This weekend has been the greatest reminder for me of why I want to have a go at this enduro racing malarkey. It was so much fun that each day ended with me just wanting to head back out and ride more, despite aching legs. First a little explanation of what had me smiling so much…..
The 15th and 16th April saw the Southern Enduro championship come to Minehead, Exmoor. Saturday was practice day with all trails open to ride as many times as your legs could handle, Sunday was the race proper. There were six stages all to be ridden only once and in the designated numbered order, transitions were not timed.
The perfect combination of blue skies, moderate temperatures, and fantastic stages came together to have every rider I saw grinning from ear to ear at the bottom of the trails during practice. In direct contrast to our usual British trail conditions the trails were so dry and dusty that, particularly in the freshly dug corners, you were skidding everywhere because of the dust instead! Stage 2 had a few particularly loose sketchy sections that were causing a good bit of carnage. After stopping for a look and watching several riders go over the bars, hit trees, fall through the tape or just generally fishtail their way down completely locking out the back end and out of control I had worked out how not to tackle this section. I managed to carefully negotiate that nasty corner before speeding along a traverse feeling all pleased with myself I caught a sniper root and wiped out there instead, what a muppet!
The rest of the stages were much mellower striking a great balance between flat out fast sections and technical challenges. The many off camber rooty sections really rewarded good line choice, the steep, loose switch backs dared you to get off the brakes while the nasty little uphill sections tested your pedal power. My greatest issue was working out how to maintain speed through the really tight and twisty flatish sections between the trees. The track was littered with roots that sucked you straight into a tree. A classic case of staring at the problem not where you want to go.
One of the things I love most about racing is the way that riding under race conditions focuses your thoughts forcing you to really think about how you ride each section, daring you to let go of the brakes that bit longer, pedal harder and use every bit of knowledge you have to go as fast as you can. The hardest part I find is balancing speed vs clean riding, the chances of crashing or simply making time costly mistakes when you go harder is greatly increased. Yet, you can easily be too cautious and careful which will just make you slow. It is of course a dilemma every racer faces and something I’m sure I will learn to judge better with experience.
After allowing nerves to get the better of me at my last race the main aim of the weekend was to stay chilled and simply try to enjoy riding my bike. I was lucky enough to be riding with two friends who are much more experienced racers that I could learn from. The tracks were new to me and I’m loving the Rallon so I was just out to have fun. During the race day I consciously tried to focus on breathing and smiling during the stages. There were so many good riders competing I was sure I wouldn’t come anywhere so I really felt like the pressure was off. I couldn’t have been happier to discover at the end of the day that excluding the 3 elite riders, I was 4th out of 21 girls overall!
From here the next race of the season will be the Bird Gravity Enduro Welsh open at Dyfi forest on the 20th and 21st May. This race is also an Enduro World series qualifier (which I am obviously not aiming to do just yet!) which means I am expecting the tracks to be longer, steeper and more technical than anything I have raced before. It’s also gong to be a big day out with approx 50 km and 1500 metres of climbing per day……. eeek! Safe to say the training efforts have been increased! In this race I think it will be an achievement just to finish having actually ridden down all the stages. Personally, I’m really looking forward to the challenge, in a fearful, butterflies in the tummy, love a bit of self torture kind of way. I’m going with the same friends again and hopefully it will be a fun little adventure, at the end of the day it’s just riding bikes and that, is fun!