…this is one of my favourite places to ride so all was good.
This race was also my last on the mighty Rallon R4. After nearly 4 years of awesomeness, I had another bike to pick up the very following week…the even mightier Rallon R5. And the next race I would race it on?…Minehead again, for the second round of the South West Kenda Enduro Series.
Familiar trails, a new bike…and some redemption to get. I was looking forward to heading back!
Southern Enduro Series at Minehead…
Cotton Burner ‘Dirty Double’…
Welsh Gravity Enduro Series at Dyfi Forest and Eastridge…
British National Enduro Series at Dyfi Forest…
South West Kenda Enduro Series at Grogley Woods, Bodmin…
Check back at the end of the 2019 to see how the second half of my year went!