It was quite the weekend for Sheffield racers last weekend at the first UK Gravity Enduro of the year. Ae played host and Pocket Rocket Carrie Poole came away with 3rd place in Elite Women. Not bad for a 4 footer.
The boys did good too; Local Pinner Craig Evans also came away with 10th in Elite men, reet good for his first ever Enduro race for the On-One Team. Team mate Freddie Oxley picked up 23rd in Elite as well. Josh ‘LooseDog’ Lewis is now riding for Stif Cycles and picked up 14th in Elite, pretty good for a lad that blew his knee out 3 weeks ago. The Cotic-Steel City Media Whores were also out in force. Chays has moved up to Elite this year and took 22nd on the day. New Recruit and wannabe hipster, Rich Norgate, took 4th in Masters but both of them said they were somewhat disappointed and wanted better. Watch out for them all in future rounds.
A fresh challenge and a new format, my first attempt at an Enduro event and I was pretty excited. Joe Bow had been bangin on about how fun these events are for the past year now so thought it was about time to see what all the fun was about!
We had a healthy group for the trip, Joe, Jolley and My bro traveled up in the @VitoSport and met up with Hanna Swede and her house mate Tom. Plenty of banter and laughing was on the cards for the day as we set off for a leasurly cruise around Hamsterly in the Hot Hot Heat, and it really was hot, with the sun beaming down all day and with minimum wind, we decided to do a full lap out of the gate.
So off we went, cruising up the fire-roads to the start of stage one, taking in the scenery as we passed, all was very pleasant and relaxed. Joe struggled from a few mechanical issues with his chain on the cruise up to the start (he had fixed it himself so there was no real surprise something went wrong, despite what he says about his mechanics skills!) so being the good mates we all are… we left him and set off for our first down of the day.
A tough, flat, rooty, uneven pedal made for an awkward start, once past this a bit of pace was picked up as you skipped over roots and holes and took a left onto the first sprint pedal of the day, a large flat, drifty right turn and back into the woods where there was options for a few different lines to be taken, but we just carried on and rode the main line. Then a slightly uncomfortable flat rolly section, if you got the flow right here it all ran smooth, but a slight error and your speed was sapped, stopping on the uneven spaced holes with not much room for pedal strokes, it was a really tricky section of the track. From there it dropped into a selection of tight switchbacks that spat you out over an off camber ledge and over the line.
I was a little surprised it wasn’t longer, but that was only stage 1.
Onto stage 2 and a bit of a bitch of a climb up a hot fire-road right to the top of the hill. It was a steep sharp climb that dragged on a bit but wasn’t too bad.
Stage 2 started with a flat out sprint on some loose gravely terrain, taking in some fast berms and short jumps. A much faster stage and the previous with more flow, i good chance to turn the pedals for all they were worth as it turned out to be a pretty constant pedally stage for much of it. After the fun of the fast turns and jumps the track spat you out onto a slightly up hill road where, come race runs, the pedals really need to be spinning here! From there on it dropped into and incredibly loamy wooded section, which was rad! Love loam. There were a number of sneaky cut lines in here but we stuck to the main line and road the loam to the end of stage 2.
A road ride climb took us to the top of Stage 3. With 5 of us currently in our group we thought it’d be cool to pretend to be the GB road team and draft on another, with the front man swinging off from time to time to join the back of the pack and keep legs fresh! We passed a couple of other riders who seemed to enjoy what we were doing, with one trying to tag onto us! But our momentum was already at a blistering pace and he had no chance!! That was until the hill suddenly kicked up sharp and we all seemed to just give up and cruise up instead.
Stage 3 was fast hardpack terrain with plenty of quick flat corners mixed with some bermed turns, plenty of pace throughout until it spat you back out onto the road. We thought it had finished but noticed no FINISH sign.. so looked for some tape, a bit confused we looked down the hill as there was no way the Race would go up that horrible looking steep hill! Oh, it did. Bugger. So off we slugged up the hill before dropping back onto the fast hardpack, a few more rail-able bermed turns and back up to speed, again there was a good selection of cut lines in here but we didnt bother to stop and look, just stuck to main line. We got a little lost before finishing of a wooden drop and a left hander, Jolley got some drift on in here and ragged his rim, putting a man size dent in it and pinch flatting.Rate laugh.
The cruise over to Stage 4 was pleasent, traversing through the woodland before spitting you back out onto that bitch of a climb again, same as for Stage 2. Back to the top for another fun ride down! By this point i was really enjoying the format on Enduro racing, plenty of riding time, a good laugh with your mates and all in all Good fun.
