Well what a season! I came crawling into 2016 as a bit of an underdog, and my first race whilst a healthy 7th place, was really not what I was hunting for. A renewed sense of direction and effort then saw me rocket to the front with 2 wins on the trot and then 2 x 2nd places thus securing the overall scottish enduro champion title in Masters category.
Finding out before the end of season that I was the overall winner turned out to be a bit of a double edged sword. In that the last race of the season saw me put in a fairly lacklustre effort again giving me a 7th but with some of my worst positioned stage times hiding in there - barely scraping top 20's in some of them.
I'd like to blame it on the poor weather, but in reality my brain and body had said "jobs done, just enjoy the ride!!". However, that's not to say I should have won if I had put in some decent effort. The top 3 times were pretty killer and respect was definitely due to Brad illingworth and Stuart Nicholson who had been keeping me on my toes all season.
This brings me to the crux of the matter. Me getting a 1st place means nothing if the 2nd & 3rd place riders didn't do their best, and that goes right down the line to the last place rider. Conversely, the person in 10th, or 50th or 100th place .... their race means nothing if the guys at the top didn't also try their hardest. What I'm trying to say is regardless of position, the competition is meaningless if there is no actual competition between riders.
So I would just like to say a massive thank you to all the riders at the SES races that made the events such a buzz to be at, and that I am enormously proud of my result. It was far from easy for me. For every second saved I probably put in 2 hours of gym time, and a ludicrous amount of miles ridden. I hate to think what my bike parts bill for the year came to.
Which brings me neatly onto the subject of sponsorship. Racing is expensive, most of us sacrifice other priorities just to get to the races never mind maintaining the bike. I had an unreal deal with Bianchi and after speaking to a few of the top elite riders, I realised I had it better than most.
Unfortunately despite becoming Scottish champion, my factory ride with Bianchi fell through due to external influences....not brexit (lol!) and suddenly at the end of November I found myself chasing my tail on the hunt for a ride. It was then I realised how good I had had it with Bianchi. I sent out over 40 emails to different companies and only 10 got back to me, and of that ten only 3 were offering me a grass roots deal with price figures attached.
As some of you will be aware I am now the proud owner of a Marin attack trail. Even then however, I am not technically part of the team as that rosta was filled up a month earlier. The good bit about that is that Marin can be relaxed about my riding kit and I still get to use the awesome kit from flare clothing.
So, for 2017, I have made the big decision to race in the newly formed 'Expert' category in the British Enduro Series. ..... well this one I think we can at least partially blame on Brexit. The cancellation of the only truly national Enduro series was a bit of a bombshell. I felt like a rebel without a cause.
After a week of deliberation and thoughts from my peers, I made the even bigger decision to focus all my efforts and race in the elite category in the Scottish series. This is a pretty big step, considering scotland is providing about 7 top 50 EWS riders, and 3 top 10 riders. Part of my decision is based on how much faster my Marin feels and is proving to be over the Bianchi. I Have no idea what the first race of the season at Fort William is going to prove, but I'm damned sure I'll be doing my utter best.
Regardless of results, I will also be doing my best to promote my sponsors - Flare clothing and Marin. There are many reasons for this. Part of it is the doubtless self aggrandising, which is a mandatory psychological need to have self belief and perform well at races! Also, to show gratitude to my sponsors who have been amazing and incredibly supportive.
Lastly, there is my massive ambition to race the full EWS in 2019 and hopefully win the 40-50 age group (Masters), this is not going to come cheap or easily and I will be attempting to gather as much support as possible. I'm now on instagram "Marinmike78" and I am also doing pre-season (off the bike) training webisodes via my facebook athlete page https://www.facebook.com/mikEnduro
For the pre-season training I'm just covering some stuff that I do, its far from all of it and it's part of a sponsorship I got going with my personal trainer to get him more clients, and also to showcase Flare clothing's technical apparel for the gym. So far we have covered a basic tabatta routine, a short explosive squat routine , some variations on basic moves and next will be the humble but all important recovery and stretches.
Now, because I have been going to the gym since I was 14......wow that's 24 years!!!! I'm starting to realise that some of the stuff I now do at the gym is a bit ludicrous for the average person. One of my personal routines involves 1000 pressups amongst other stuff within 30 mins. So anyone following the basic stuff I have shown on facebook should feel free to cut it down to suit. I really don't want any heart attacks blamed on me.
I genuinely believe I'm physically the fittest and strongest all round rider on the Scottish circuit. But I'm fully aware it doesn't mean diddly squat, as Enduro racing only requires you to be so fit, after that the wins are essentially all down to bike skills and not how many pressups you can do. As I said before I put in several hours a week at the gym to save 1 second on track.... maybe I should be looking to putting several hours on the bike to save 1 second on every corner, because that's where the real gains are. Unfortunately my psyche, constantly tells me that strength and fitness is the easy thing to work on, and thus I refuse to do badly at a race and blame it on a lack of fitness.
So that's me. Hopefully I'm not setting myself up for a huge fall. I can't wait for the season to kick off. I think its going to be a belter! Get out riding folks - the gym sucks, life's for biking and spending time with loved ones.