Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Davagh Enduro and Youth Enduro 2015

After claiming the Mountain Bike NI award for best MTB event 2014 we knew we had to step up the game for 2015. With adult races and a night enduro organised in the past three years it was time to look at the stars of the future. 

This year we introduced a family fun weekend with coaching sessions and youth races. The races for boys and girls in age categories which included under 8, 10, 12 and 14. The purpose of the coaching and youth races was youth development while having fun.

Youth Enduro Saturday 27th June 2015
The weekend started with registration for the young riders. Sign-on and bike check from Chain Reaction Cycles mechanics. Once registered and bike checked the kids gathered at the pump track and skills loop. The weather was good and everyone seemed in great form. We wanted to make this event fun but also an event the kids could take something from. We had asked 7 time national DH champion Colin Ross from Rosco Lines to come along and do a coaching session and demo for the kids. The good thing about the Mountain bike community is everyone wants to help promote it and this event was no different. Carn Wheelers youth development members Shane Elder and Graeme Elliott had said they would help out and later we had Mark Harvey Cycling Ireland off road commission youth development coordinator offer his assistance also. Brendan McAleer from Peter McAleer insurance brokers would complete our youth development team.

Colin Ross and Mark Harvey split the 50 children up and took one set to the pump track and the other to the skills loop. Families watched from the side as the kids took it in turns to ride the tracks under the expert eyes of our youth development team. The guys then done a demo on how to approach different aspects of MTBing allowing the children to then put this into practice. It was visibly effective as kids started to look like proper little racers on their bikes. 

After the coaching sessions it was time for the children to get into their age categories and meet their leader for the race. It was the leaders job to guide the children to the start of each stage. Under 14 and under 12 rode 6 full stages and under 10 and under 8 rode only the final 3 stages. At the stage start they where greeted by a marshal who would set them off at intervals into the stages. The leaders rode the stages first and waited for the group to complete the stage before regrouping and travelling to the next stage together. Again to keep the races fun a parent was allowed to come and ride close to their children. Most decided to leave them to it only following after they had completed the stages. Something some of them had said was only possible due to the coaching session they had earlier took part in. Confidence is a massive part of MTB and seeing these kids gain that confidence and take to the stages was amazing. As the little ones took to the stages the atmosphere really built with the sounds of CRC Cow bells the families really helped make the race a memorable occasion. Once back at the race village the kids got fed and watered and made great use of the bouncy castles and slides that we had on site. The podiums took place to round off the first part of the weekends action. 

Under 8 Girls
1st Aliyah Rafferty 2nd Hannah Archer 3rd Lucy Williams

Under 8 Boys
1st Harvey Sinnamon 2nd Alexander Gray 3rd Phelim James

Under 10 Boys
1st Travis Harkness 2nd Adam Rafferty 3rd Ethan Davison
Under 12 Boys
 1st Darren Rafferty 2nd Dean Harvey 3rd Niall Clerkin

Under 14 Girls
1st Emma Elder 2nd Sarah Elder 3rd  Darcey Harkness

Under 14 Boys
1st Drew Armstrong 2nd Diarmuid Murphy 3rd Lee Harvey

Senior Enduro Sunday 28th June 2015
The youth enduro proved to be a success so onwards to the senior race. New for the senior race was the air timing system. This meant riders times were clocked over a rolling start and finish. A much appreciated addition to the event with this state of the art timing system. Registration and bike scrutiny took place by the CRC mechanics in the morning. Riders got their goodie bag, T-Shirts and collected their timing chips. A brief explanation of the timing system and they registered their cards. After registration riders set off around the 14 mile course. Heavy rain the previous night had created a few puddles here and there but made the grip perfect. We had 6 stages of varying length and added a few natural trails to mix to bring something new for 2015. The day stayed bright and with a forest full of smiling Mountain bikers there is no other place you would want to be on a day like this. All stages were marshalled top and bottom and our event medical team were on stand by should they be needed. Like any adrenaline fuelled high tempo event there is the odd spill here and there. Mountain bikers are a tough breed and thankfully our professional medics were not needed. The only causality of the day was a small generator that ran under our timing crews van. I drove around between stages as a roving marshal as radio and phone signals are not the greatest in Davagh. I could see that everyone was smiling, enjoying racing and the craic. Sure who wouldn't enjoy being out on a mountain bike with like minded folk. 
 David Burns ETCC using the racing line for a pass just before the line.

