August has been my first full month back on the bike after enduring forced time off with a broken collar bone, it is also my first month that I have spent fully kitted out in Flare Clothing and I massively feel the benefits! I opted to wear the long sleeved jerseys which have proved great both on their own in the heat of the Alps and also with base layers in murky Wales. I was lucky enough to have clean kit for everyday of the 6 day Trans Savoie race, my shorts were light and airy and so easy to move in, great for spending 8 hours in the saddle a day and they still look brand new!
During August and September I was due to take part in the final round of the UK Gravity Enduro, the X-Fusion Enduro in Devon and then the Rachel Atherton Redbull Foxhunt but as you are about to find out I broke my hand last weekend so plans have changed slightly! I’m now setting my sights on healing up with a view to do the Mini Enduro at the Forest of Dean in November. Last month for me has gone a bit like this – enduro race, epic enduro in the Alps then more UK enduro racing, it’s been a busy one!
At the end of July, I was offered the chance to take part in the Trans Savoie, an epic 6 day, multi stage enduro race from Val D’Isere to Chamonix at the end of August – I couldn’t say no! I would be writing for Enduro Mountain Bike Magazine, blogging daily about my experience. Here’s a link to one of my blogs - http://enduro-mtb.com/en/racing-the-trans-savoie-day-2-a-different-perspective/
Photo credit Michael Kirkham
The Trans Savoie has six days packed full multiple timed stages, with an incredible 24,302m of descending and a total of 302km of riding over the week. It is organised and run by Ali Jamison, owner of sister company trailAddiction, a guiding company based in Les Arcs. Ali is innovative in the way that this race uses the ski lifts available in the Alps to assist riders in the liaisons between stages. Sounds easy doesn’t it, lift up and ride down? There is an average of 4000m descending a day for 6 whole days, unimaginable to most! This race is a demanding test, with approximately 900m climbing under the riders own steam a day, this is on top of all that amazing downhill action. As I knew I would, I had an awesome week, the Trans Savoie has helped me work on some key riding skills, most importantly looking up and reading the trail, things I will be able to take home and apply to everyday riding. Racing blind is a different skill altogether than racing normal ‘enduro’ and one that needs to be taken with a slightly more relaxed approached. I will forever remember the feeling as I cleaned a trail section I previously thought of as unrideable and the cheer from the ever exuberant marshals or media guys as I raced past, awesome feelings and ones that will stick for a long time.
Photo credit Michael Kirkham
Four days after returning from the Trans Savoie I was packing the van again to travel to round five of the UKGE. I was ready for this race and ready to challenge my closest competitor for the win. The last race (round 4) at Dyfi Forest was a mixed bag. It was my first race after breaking my collar bone in May, the weekend was fun with some really testing tracks, although I knew I was riding reservedly. I felt there was more in the tank but just couldn’t eek it out. I was pleased to come away with second place, compounding to me that the ability is there I just need to get around the issues in my head with speed and confidence.
Come round five last weekend I found the Trans Savoie had helped my riding massively and I felt relaxed and confident on the bike. Friday and Saturday practice session were the best two days I have had on the bike possibly ever! Apart from riding well, I was surrounded by my ‘enduro’ race buddies, the sun was out and there were five absolutely mint tracks to ride! Stage one held some cheeky, fresh cut track into a trail centre lung buster, stages two and four were completely new and were fabulous loamy delights in the woods leading down to Coniston Lake. These two stages had just the right mix of tight technical sections with flat out and open parts to let the brakes off, right up my street, the kind of stuff I love riding. The feeling was mutual among all racers, UKGE trail builders struck gold with these stage. Riding down stage 3, a rocky walker’s track, I was reminded of the Alps and was pleased to feel right at home as the bike danced about. Stage five (also the seeding run) started at the very top of the hill with views for miles, wound through the woods to meet the black trail centre, then cut off again after a sprint to more natural muddy track into the finish arena. Unfortunately the highs of practice was soon to came to an end, with the thought of winning in my head I clipped my bars on some metal barriers on the uphill fire road sprint in seeding, catapulting myself over the bars and unbeknownst to me at the time, breaking a bone in my hand. I got up and carried on with seeding only crashing once more as my ability to brake was now limited and came down in fourth place! Later at hospital my worst fears were confirmed and the dreaded cast went on my left hand. I was indescribably upset, I was once again due to my own clumsiness missing out on a rad weekend, missing out on a possible win and a series podium place, not to mention upcoming events. But less about that, it’s done now and I can’t un-break it however hard I try.
People close to me say that it’s a positive thing that I was riding so well up until the point I crashed, I’m struggling with this factor at the moment, I feel like I threw away a massive chance. I hope I will be back on the bike in less than five weeks, I also hope the days will stop dragging by! In the meantime I have some exciting bike journalism to get on with!