First Race of the Season!

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The first round of the UK Enduro series has come around with a thump! This being my first National level race and having spent a few too many winter evenings hiding in bed rather than out on my bike or on the turbo, I didn’t exactly feel ‘race ready’ on the drive to Crychan forest on friday afternoon, so I decided to take this race as a taster and not worry about my results too much.

Friday was a bit hectic with packing for the race and hoping that the new team jerseys from Oneal would turn up before I had to leave! Luckily it did and it looked rad!

Saturday morning I woke up rather groggy and cold after far from the best sleep ever! After a good breakfast, cooked by my awesome girlfriend Kasia, I felt a bit more up for it and we drove from the camp site to the race venue about 20 minutes down the road.

We got to the site a bit early so I was one of the first people to sign on and get my timing chip. The way the UKEnduro guys set up their timing means you can race the stages in any order which meant much less queuing at the top of the stages and more time riding! As I had signed up to the 2 day race along with some friends we had the morning of Saturday to practice as many of the 5 stages we wanted and then race stage 1-4 in the afternoon. On Sunday we would have to race stages 1-5 then stage 2 again so we raced 6 stages overall, the people that had signed up for the 1 day race would have to race those 6 stages too but all blind.

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Nearly ready to set off, the best bit about racing Enduro is riding all day with your mates!

Eventually it was time to set off for practice and after easing myself out of a lot of coats that were keeping me warm I was ready to go. Stages 1 and 2 started just around the corner from the pits so I and the group of friends I was riding with decided to keep it simple and practice the stages in order.

Stage 1.

Stage 1 wasn’t liked by many, mainly because of how hard it was to keep speed! The majority of the stage was off camber or tight corners, all covered with seemingly dry sniper roots… they were not dry! You had to ride very cautiously throughout this stage if you ever dropped your guard your front wheel would just disappear and you would end up on your face, not that fun! The end of the stage had a horrible up hill bog that then dropped into a wheel magnetising rut, no matter how hard you tried you always seemed to have at least one wheel inside it! (On Sunday they moved the finish to just before the uphill bog, thank god!)

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Back up the hill for another run!

Stage 2/6.

Stage 2 started pretty flat and pedally, winding through stumps and trees, but soon gained speed and gnar! Crossing two fire roads in quick succession it got steep quick, a LOT of people crashed here over the weekend, after a couple of steep techy corners it opened up into off camber singletrack with some tight loamy corners where you could pick up some speed and have a blast flowing down the hill.

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Loving back wheel on Stage 2/6

Stage 3.

A lot of peoples favourite. The stage started with some flowy rooty turns then a fire road sprint into an off camber traverse with a cheeky high line that held more speed, if you didn’t miss it! Another quick fire road sprint and off a blind roll in into two long loamy corners, then more off camber traversing and a couple of super tight corners, that caught quite a few people out, followed by more off camber goodness and great corners, a sneaky compression and a final sprint for the line.

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The tight corners in Stage 3 caught more than a few people out!

Stage 4.

Like a few of the other stages this one had a pretty flat and pedally top section but unlike the others stage 4 then had a tight corner with the biggest root I’ve ever seen on it into an uphill section! My legs were not ready for this! Just to top it off, after this was a quick downhill into a hard right and a fire road sprint, not cool! After you dropped off the fire road it got STEEP! Again these few corners took a lot of prisoners, myself included, in practice I tried to pop the bike onto the front wheel to get round one of the corners and just catapulted myself over the bars instead, piledriving my own head through the catch berm below, thankfully it was soft so I got away with only snapping the peak off my helmet. Needless to say I took it a bit more cautiously in race runs! The stage ended with a bit more off camber and some tight corners before ending just before more sniper roots which again took many people out, including me… damnit!

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Having a rest at the bottom of Stage 4 after being taken out by the roots just after the finish of my race run on Saturday, yes, I did the exact same thing at the end of my race run on Sunday…

Stage 5. (Raced blind on Sunday)

Stage 5 started with some very tight turns around trees and then dropped onto a fire road (the first of many on the stage). After ‘sprinting’ along the first fire road the trail left the road to traverse along side it for a hundred metres or so before dropping back into the woods and winding through a bit before dropping onto another fire road with very little direction, after tentatively pedalling around the corner you see the tape and realise you’re going the right way and can open the taps again. The stage left the fire road onto an old uphill path then quickly dropped off into some very fresh, steep and loamy compressions and turns then a quick off camber traverse and onto a very rutted old path that lead steeply down the hill, across a small stream and up a rocky fire road where most people weren’t sure if the stage had ended or not so they backed off the pedals until you came around the corner and saw the finish line and jumped hard on the pedals again!

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In the zone on Stage 3

Practice and racing on Saturday went well but I knew I could push a little harder on Sunday. I’d managed to crash in a few stages and made a couple of mistakes that needed cleaning up so there was definitely some time to get back.

Racing on Sunday went much better even though I woke up barely able to move! I managed to take time out of all of my results from Saturday which bumped me up a bit finishing in 13th in Senior and 30th overall, not too bad for my first national level race and being far from ‘race fit’!

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One of the places I stayed wheel-side-down on Stage 4

I had an awesome weekend with great people, the atmosphere the whole time was amazing and everyone was chatty even if you’d never met them before, the ‘spirit of enduro’ is alive and well!

I can’t wait to get back out for the second round at Triscombe!

Hopefully see you there!!

A huge thanks to Slam69 for sorting my new Mondraker Dune Carbon as my race bike for this season! Also thanks to Oneal for supporting the team with awesome kit! My Stinger 2 shoes were a great choice for this weekend as there were many times when I needed to quickly take a foot off due to sneaky roots so flat pedals and grippy shoes were a must!

Sponsors:

Slam69, Oneal, Mudhugger, Mojo Suspension and Dartmoor Bikes

 

Words by Rich Parkes

Photos by Kasia Fiszer

 

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