Racing was incredibly tight in places yet some categories had clear winners. Some sections designed to really push the riders out of there comfort zone yet keep it manageable for someone just getting into the sport. Stage 1 and 4 started with a natural section leading into a pedal fuelled middle section on trail centre trail finally splitting into two very fast flowing descents at wolfs hill and Big Wig Jig. Stage 2 started on a fast flowing trail centre trail. Mini table tops, bermed corners that kept the pace super fast. The stage then crossed a fireroad and dropped into a natural section. The stage ended with two tight switch backs and across a small bridge and over the line. The switch backs had a sneaky racers line that cut out one of the corners and was the scene of a few moments. Stage 3 was the popular run ragley run short and fast but made the riders work hard. Stage 5 was a long drag with a bit of everything thrown into the mix a real tester for the stamina. Fast trail centre descents with rocky steps, flat sections, climbs and the ever popular boundary rock. A slab of granite that kept the pulses racing before a small rock jump and series of falling berms to finish. Stage 6 was the reverse of the trail centre direction on a short punchy stage.
Colin Ross on his way to victory

It was great to see local mountain bikers on the podiums and finish with some great results. Alan Gilkinson of East Tyrone Cycling Club and Davagh regular took 4th overall and 1st in Male Intermediate closely followed by Philip Harkness of Carn wheelers in 5th overall and 1st in Male Sport. I was delighted to see good friend Barry McGuigan the first Draperstown man home in a fantastic 21st overall and 7th in Male sport. Barry has only taken up mountain biking this year and his results show what a bit of determination and hard work can do.

Senior Enduro
1st Lesley Archer 2nd Carolynne Ferris 3rd Susan Williams

Junior Men
1st Callum Coogan 2nd Aarron Mcaleer 3rd Adam Stronge

Sport Men
1st Philip Harkness 2nd Kane McGarvey 3rd Colin McQuillian

Intermediate Men
 1st Alan Gilkinson 2nd Adam McKeown 3rd Philip Mullan

Elite Men
1st Colin Ross 2nd Nathan McComb 3rd Glyn O'Brien

The event has an ever growing list of nationalities that have taken part. This year I spoke to a Bulgarian, Polish and South African rider. Others who travelled from as far as Wicklow, Galway, Connemara and Sligo.  

The family aspect really worked well with campsites full.  People staying locally all weekend was a great boost to the local economy.  We also had father son podiums, mother daughter podium and a father daughter podium just highlighting how much this sport is growing. 

This event wouldn't be possible without my right hand man Ivan Park. I get a lot of the credit for these events but without Ivan and the team it just couldn't work so thank you all.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our sponsors and helpers who have made it possible to run this event.
Our main Sponsor: Chain Reaction Cycles took along their mechanics and provided goody bags. Our stage sponsors:
Stage 1 Steelweld Fabrications Ltd Cookstown,
Stage 2 Meat at Regan's Draperstown,
Stage 3 The Shepherds Rest (Our official Camping Partner) Sixtowns
Stage 4 The Market Inn Draperstown
Stage 5 Diamond Service Station Draperstown
Stage 6 Peter McAleer Insurance (Event Insurance provider) Omagh

The signs, number boards, certificates and podium boards were designed by Jason Devine Blackthorn Designs (Gortin) and printed by Signal Signs (Omagh)

Catering by Joan Trengove
Sperrin Bakery suppliers of the Meat at Regan's Sausage rolls, Buns and cakes and soup rolls.
Wilson's fruit and Veg for the Bananas

All the Ladies and Gents from S.T.E.P.S. for helping with the registration and catering and staffing the kids play area.

Marga for keeping me fed and watered and helping with set up, clear up and van driver for course Marking.

