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Southern Enduro Rd 3: QECP

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).

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Practisting stage 2. Photo: Anita Gellatly

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!

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Photo: Dave Williams

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.

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Photo: Hannah Crossley

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:

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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.

Race comparison

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!

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Summertime Scorcher

It’s been bloody hot here in England. We’re used to clouds and drizzle, even in the Summer months. Typically, we complain that we never see any sun. So, what did we collectively do when the recent heatwave kicked in? Naturally, we complained. First it’s too cold, now it’s too hot.

Conversations about the weather rank in the top three grumbles Brits have; the others being queuing and public transport being so shit.  Not me, though. I won’t ever complain about seeing actual blue and a strange yellow disc in the sky! No, instead, I get out and ride.

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19th July was the hottest day of 2016 so far, peaking at around 32 degrees in Surrey. After a shitty day at work and 2 weeks off the bike due to a hectic workload, getting out and destressing was all that was on my mind. I chatted with my good friend Oscar and we were soon on the road to the ever stunning Surrey Hills to enjoy a sweatfest of a ride.

Although we only managed to get in 12.5 miles before the light began to fade below the tree line, we both smashed some great goals in some intense heat (It was still around 30 degrees when we set out). Oscar absolutely NAILED Yoghurt Pots and Barry knows best, and I finally got down the chute into Thick & Creamy on the first attempt at a decent speed! No matter how small, it’s always good to achieve something!

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We weren’t out for Strava times, it was just about getting out, enjoying the weather, dusty trails and having a laugh. It’s always the case though; don’t try, and you seem to do better! It was great to see a few others on the trail, including another Aeris rider (Andy, if you read this, good to meet you).

The colours on a day like that are spectacular; vivid blue skies and a sea of green slowly descend into pink and orange hues with the sun setting and the full moon rising. It truly makes for an incredible scene, only made better by being on the bike and having a good time. Snaking through Barry knows best with the sky turning to blood red in a glorious sunset was a definite highlight for me, topping off an incredible ride. The trails were dry, dusty and loose, with my Maxxis Shorty/Minion SS tyre combo searching for grip in every turn, resulting in a few sketchy moments and some good laughs!

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If you’ve not ridden the Surrey Hills, you are seriously missing out. It’s arguably the best place to ride in the South East, just for the fact that there are so many hidden trails to explore over a huge area of land. From the Holmbury St Mary viewpoint, you can see both the London skyline to the North East and the undulating South Downs to the South. Stunning views, trails for all levels and friendly locals; it’s got to be on your list of places to ride. Take a local if you can, to ensure you get the best selection of trails. If you don’t know anybody local, always ask – us mountain bikers are always willing to help out!

I’ll be sure to take the GoPro over there soon, to get a full, in depth trail review up, to help you out.

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With just a few days until the third round of the Southern Enduro at a venue near Queen Elizabeth Country Park called Headdown Wood, my fitness is awful and once again, I’m up against some amazing competition.  I’m fairly confident in the fact I’ll be propping up the bottom again, but I refuse to drop to the fun category… I’d rather do badly in masters than decent in fun! It looks like I’ve got race number 99, it’s always nice to have double, rather than triple digit numbers. Let’s just hope I can pin it on the day and improve my placing over my last time out.

As always, I’ll be popping a race report up once the dust has settled – stay tuned!

Cheers,

Ian @ Stealth Riders

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Swinley Forest Enduro!

I’d heard rumours about this for a while, thanks to going on regular Thursday night rides with the Swinley Bike Hub. Now it’s become a reality; the Swinley Forest Enduro is good to go, and is selling like hotcakes as I type this!

The Swinley Forest Enduro takes place on Sunday, 4th September and will consist of 7 timed stages, all between 2 and 5 minutes in length and a total of around 20km of riding on the day, including transition stages.

Highlights outside of the race itself include a BBQ, locally brewed booze, coffee and some amazing supporting brands including Whyte, Marin, Pivot, DMR, Fox and Burgtec, which will allow you to get your grubby mitts on the latest 2017 offerings. Result!

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I have, of course, entered this event, once again in the Masters category. I’m well aware that my prior results at the first two rounds of the Southern Enduro have not been where I’d hoped they would be… however, Swinley Forest is one of my local playgrounds; a place I’ve spent countless hours exploring both marked and off-piste trails. I know the terrain, I ride with confidence there and know how both my body and my bike react to the mix of loam, ginger and roots of the forest, in all weather conditions. Surely, I have some competitive advantage on this one, right?

Who knows, only the minutes and seconds on the day will matter. The Masters category is still going to be ultra-competitive and full of exceptional riders, but I’ll have a quiet, underlying hope that the  knowledge of the trails will no doubt help me, even if just a little.

I have no idea what the stages will look like, as I’m sure the trail team will sculpt some absolutely stunning routes, I can’t wait to try them out on race day.

A few things are for sure. The Swinley Hub Race Team have been the rowdiest, loudest bunch at the Southern Enduro events at Milland and Tidworth this year, so they’re guaranteed to bring the noise at their home race!

Also, it’ll be exceptionally well organised, if the social night rides and the BBQ’s are anything to go by. Knowing the amount of effort the crew put into every detail to get things right, I’ve no doubt that this will be one hell of a race day.

You can race in confidence, too. The Swinley Forest Enduro is part of, and follows the guidelines set out by the British Enduro Mountain Bike Association (BEMBA), which ensures that safety is a key aspect of what will be a hugely fun event.

If you’ve not signed up yet, what are you waiting for?! Entry is £42.50 for any category, but just be aware than the car parking for the day (£4) is not included. I’ll even make it easy for you, the link is here.

A bunch of my good riding mates have also signed up, so this is going to be a social blast as well as a superb Enduro race!

I’ve still got round three of the Southern Enduro to focus on first, with the race at Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) taking place on Sunday, 24th July. I’m putting the miles in, and have even signed up to a gym (boooo) to help with overall strength, so I’m going for a placing beginning with a ‘3’ at least!

It’s time to get the Enduro face on again.. see you there!

Cheers,
Ian @ Stealth Riders

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