The season has started and its all ready been a bit of a journey! The winter training was far harder graft than normal due to the inclement weather up here in Scotland. I certainly got my mud and snow skills improved. For those interested in what off season training comprised of; I spent the winter dieting, doing epic gym sessions, short gruelling rides and washing a heck of a lot of bike gear – I swear my bike is half a pound lighter with all the washing down its been getting.
A bit about myself – When I won the Hardtail category (scottish enduro series)in 2014 I weighed a portly 92kg (14.5st). Off the back of that win I scored a fantastic sponsorship with Bianchi to race prove their new toy in the enduro market – the Ethanol FSE bike. This meant no longer killing hardtail frames within months, moving into the masters category (I’m 37 years old) and that it was time to up my game, lose some weight and get serious. Last year I dropped to 82kg (13st) and had a pretty successful year, sitting in 2nd overall for the majority of the year with a highest placing of 3rd. Unfortunately the battle for 3rd overall was lost at the last hurdle when I suffered a major mechanical in the last race at Innerleithen, leaving me with a 4th overall in my first serious season racing enduro.
During the winter just past, I focused a lot more on my leg work in the gym doing a lot of crossfit based , High Intesity Interval Training (HIIT) and was pretty strict with my diet dropping a further 2 kg down to 80kg (12.5st). So right now I am proud to say I am the lightest I have ever been since 4th year at school. The difference it’s made to my climbing is phenomenal. If anyone is at all interested in diet or off bike training please feel free to contact me about it.
Ok back to the season. The first race was rd1 of the Scottish enduro series in the middle of march at the holy-grail of awkward’n’steep trail riding – Dunkeld. Unfortunately the weather threw a bit of curve ball, the preceding weeks were a constant -1deg in the area and all the winters moisture was frozen in the ground, making for very fast trail riding. However with the week of the race came a big thaw and a little rain, releasing several months of stuck water. Race weekend conditions were akin to the Battle of the Somme. It was bad enough for the organisers to cut one of the longer stages in half, as it was becoming physically impossible to ride, never mind race on and about 100 riders not turning up for race day – I reckon I had more crashes (all over the bar moments) on practice day than I had in the past 3 years. Come race day it was a case of who could stay upright the longest. Unfortunately I had a spectacular crash on a tight corner drop not 20 seconds into my first stage. The rest of my day was spent riding conservatively so as not to crash again, resulting in a 7th place. Whilst not too shabby at all, it was far from my expectations.
The next race was at Glentress and was the first round of the Tweedlove ‘Triple Crown’, a title I am very keen to get a hold of- fastest overall rider regardless of age from all 3 races. Yet again the weather was happy to play some tomfoolery on everyone. 2 weeks of nice dry weather turned into the most bitter and brutal of wet weekends. Everyone who lasted the day in that washout deserved a medal! My weekend went well. The cold and wet sapped all but the base desire to just live out of me (the horrible down side of losing weight is feeling the cold a lot worse). The last stage caused a bit of an upset, there was an issue with my timing chip not being heard by the Marshall, who then called me back to dib again. After letting the time keeper know the issue, I was told I was in 4th, so I went home a little disappointed, only to realise the wrong time had been given and in actual fact I was 2nd. The organisers did a great job of rectifying the issue, resulting in my finishing the day 8th fastest of the whole field and 2nd in masters. Regarding the ‘Triple Crown’ I am currently at a minimum of 6th due to 2 known higher placed riders not entering all 3 races, as for the other 5 – only time will tell.
The weekend past was rd 2 of the Scottish enduro series at Fort William, best known for its World cup DH track. Yet again the weather wanted to upset the apple cart. Whilst it was snowing and wet everywhere else, it was dry and sunny in Fort William….but with the most upsetting of headwinds, peaking at close to 40mph at the top of the 3 highest stages. My first 4 stages went fairly well, with no mistakes, but I couldn’t help feel I was being just a little too cautious, never actually feeling like I had spent myself during any of the stages. Well all that was to change for stage 5.
This was the longest stage sitting at 9-10 mins for the average rider, and starting up at 1500ft, the wind up there was like a fighter jet exhaust. With several straights heading into the wind before the main plummet back to the venue, it was going to be a true battle of wills against the weather. At the start gate many folk were having to walk or run with the bike as the wind was so ludicrously strong. Whilst I was recovering from the 30 min hike-a-bike up to the stage, something in my mind just said “Go, you’re ready, Do it!!” So I just went, no goodbye to my riding buddies, just a quick check I was in the right gear and off I went.
The first uphill straight into the wind had me down to about 3 mph even with all my brute force fighting against it. Into the next turn away from the wind was like being on a souped up motorbike, the next turn, a hairpin back into the wind on an awkward rock slab, saw me getting blown off track and my bike actually lifting off the ground when I tried to haul it back on track. I was forced to run the next 30m as the wind wouldn’t let me get started. The next straight was side on to the wind and it was too dangerous to manual any of the drops because the wind would have stolen my front wheel, even rolling them like a newbie was barely possible. Then the godsend….away from the wind for the rest of the trip down.
I rode really relaxed. I caught up on 5 riders, so I knew I was doing pretty good. I gave it my all on the final km of flat sprinting and jumps. When I handed my timing chip in I was told I was in 1st place, with only my race nemesis still to arrive. When he did and posted 3rd, I couldn’t believe it! Finally a 1st place for me. As it turned out I was trailing on a very thin ice, 2nd place until that 5th stage, I don’t really know what happened on that stage, but I seemed to have annihilated it with a time of 8m:11s, a time that was 46 secs quicker than my nemesis, and was 11th fastest in the elite riders, and only 25 secs behind the world class of Joe Barnes….on a stage that long!. Don’t know what I pulled out the bag, but I damn well hope I keep it for the rest of the season, as that result now has me leading the series with 4 races to go.
The next big event for me is the world series race in Ireland. Last year I got 100th in Peebles. This year my goal is top 70. Unfortunately the masters category in the world series is for the 40-50 age group, so no doubt the young guns will do their best to keep me out the mix……..let’s hope its blowing a hooley!