Hilarious and exhausting. The third round of the Southern Enduro is over and I’m sure there are plenty of big smiles and sore bodies today.
The four stages at this round were longer than at Milland or Tidworth, with all being between around 3-5 minutes in length. The long transition climb (around 8-10 mins of steady incline), meant the legs were kept warm, and the sun was blazing, meaning a roaster of a race day. All in all, we were to ride around 18 miles and climb just over 3000ft on the day, including practise runs.
I arrived early, got a prime parking spot right next to the start of the transition, and went to sign in. With more and more familiar faces arriving each round, the Southern Enduro is really feeling like a mix between a competitive event and a social day out with good mates and fellow riders. It’s hard to capture the vibe at this event, but it’s been there since day one; everybody is out to race, but all are super friendly at the same time. Scott and the Southern Enduro crew have done a stellar job in creating an incredible atmosphere.
The rider briefing took place, then practise began and riders set out to get a feel for the stages. Practise went well for me, although because I’m a fat bastard, I chose to tuck into a burger after riding stages 1-3, didn’t check the time and missed out on trying out stage 4. No biggie, I’ll ride it blind, how bad could it be? (The burger was totally worth it, by the way).
Race time rolled around and it was time to go. Up the transition and stage one began. I found this to be the most technical of the 4, with small jumps, drops and root sections scattered throughout the top section of the stage, opening up into a forest sprint through tight trees and a little climb thrown in at the end. Stage one felt super grippy, and I felt relatively fast coming across the finish line.
Stage two was rooty, dusty and twisty. I’d managed to get a good run in practise, which perhaps made me over-confident when trying to pin a rooty left hand turn into a small climb, leaving me sliding out and at a complete stop in the wrong gear for climbing. Ah well, onwards to the steepest section of the day, which I nailed smoothly, across a fireroad and into a stage finish devised by Satan himself… a brutal 2-300 metre sprint along flat grassy ground with a few off camber hips thrown in. I was absolutely ruined by the end of that, as were many others!
Stage three started off with a crazily tight wooded section, with greenery as far as the eye could see, and loose flint on the trail. The top of this stage felt ancient, with moss covered mounds scattered throughout. I was half expecting Gandalf to pop out of the woods to ask me to go on an adventure with him. Challenging is a good way to describe it, especially riding between two trees that I reckon were 801mm apart. My bars are 800mm, so it was a close call! I was chased down this stage by mate and fellow Aeris rider Ben Biggs, and after I got through some tight switchbacks, I moved to the side to let him pass, then sprinted up a small climb, through some great singletrack and over the line.
Stage four, time to go in dark. I’m quite glad I didn’t do this one twice, as it was a hellish yet fun sprint stage through the forest, with a lot of pedalling and tight, flat corners, meaning body and bike positioning were crucial. My legs were done by this point, and my whole body was burning by the time I ended the stage and another exceptional round of the series.
After all riders had finished, I ended up 46th out of 52 in the Masters category, with just under three minutes separating first place finisher Tomas Kupstys (Bird Cycleworks) and myself, so results were tight across the board. Although it’s low down the ranks, I am stoked with my placing; I’m not last, and I’m remaining consistent in my first year of racing.
QECP had a fantastic turnout of talent, with Traharn and Joel Chidley, Ben Deakin and Juliet Elliott amongst some of the big names in the Pro/Elite rider list. Bird Cycleworks riders placed very well, with 5 podiums in total. The category winners are below, huge congrats to them:
You can check the full results, race photos and rider info on Roots & Rain here.
On reflection of the series to date, although my placing has been consistent, there’s been some significant improvement. For round one, I was 30% slower than the fastest finisher in my category. For round two, I was 27% slower, and for round three, I was only 20% slower, so I’m over the moon with that gap being closed. Of course I’d like to be higher up the list, but shit, with the competition I face, it’s not going to be easy.
Now it’s time for getting fitter and faster, hitting bigger stuff and giving my Aeris some much needed TLC, including a full bearing replacement. Next up for me on the race calendar is the Swinley Forest Enduro on 4th September; they’re some of my local trails, so I’m really looking forward to that one!
Finally, a huge thanks to Scott and the QECP collective, Bird Cycleworks, Dave G, Zoe, Michael, Josh, Ben, Mark, the dude on the 12spd Evil and everybody else on the day, whether you were racing, marshalling, catering or spectating. See you at Milland on 18th September for the final stage!
Ian @ Stealth Riders