Our Youth Development team:
Colin Ross (Rosco Lines MTB Tuition and personal training)
Mark Harvey (Cycling Ireland off road commission youth development coordinator)
Graeme Elliott and Shane Elder (Carn Wheelers youth division group leaders)
Brendan McAleer (Group Leader)

Our Marshals who do a fantastic job of keeping riders up to date and on course.

Gary McNamee who supplied the barriers to keep the kids play area safe and protected.

Keep up to date on all things Davagh Enduro on our facebook page.

Youth Race Saturday 27th June 2015

Senior Race Sunday 28th June 2015

Event Photos:

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Davagh Enduro 2015

Davagh Youth Enduro 

Davagh Adult Enduro

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup Rd2

Bigwood Newry Rd2
Round 2 of the Vitus First Tracks Enduro cup took place at the idyllic setting of Narrow water castle in Newry.  The event village was set up at the front doors of the 16th century castle.

I once again missed the Saturday practise due to work commitments but arrived early Sunday to get signed up and ready. With the Emerald Enduro world Series just around the corner some of our local legends had come up to race at this round.  Established riders like Cube Factory rider Greg Callaghan, Dan Wolfe riding for Chain Reaction Cycles Vitus along with Colin Ross Vitus Factor rider.  In a stacked entry list the younger up and coming stars like Kelan Grant Nukeproof, Christopher McGlinchey Chainreactioncycles and Nathan 'Backflip' McComb Riding for Rock and Ride Outdoors.

Parking around the grounds of narrow water was tight. I spotted a space in the VIP parking area and squeezed the van in beside a couple of heifers laying in a cattle shed.  You want see the look on their faces when they seen a butchers van pull in beside them.  
Race number attached and gear ready I rode back up to the race village to meet the Klunkers who I would be riding with.  The place was really buzzing with the pro's just setting off and other riders only arriving the event village was constantly buzzing.  We got our timing chips and set off for the ride through the grounds of the estate and into narrow water wood (Bigwood)  The craic was good from the start. Wayne Davidson took us on a short cut past his favourite place (The Portaloos) We had only just set off but already we were all stopping to drop the coats and some base layers.  Although a very over cast day and low hanging rain clouds the temperature was warm and so far the rain was holding off.

We had a short climb up the forestry roads to the top of the wood and the starting point for all the stages.  There was a mobile cafe, first aiders and portaloos in this area that we would be returning to at the start of each stage.  The great thing about this venue is the compact nature of all the trails and the relatively small elevation change from top to bottoms.

Our riding group was made up of klunkers Jimmy 'horsepower' Dickson, Brendan McAleer, Damien O'Neill, Phillip Legge and Adam Graham.  It was also an absolute honour to ride along with Vitus Brand Ambassador Wayne Davidson to keep us all right ;-)  The lads had told me how the stages were riding slippy, mucky and exposed roots that would catch you out if you weren't on your game.

Stage 1 Mallets Pallet
We arrived at the start of the stage and Keith Williams was marshalling for us.  Keith had the night before won the mtb video competition for his video illustrating mountain biking in Ireland.  The video is too good not to watch so here is the link.  As tired as he said he was with a night of celebrations he kept everyone informed about the stages.  I had previously rode some of this stage but with conditions as they were and a few diversions in place I started out at a steady pace to try and feel my way into it.  Straight away I was into the mucky slippy corners and quite a pedally stage. I knew the end of this stage was long so I tried to take it easy and not make any silly mistakes.  I probably rode this stage too slowly but I didn't make any major mistakes and stayed on the bike despite a few strange line choices.  I had doubts about how slippy everyone predicted the stages would be.  I was finding grip ok but this was probably down to me riding slower rather than grip.

We gathered at the bottom and rode slowly back up to the next stage.  Stage 2 was another stage I had rode sections of so thought I would be able to push ok on it.

