Making the transition to enduro racing this year has been easy for me as I have enjoyed every race I have done so much. I haven’t really had chance to miss the downhill races as I have been kept busy racing most weekends and I have loved the new challenges.
Going out to the Alps to race enduros in the summer I thought would spoil the fun I had been having at the UK races and I really expected to come back home and find the races a bit of a disappointment without chairlifts and 10-minute-plus descents, but I didn’t.
The UK Gravity Enduro Series has been a huge success for me and I think for the sport in the UK. It hasn’t been without a few problems along the way but I am confident as the years progress and the format of racing takes shape it will become a bigger and better series.
Each race this year has tested your skills and fitness differently; some requiring really good fitness, some more technical skill and the final round at Dyfi Forest in North Wales would be different again. It was a long loop, close to 40km, that took around four hours to complete.
Each stage was entirely natural, varying from rutted loose slate rock, to sets of whoops created by motorbikes, to open grass fields. It was also a really scenic loop with views across to the Cader Idris mountain on the long climb up to stage two.
Once again we were lucky with the weather and another dry sunny weekend made the long loop very enjoyable. With each stage being fast and with very little line choice or technical sections it was going to be hard to make up time against other riders. It was just about who was brave enough to let go of the brakes the most.
I definitely felt the affects of having had a few weeks without good cross-country training, firstly because of my ribs and then while focusing on downhill for worlds. The long loop was tough and I didn’t have the strength on the pedalling sections that I had felt earlier in the year.
I just tried to carry good speed and push as hard as I could on the flat sections and I managed to avoid any punctures which was a huge advantage. I think half of the girls' field were repairing punctures after stage two so I was really pleased to get around the loop without any mechanical problems.
It was a great test for the protoytype Bontrager tyres I have been using all year and gave me a lot of confidence in the new casings they have been working on. I finished the day ahead of Helen Gaskell which not only gave me the win on the day and 27th place overall but also the series win which I was really pleased with.
To win the UK series in my first year of enduro racing was a great finish to the year and the perfect start for my career in enduro races.
I am really looking forward to not only the UK series next year but also the possibility of a world series. I now have a much greater understanding of both the physical requirements and the demands on the equipment for enduro races so I feel that I can really prepare well this winter for next season of racing around the world.
Passing on the skills
Over the next few years alongside enduro racing I also want to start doing more skills camps and encourage more women to get into the sport and improve their skills. At present I have not had much time to run many courses as I have been focused on my racing, but earlier in the year friends of mine who run a holiday company out in Switzerland managed to pin me down to keep a week free in September to run a girls all mountain riding skills weeks in Verbier.
Lucy and Phil who run Bike Verbier have become friends and a regular stopping point for me when out in the Alps during the summer. They have introduced me to some of the most amazing natural trail riding and convinced me that the pain of carrying your bike uphill on your back is worth it when you get to ride down some of the most amazing trails for hours on end.
I was excited to combine teaching skills to the girls and also getting the opportunity to take them out onto trails in the mountains and put those skills into practice. I had six pupils all keen to improve their riding and for many of them it was their first trip to ride in the Swiss Alps so there was so much new terrain to encounter as well.
We spent the first two days looking at basic body position and movements and then moved on to basic skills including braking, cornering, front and rear wheel lifts etc and the most useful skill of all for this week, riding switchbacks. It was so good to see so much improvement in all of the girls over the week from learning to ride around cones on the fireroad to tackling some pretty exposed switchbacks high up in the mountains later in the week.
I really enjoyed challenging myself in teaching people and analysing what they were doing right and wrong and getting the opportunity to share some of the amazing riding that is out there with the girls was also really rewarding. Hopefully this week will become a regular date in the diary alongside some other skills days in the UK which I hope to organise over the coming year.