I rode a lot this weekend just gone. All in the name of training for the Southern Enduro, with a hope of improving on my last result of 49th place in the very tough and competitive Masters category at the round one venue of Milland.
On Sunday, after a day of climbing over 3000ft at Queen Elizabeth Country Park the day before, my alarm went off at 6am. I was heading to the military town of Tidworth, in South-East Wiltshire, to tackle Tidworth Freeride for the first time. I mentioned in an earlier post that I’d led a very sheltered riding life, so 2016 is the year my exploration begins and my confidence grows. I’d seen some videos of Tidworth Freeride online, and it looked insane, way over my ability. So, what’s a man to do? Give it a go, of course! No pain, no gain, mind over matter, and a thousand other clichéd one-liners went through my mind.
Sadly I spent so much time enjoying myself, that I only took a few photos, and left the GoPro at home. Here’s a run down of the trails on offer, before we get started:
Tidworth Freeride is the next stop on my racing calendar this year, with the next race taking place this Sunday, 12th June, so I wanted to check it out before racing, just to gauge travel time, trail type, terrain and a whole host of other things. Just a few days to go now, and the nerves are setting in!
The sun was shining again, and I met up for breakfast with George, Chris, Cassie, Dave and Darren, most of whom I shared trails and laughs with at Project 417 last month. Cassie joined this time, who is one of the amazing riders for Swinley Bike Hub (you may remember her photo from the Milland ride report, where she tacoed her wheel).
We paid our fees, (£5 for the day, unless you’re a paid member through B1KE), and headed upwards to General Berminator, the ‘blue’ trail. From the videos I’d watched, this run looked like I’d finish feeling dizzy… it was a lot steeper in the flesh (so to speak), but immense fun, ending with some tabletop jumps, into the car park. Dave had a bit of a tumble on the first run, but that got it out of the way, and he smashed every trail with perfection for the rest of the morning. Dave is doing the Megavalanche this year, so massive luck to him, I can’t wait to hear about it!
We hit General Berminator a second time, then moved to Sick Note. If you like roots, you’ll love this. Starting with some tight, technical turns and ending with some huge berms, this one left me smiling. I enjoy the technical side of things, from back in the day as a Cross Country rider.
Back up the 5-minute push to the top, I took a tentative run down Oblivion. Roots, drops, gaps… it had the lot. I rolled everything, then headed to the practise drops to get some confidence with the big drop on the run. We all hit each of the drops, then went back up. As terrifying as it was, hitting it for the first time was superb. I pulled up a bit too much and landed back wheel first, which made for a bit of a sketchy landing, but I survived what I think is my biggest drop to date. Cassie was having a mental block, so George was on hand to provide some encouragement, and after a few run ins, I took the lead with Cassie in the middle and George following with encouraging words. We all sailed off, landing smoothly and ending Oblivion with fist bumps all around. Manon, Brendog and Ratboy watch out… you’ve got some competition!
Hooper Struve was a different beast altogether. Seriously full on, I really struggled on this run. It was definitely above my skill level but I made it down in one piece (with plenty of foot down moments and chicken runs). Big drops and massive roots were the majority of this run, ending with some tricky tabletops.
By now, some of the groups hangovers were kicking in, and bodies were aching, so we called it quits around midday, after sessioning the bottom section of General Berminator a few times, styling up the lower tables.
The sun was blazing, so the trails were running so nicely. As Tidworth is made of quite a few chalky runs, I’ve heard it’s sketchy and slippery in the wet… the forecast for race day isn’t currently looking too good sadly (showers and drizzle through the day), so that’ll make for some very interesting trails! My only saving grace is the Masters category starts earlier in the day, so luck may be on my side.
Overall, Tidworth was amazing fun. River Flow was closed on the day, as the Southern Enduro crew were on location shaping some trails for the upcoming race, and there wasn’t a hope in hell of me surviving White Line, so I can’t comment on these two runs, but it was an outstanding morning in the sun with mates. A bit of a laugh came from the amount of Santa Cruz Nomads on the day (although there were 4 Bird Aeris riders too, we weren’t colour matched!).
Once again, my bike took everything in its stride, but I have to give a special thanks to George… not only the motivational speaker, but the mobile mechanic of the group, for spotting and fixing a rather loose crank arm on my bike (due to me being a bit of a mechanical idiot and not torqueing it up properly when changing my BB recently). Top bloke, cheers mate!
Stay tuned for the race report next week once the Southern Enduro is over. I’ve been training hard and feel good despite a few niggling injuries, so now I’ve got the lay of the land, I’m feeling confident and ready to give Tidworth and the Southern Enduro my absolute best. Rider start times can be found here. I’ve got race number 89 this time out, which feels lucky…. watch this space.
For those of you reading this that are competing; I wish you the very best of luck, have a blast and see you on the race course.
Until next time, cheers,
Ian @ Stealth Riders