Stage 2 Keep er Pinned
The queues were moving fairly fast which was good and you had enough time to get your breath back before setting off.  I filled the lungs and took off into 2.  Were the hell was I?  The start didn't seem familiar but I kept it going as hard as I could.  I then joined a section I knew and on a series of jumps I knew were I was again.  As I lined up for a rocky jump there was a big flash from a camera quickly followed by some shouts of encouragement from Warren McConnaughie of Industry Image photography.  Thanks again to Warren for some of these great photos I have used in this blog.
Back to the stage and this wee section was riding really well and fairly dry.  I pushed hard and on one tight section a little too hard. I got the bike caught outside of a tree with my momentum carrying me passed it on the wrong side. It was a struggle to get back up and get the bike around the tree.  Some time lost but back on the pedals.  The lower section took a different line to I had rode in the past cutting out a big drop instead sending us into a series of tight corners that swooped steeply down the hill side.  A track crossing and into a wee jump section with the finish line in sight Dermot Devine marhsalling shouted encouragement and pointed out the finish beacon. The finish took us out close to the quarry entrance.  Stage 2 done and although I felt faster, I again knew it was slower than I would have liked. I still managed 18th with one big mistake loosing a fair bit of time.  We pedalled back up top for stage 3.

Stage 3 Super Noodles
This stage was a bit of a mixed bag with flat sections and other steeper technical bits.  I wasn't really sure of this stage but well warmed up and feeling better I began to pushed a lot harder.  Exposed roots, off camber sections and multiple lines around trees really kept the mind working.  Feeling better on the bike I was beginning to hop roots, rail some corners and generally ride better.  My confidence was building and thought I needed to get my finger out and make up some lost time.  I got through this stage without any incidents.  Back up top and after a toilet break we headed across to stage 4.  Andy Lyle and Trail Dog Lola our superstar Marshals were ready to send us on our way.

Stage 4 Dogs Ballix
All was in my head was flat out.  Probably one of my favourite sections I decided to give it the beans.  I started well and the looser I was the better the bike felt. Hammering sections letting it go I was feeling good. I was taking steeper lines and finding some better racing lines as I was carrying more speed and looking further up the track.  Hands off the brakes I dropped off a rocky drop and into a bermed corner.  I didn't needed to but got on the pedals pushing the speed up a bit more.  I jumped a drop carrying way to much speed and landed on a second take off.  The bike compressed hard and as the ground fell away below me I was going over the front.  It happened very fast but at one point I thought I was going to save it.  Not to be and I was hurled somersaulting down the track with the bike flying about 10ft down the hill.  The hydration pack and my helmet took the full impact and with a stinging feeling on my side and hip I got straight up and jumped off the track to retrieve the bike.  Adrenaline pumping I was straight on and pedalling.  I was on a step down but lack of speed I had to wheelie off the end.  I crossed the forest track and finished slowly at the bottom of the stage.  I had a look over myself and although this was the biggest crash I have had in a while thankfully I was ok.  The screen cover on the Garmin was broke but hasn't effected the lcd.  A big crash but stage complete and the most important thing, the bike is OK!

Stage 5 Castle Corners
This stage couldn't have come at a worse time.  Confidence battered there was what seemed to be a lot of pedalling.  A very flat start or maybe I was just loosing steam.  I came into a little rocky section and tried to huck across the rocks but got the front wheel caught up and down again.  I was really cursing myself at this stage and jumped back on the bike with a knee pad out of position.  Riding like a clown and thinking about the knee pad really got into my head.  As I came around a tight corner I shook the head and thought push hard to the end.  Good timing as the Donegal Paparazzi Dermot Sweeney was snapping us as we sped through the bluebell fields.  Another great photographer spending his day in a midge infested forest to capture our day.  Thanks Dermot for this great photo.
As we regrouped at the end of Stage 5 it would appear I wasn't the only one finding that stage a bit of a drag.  We took the trail back through the bluebell fields and took a break for a photo.