Stage 4 began sat on top of the 4X track, over looking the moorland it was quite pleasant, however watching some people hit the first jump, included Joe, was unnerving! Some very uncomfortable positions. From there, up and into the woods where there were plenty of awkward roots that sapped your speed if you caught them wrong, no where really to pedal so flow was important. Things steepened up a little before dropping into the dense woods, over a little rock garden then a real uncomfortable left hander. I had a couple of goes at this corner, pinging a spoke on the rocks in the mean time before getting the corner half descent. Over a fire-road and back into the woods, instantly lost as I went straight on instead of a sharp right. Try again, and away!! Playing around on the rooty section i enjoyed this part of the day! Traversing the woodland, hitting stuff blind, popping around was a rate laugh! There was plenty of line choice again but i tended to stick to the middle lines, giggling away to myself as riders were scrambling out of the way as i made my way through the woods. A couple of corners later and over the line for the end of Stage 4.
A river crossing which I failed massively on before Back up the hill again! This time a bugger of a long fire-road climb. By this point it was hot, the sun had been beaming all day and the air felt thick as you rode through it. But we continued and soon reached our destination.
Stage 5 was loose and gravely but a pretty constant sprint form start to finish, similar to the start of Stage 2, hard pedal strokes were needed as you railed berms and held it down over the short jumps. A constant sprint indeed as there was pedaling everywhere! Sprinting for all it was worth before dropping into the finish area and complete!
Turns out we did the whole loop much quicker than planned and had time to stop and look at lines if we wanted, but oh well, it was more fun this way anyway!
Quali was on the Saturday afternoon and on Stage 5. I was pretty keen to get my sprint on! However i decked it hard in the first turn! cut my hand a bit but pedaled away and finished. I finished some way down the order and was 2nd slowest Elite, not surprising really given the crash. Fortunately for me there was a bit of a cock up with the timing and the organizers decided not to count the time towards the final standing. So a fresh start for race day.
We stopped over night in a cool Barn conversion that was very comfortable, Loads of Chicken Pasta went down then off to bed. Bunk Beds! Rad. Me, My bro, Jolley and Tom stayed in a room together and had man time..
Sunday morning and the sun was out and warm already. We trundled off, I was struggling all day Saturday and most of Sunday morning deciding weather i needed to take a bag with me.. I took one on the Saturday but all i needed was water, so made the decision to stow some water and food at certain points of the ride and went for the committed bagless run!
I had a laugh, stage 1 i got a bit lost, facing the tape at one point and had to dab to get back on line but trundled on regardless.
Stage 2 and a bit of a moment in the loam, again forgetting where I was but thats what you get for not looking at where you were meant to be going! I did enjoy that painful sprint on the road though.
Stage 3 i was instantly lost, braking for sections I thought I was on that turned out to be way down the road, but again really enjoyed that monster road sprint! The story pretty much repeated itself all day, forgetting where Iwas as we didn’t bother to pay attention to lines but it was all cool, I was having a good giggle!
Stage 4 and I buggered up the awkward root section a bit, but nothing too major, cleaned the rest of the track and had great fun on the lower part of the track, this was my most fun run of the day!
Stage 5 and on the long ride up I got a spot of cramp in my thigh, got off the bike for a bit of a stretch out. That was a bit of an error as I got instant cramp in my hamstring! So straighten the leg back out, and Cramp in my thigh again! Back up and cramp in the Hamstring!.. Down and Cramp in the thigh.. this went on for a while before settling down a bit and I set off crusing up the hill again.
I remembered that damn first corner this time and didnt go down, Wohoo!! Pedaled hard and cranked where I could. Trying to pump and flow before more hard cranking and into the finishing turns. Jolley, as usual, did me proud. After he had finished he ran up the hill a bit to give me encouragement. That lads amazing, I could hear him corners before I got to him as he shrieked at me to keep on pushing. I could hear him all the way to the line, Cheers mate!!
And that was that. My first Enduro event was done. I was a little surprised I wasn’t as tired as thought I’d be, but was happy with the way I rode.
Turns out I managed to finish 9th overall, something I was more than happy about! 9 seconds off a top 5 place, Damn it! If only we had stopped to look at a couple of lines I may have been able to make 2 seconds on each stage and got myself on the podium! But oh well. I was very pleased with myself.
All finished, podiums done and on our way home, and it was only 4:30, much quicker than being at a DH race. I did struggle to understand what the £60 was for though, an unreliable timing system, no uplifts and not even fully taped out tracks, which led to a fair amount of controversy. I’m in 2 minds over the tape situation. If the whole track wasn’t taped, why not cut, yet at the same time some of the apparent cut lines were a bit OTT.
A big thanks has to go out to the SHIMANO guys, who helped me out after I managed to contaminate my brake pads. They were busy helping people all day long and if they are at an event, get yourself over and say hello, have a chat about products, and if somethings not right with your ride, ask them very kindly to take a look at it!
I rattled my dags, lubed my chain and headed to the start of the race. This new in vogue race format was a first for the Port Hills and also for myself, but with people in good form, laughing, joking and piss-taking the pre-race anxiety soon passed…