Enduring #1 – UK Gravity Enduro Innerliethen

A bit past the event now, but still. At the end of March’s sensational dry spell Josh and I were heading north to represent the West Cheshire Massive at the first round of the UK Gravity Enduro series. Due to miscalculated driving distances, and accidently staying in the pub until midnight the day before we rolled into Innerliethen just before lunch on the saturday. On the plus side the instant coffee had exploded somewhere in the depths of the boot and we would race smelling like a high class bistro.

So, what of the racing. It was bloody awesome, knackering and a little scary all at the same time. Pretty early on it dawned on me that I hadn’t ridden my bike down hill with out stopping for 7 minutes in a long time. To unfit to attack the whole course, I opted for to stay on, and hope for the best. Trailcenter black runs, old downhill tracks and fresh cut loam/mud death ruts seemed to be the order of the day. Pre-race I was feeling a little nervous, but just about up to it. Pretty much hit me that at a national level race, everyone is pretty bloody fast. Clearly I was near the bottom of the 300 strong field, the plan was hang on and hope, and try not to get beaten by too many girls.

Stage 1: Saturday night’s (late afternoon) all right for seeding. In the queue, damn scared. The field is unseeded, fast guys littered throughout. A gated start and a shitty clip in kicked things off badly, few corners in and things had relaxed slightly. Things go well, then someone is on me, 30 seconds lost on the downhill bit. Sprint the fireroad then into more trails, it feels like it is going well. Two corners remain. ‘On your left mate’ Shit, lost a minute, though he sounded local, thats ok. Seeded 234 out of 300. Crap, but I’ll take it.

Stage 2: Much happier, in with people my pace. Relaxed chat at the start of stage 1, and then we are off. Old DH tracks ridden on sight, stay calm, get down, no one caught me, happy days.

Stage 3: Again no idea what is coming up. Get clipped in, crash, shit. 6 minutes of it all going to shit, followed by two of competent riding. A bad stage

Stage 4: Huuuuge transition, times are tight. Drop in to the most glorious bit of singletrack, probably had a bit too much fun, should have pedalled more. A glorious start gets better. Loam shoot-traverse-repeat. Happy days, not caught, good stuff.

Stage 5: Worried, we practised this one, no idea how I am going to ride it fast. Opening death ruts are clean, trail center stuff is fine, though I’m pretty sure it is up hill. 6 minutes in, I’m knackered allready. Man ahead is taking a rest at the top of the ‘death section’. Probably a good plan. Fuck it, drop in, it goes well to start with. Really shouldn’t be too finger braking, too knackered not to. Oh Shit, over the bars we go. Have a sit down. Are you allowed to have a sit down in a race? Probably not. Get it finished. A disaster, though not just for me.

Stage 6: Stage 1 again, I know where I’m going, I know it is a fun one. I’m hanging, menatlly & physically. Get down well, pleased with that, pleased to finish. 31km, 1500 meters up, 1500 meters down, brutal. 233rd, beaten by girls and old men alike, happy to finish.

Despite a fairly rubbish result, this was the best mtb event I have ever taken part in. The race was knackering, yet awesome, and the course was unrelentingly brilliant. I will be back to ‘just ride’ it for sure. Hats off to the team behind the race. Superb from start to finish.

West Cheshire Massive:
97) Matt S 100) Ryan 197) Josh (On a hardtail) 221) Dave M 241) Russ (With a puncture in seeding) 252) Ian S (A whole world of issues)

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