Things to avoid before a race include, but aren’t limited to:
- Having a 4-hour tattoo session two days before.
- Crashing in spectacular fashion one day before, hitting a tree with the same arm that you’ve just had tattooed.
On the weekend just gone, clearly I’d left my brain somewhere else, but I had these things penned in for a while so couldn’t bail at the last minute. These had left me feeling sore, aching and lacking in confidence massively for race day. I’m just spouting excuses now, so enough of that.
Regardless of my result (a lowly 40th from 42 finishers in the ever tough Masters category), it was a fantastic day once again. Thanks to Scott Fitzgerald and the Southern Enduro team, all of the marshals, spectators, riders and photographers, Swinley Bike Hub Race Team, Bird Cycleworks, my riding mates (for some of whom this was their first race), and new faces on the day. A special thanks to Stuart Ross (Foot Out, Flat Out), for the great conversation on the transition stages and through the day.
The final and most important thanks though, have to go to Phil, Neal and the whole crew at Tidworth Freeride and Ian at B1KE for making it all possible and for the excellent trails we rode on the day.
So, Sunday, 12th June, and the morning of the race arrived. I met up with good mates Chris and George in the picturesque Tidworth Polo Club grounds, which was the rider parking venue for the day. We got our gear together and headed to the venue, catching up with the rowdy Swinley Bike Hub race team, all absolute legends in their own rights. I popped down to say hi to the always smiling and ever helpful Bird Cycleworks team too, and spent my rest time on the day between the two tents, catching up with everybody, talking lines, conditions and all things bike.
As we were chatting, riders were signing up and a familiar yellow Mavic jersey stood out in the line-up; Ben Deakin had been offered a place by a friend of his who had dropped out last minute, so, although he’s more at home on the downhill racing circuit and is still coming back from a nasty injury in New Zealand, he absolutely smashed it, coming in third in the Elite category. His antics are well worth a follow on Instagram. #OiOi
We had a short briefing, then headed out to practise the refreshed Tidworth stages; 4 lines, with stages 1 and 2 being ridden twice, to bring the total to 6 timed runs. The overall times are added up, and that determines your result. The weather had been on and off, with spots of rain the night before and forecast throughout the day. Tidworth is quite a chalky venue, so mechanicals, crashes and conservative lines were sure to affect the outcome of the days racing for some riders.
Practise went really well, scoping the lines and making mental notes of the best routes through the numerous technical sections. This was nothing like the Tidworth I had ridden the weekend before, which threw me off a few times over the day! Chris had a massive OTB on the drop/rock garden area of stage 4, but was up and flying again in no time, ending up placing a fantastic 14th in the Fun category; a great result for his first race! George also had a couple of tumbles, but came in 43rd in the Vets category. Again, a cracking result for his first Enduro in a very strong field of riders… well done, lads! After a spot of relaxing after practise, I dropped tyre pressures a little, psyched myself up and headed to the start line, ready to go.
Stage 1 was stunning. A freshly cut, powdery trail, with some neat rooted sections, tight lines and steep descents into loose, loamy switchbacks. All good so far. Back up the transition, the foot traffic began to create a bit of a slippery push up, making for hard work and plenty of sweating by the top!
Stage 2 was my nemesis on the day. One section near the top of this technical track in particular threw me on both attempts, adding a huge amount of time to my runs. The rest was great, with tricky rooted corners, small rock gardens and drops dotted along the way, ending with a few doubles and out to the race village.
Stage 3 was a fast flowing mix of loose dirt corners and chalky berms (which got super greasy and slippery when some showers passed through), ending with a line of tabletops (although a ‘Strava line’ had emerged on the left, which looked a fair bit faster and a lot of riders were taking, myself included). A couple of corners more and stage 3 was done. It was time for a 45 minute break to grab some food, chat shit and re-energise, ready for the final 3 runs.
Rest over, I headed back up to the stage start. Stage 4 used some of the new ‘River Flow’ trail, with a ton of small drops, jumps and the main gathering point of the day for spectators and Ambulance crew; the rocky drop into a brilliantly made rock garden that Chris got acquainted with earlier in the day. This section was hilarious and challenging at the same time; I just survived making it through, despite being rattled about and picking an awful line.
Stages 5 and 6 went pretty much identical to stages 1 and 2 for me – slow, sketchy and lacking in confidence. I ended my day out of breath, but with a huge smile. Although my result was low, I took a lot of learnings from the day, and now it’s time to get working on improving (and not being injured or freshly tattooed!) for round three at Queen Elizabeth Country Park on July 23rd.
There’s really not much point in me putting up my GoPro footage.. not unless you enjoy bad line choices, slow riding, lots of swearing and out of breath 33 year olds. Instead, here’s a short clip of Swinley Team rider Cassie, storming her way to second place even after taking part in an ‘Endure 24’ running event the day before – nice one! As usual, the SBH Team were out on course giving some great encouragement to every rider:
Once again, huge congratulations to everybody on the day, especially to the podium finishers. QECP could be a round for the triple wins for Chris Doney (Elite), Charles Griffith (U-18), Francie Arthur (Womens), Phil Payter (Grand Vets) and Daryl Biles (Senior), all first place finishers in their categories at both Milland and Tidworth, and are all in amazing form this year. No pressure!
You can check out the full results and race photos on Roots & Rain, podiums are below:
Another great race over, I headed for home, exhausted and aching. Although disappointed with my result, the spirit of the day and the laughs shared with fellow cyclists kept me smiling for the entire drive and beyond. For me, the Southern Enduro has so far been a perfect series to find my feet, figure out where I fit in rank and category wise, and is helping me develop massively as a rider. If you’re interested in racing, you can’t go wrong with the Southern Enduro series. QECP is set to be a banger!
The world of cycling is an incredibly friendly one, with everybody supporting each other both on and off the bikes, no matter where you are in the ranks, what you ride, or how old you are. English football ‘fans’ could learn a lot from watching an Enduro series race, that’s for sure.
Ian @ Stealth Riders