This was my third attempt at gravity racing, and the first round of the X-Fusion Enduro 1 was my first one this year. Preparation before the event had not gone to plan: I had a big crash four weeks ago and cracked three ribs and suffered internal bruising.
Race day came around before I was fully healed but I was determined to carry on. Rain all week was going to make things interesting. I met up with four friends at 7:30 on Sunday morning, Mat’s mate Stephen was meeting us there, and the banter had already started. Forest of Dean is 70 miles away so at the first garage we stop to fuel up with coffee and pies.
An hour and a half later and we arrive. The car park is already full, we all sign up get our race numbers, attach them to our bikes, just an hour to wait before we start. It’s wind up time; Mat try’s to psych out Stephen over tyre choice and as we wait to start a marshal who rode the course yesterday makes matters worse by saying his tyres did not grip a lot, these being the same tyre as Stephen was using.
The great thing about this event is you can go around with your mates. When you enter, you let the organiser know the name of your friends and you get grouped together.
Stage 1. The Time Pedals stage: ‘Twist & Shout’
Start time, we set off one minute apart and follow the signs to stage one. I was third in our group of six; Matt first then Dave, myself, Chris, Joe and Stephen. Chris who starts behind me is 29-years-old, younger than me and also a senior downhill racer, so there was a good chance he would catch me on each stage.
I’m not too nervous. Count down 5-4-3-2-1, and GO. Head down, pedal like mad for 50 metres then a sharp right into tight rooty and wet singletrack. I wish I had flat pedals as I was unclipped all the way round. Three corners from the end I heard Chris catching me up, so I moved over to let him pass. Stage over. No time to rest as the transition times are very tight. We used parts of the Verderers trail to get to stage two.
Stage 2. The Lezyne stage: ‘Tricky Dicky’
This was the trails stage, you got time penalties if you put your foot down or stop, and this was a disaster, bloody fell off twice.
Stage 3. The MBR stage and Team Chase: ‘Climax’
Really fast stage, flowing single track, but less technical - this was my chance to keep ahead of Chris. It’s only 1km long, and halfway round you drop onto a fire road then a short blast uphill until more single track, then a big drop into the finish where a small gathering of spectators cheered you on. No Chris, mission achieved. This time my ribs were really hurting, but onto stage four. A quick chat with my mates and its count down time again.
Stage 4. The Pivot Cycles stage: ‘Deep Breath’
This stage had the steepest drops and was really technical. I was getting really tired and making too many mistakes, I knew Chris would fly past any time. Again three corners from the end he did. Two small drops and stage four was over, onwards to stage 5.
Stage 5. The Torrico stage: ‘Tanglefoot’
In-between stages there was some great riding, also big hills that most sensibly pushed up to reserve energy. Stage five starts with a no dab 10 second penalty then into the stage.
No dab, I shout out loudly “YES!" Rhen drop into a fast drop and the front end starts heading towards a tree. That was close! Halfway around, a drop over a fire road and then into yet more wet and rooty single track. Again Chris comes flying past. The finish is ahead, and through a big puddle the bike goes sideways. I jump off and run to the line. Stage six, back up hill, a little rain shower to cool us down.
Stage 6. The Schwalbe stage: ‘Bottle Opener’
Time for a quick chat then off again. This stage starts with more rooty singletrack, then drops onto a fire road before you join the corkscrew decent. I’ve never done this before but all my mates have. It’s really fast and wide, I take the bottom line to avoid the large roots, then Chris comes past on the top line like a Scud Missile. Last corner is a big hole to jump out of then a fire road sprint to the finish. All done, no big offs. Four hours on the bike.
We head back to the car for more banter and tales of the race. What a great way to spend a day out riding with friends. A big thank you to all the marshals and timekeepers and the organisers
Next race is Salisbury Plain on 17th June 2012. Enter you won’t regret it.