Is this Enduro?
Seriously is this?…
Day after Battle of Britain at Wednesfield I had another race to go to.
I have been pestering my friend Charlie, who is our local Enduro/Trail guru to get me an entry for the season ending race at the Forest of Dean.
Being a good friend Charlie delivered, with plenty of notice, Friday night I had a text, You’re in!
Cold and rainy Sunday morning, with my legs still recovering from Saturday, I had second thoughts.
I spent all morning thinking and analysing. By the time I have made my mind up it was well past the registration time, never mind practice.
I thought that I might not have another chance to have a go and will regret not doing it.
I got to the Forest at 11. I was greeted by light hearted laughs when I have told them I’m here to sign on. Quick check of the category, Masters? You might still make it to the start…
Now I had a choice to make. Like a Pro I have had two bikes with me… Never mind the practice, two bikes made me the daddy.
I had the Specialized Enduro Expert, the 650b wheeled bike, automatic first choice, but… the tyres on that bike are not good on wet, mud, wet roots, anything that the day was throwing at me.
I have chosen my bike, the Whyte T129 Works. 29″ wheel, love the way it rides, but let’s face it, it can get a bit serious on those descends.
Rain kept getting more and more, and I just didn’t give a damn anymore.
Got my Osprey bag sorted (cheers PB), got my drink, food, basic tools and was on my way. With a race number on my handlebar I was excited to see what’s all the fuss about.
I’ve climbed up the push up track all the way to the top of the DH trails, was happy to be actually pedalling while most people with race numbers on were hauling their super heavy bikes on foot.
Got to the start and waited. And waited, and then waited a bit more.
I have been waiting for almost an hour in a wet jacket in freezing cold.
My number was up and I got to the gate. It was a ski like gate with a timed push out gate. Off I went.
As soon as I hit the trail… my heart sank. Along with my wheels… The unbelievable amount of mud and slush made it extremely hard to ride. I have picked up so much mud on my tyres it actually made it impossible to pedal.
I had a stick lodged into my rear swingarm I did not know what have hit me.
First minute was a battle with my thoughts whether to carry on. I did not enjoy it a single bit. Then the trail opened up and I have stumbled over to a wide slope with a tiny strip of trail at the top. Practice run would have come quite handy at this moment… It was a slide, like a skeleton track, the slope was so steep it was working like a magnetic field pushing all the riders, who did not make that foot wide path at the top, to the bottom into the trees. At that time I thought that was it. If only I could get my ass out of this muddy pit i was ready to walk away.
It was only until I have looked back and saw about four angry and pissed off riders behind me in an exactly the same situation when I realised that it wasn’t me, it was the course.
I got off my bike and started running. Like a cross country or a cyclocross rider i have dodged the roots and quite steep drops and have ran most of Stage 1. Nobody have overtaken me, so it sort of gave me some hope.
My dream was destroyed though. I was disillusioned with the whole idea of coming over. It was like a survival out there. I thought I get this done as quick as possible and get home, wash and forget about my bike until spring.
Stage 2 was at the other part of the Forest. I got lost in the process and climbed all the way to the start of Stage 3 only to be told I had to go all the way back. On the way there it started raining very heavily, but to be fair I did not care at all.
I got to the start really pushed it all the way there not to be penalised too much and got under way straight away as I was the last one from Masters. Stage 2 was a completely different story. Although still very wet, the trails were rideable and I have actually stayed clipped in all the way to the finish. I started enjoying myself and got more confident. I didn’t do too badly even though I have started very cautious.
It was getting quite dark and we still had two stages to complete. Luckily the organisers have cancelled stage 4, so all the filed could complete the race in reasonable light.
Stage 3 was starting at the same place as 1, so I wasn’t expecting nothing more than the mud bath I have met at the first stage.
I have started well I thought, course was deep but legs felt good so I was doing well. I knew it was the last stage and that I didn’t do very well at the beginning so I really went for it.
I thought I was doing OK and pushed hard. Then I have reached the suicide neck breaking rooty step down. The course have opened up and there was a rather steep drop, which you could ride round and take a more approachable route. Me being me and the will to prove myself and the overall rush and bother, I have taken the shorter route… All I remember was that I had to climb up at least 5 metres to retrieve my bike. I completely went over the bars and landed some distance below. The good thing about the fall was that it was well cushioned by the deep mud. I have lost an awful lot of time as the slide was so rooted and wet even walking on it caused massive trouble.
I have limped down got on that pile of earthy piece of junk that some hours before was a bike and rolled down to the bottom crossed the finish line, did not hang around, went straight to the car park, for changed and went straight home. Did not bother to even wash my bike. I just wanted to get out of there.
Enduro is a great sport. Given the bad conditions and a rather dangerous fall I am still smiling. I am glad I went and would love to do another one. Thing is, I know I will not be winning any races, all the guys over there have at least 15 years on me in terms of riding. I have only started seriously riding a mountain bike this year and most is on trail centres, which is nothing like proper trail riding.
It was raw, and so much more technical. The sport has an unbelievable potential and it is quite bizarre that British Cycling had declined an opportunity to govern over it.
I would like to thank Charlie Williams and the organisers to let me in at the last minute. It was well worth it and i have had great fun despite the poor result, but I have finished it and I am sure next one will be better.
This is Enduro.