Stage 6 Local legend Paddy Serridges pick n mix
On riding back up the hill to the start we could see Warren had taken up position below a jump.  The final stage, a photographer and a section near the bottom described as hell could only mean pain.  Another new stage for me having only ridden a couple of berms at the top.  Riding blind is sometimes good but not on this stage.  There was a lot of tight wee climbs that caught me by surprise and at one point I was hopping along the track rather than riding trying to get up a wee ramp.  I bounced over the jump with a face on me like I was just let out for the day.  I think a mixture of tiredness and still a bit of shock from the big crash on 4.  Or as your all thinking I am just an ugly fucker!
There was a lovely technical section with tight bermed corners though I was just too tired to get the most out of them. Out of the blue the trail ramped up.  With me carrying no speed I was nearly stopped again.  I got going and then dropped into a massive mud bath.  With all my speed and flow gone I managed to trickle through the mud to the other side.  I knew I wasn't far from the end so tried to get the legs moving again.  A few jumps and a drop down across the forest track before a motorway section.  I was on the pedals giving it my all.  The bike sliding around below me I was on the track and off the track.  Riding across the grass thankfully no holes or branches to catch me out.  I hadn't lost any speed and hammered across the finish line.  DONE!  After my big crash and a couple of slow stages I finished in 27th in masters and 122nd overall in a field of 282.  Not where I would like to finish but I enjoyed the race and did I mention the bike is O.K.

Another brilliant round of the Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup.  The course was brilliant with some amazing stages despite the rain and mud in the build up to the event.  The race was once again top class with everything running smoothly and even with the massive rider numbers queues didn't last long.

Big congratulations to the newly married couple Glyn and Cat O'Brien on a quality day on the bikes.  I know how important it is to have a good team around and all the marshals, helpers and sponsors have again done fantastic. It is great to have them all give up there time for our enjoyment so thanks again if I haven't personally thanked you.

Results: http://www.sportident.co.uk/results/2015/FirstTracksEnduro2/index.html#Enduro

Photos: http://www.industryimage.com/ 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup Rd1

Castlewellan Forest Park Rd1

The eagerly awaited Vitus First Tracks Enduro cup kicked off in Castlewellan on the weekend of 28th & 29th March for Round 1.  Glyn O'Brien and his team had been working hard on the tracks in the lead up to the event and there was a great buzz of excitement in the build up.

The practise session on the Saturday was an informal run out for most.  I missed the practise due to work commitments but this may have been a blessing in disguise due to the conditions.  A wet and windy weekend meant the open natural sections got a bit sticky and rutted in places.  

Sunday race day was overcast and dark rain clouds lingered in the distance.  The weather didn't seem to dampen spirits as the race village was buzzing from first opening at around 9.  The race village contained event sponsors Vitus bikes and Chainreactioncycles, First Tracks Mountain biking Podium and registration area, Enduro Mountain bike Mag and other various sponsor areas.  Registration was well organised and on arrival riders would get a start time, number board and goodie bag.  The car park was filled by around 10 and the Pro and Females categories got under way around this time.  I had a 10:36 start time along with a few legends from the Klunkers Guild Jimmy, Brendan, Bob and Damien.

Chain Reaction Cycles had a scrutineer area and bikes were checked out before moving on to the si-entry tent for timing chips.  I am riding the Vitus Sommet Pro model and with the bike through scrutineer we all rolled out onto the trail centre loop around the lake to make our way to stage 1.  A leisurely pace so we could save the legs for racing.  We passed the end of stage 1 on our way up and got a look at the last bombhole to finish.  This was a section I hadn't ridden before but looked fine.  Riders had to walk the last section up past the trig point dropping back down to the start of stage one.  There was a small queue ahead of us but this was moving fast and give us time to get settled for the start.  The talking was over and now it was time for action.

Stage 1
This stage started on natural grass and mud trails and finished on trail centre hard packed trail.  I rolled up to the start area and the marshal told me the location of the timing box and how the stage was shaping up.  I had heard some horror stories from practise due to the muck and wet conditions.  I checked the forks, shock and took a deep breath and powered off the start line and into stage 1.  The conditions were slippy from the word go and with rocks, roots and other hazards meant this open section was a ride and a half.  I dived straight into the steep section and with my Vitus Sommet working well under me tried to get the flow going but keep it fast to pull over the tricky sections.  The stage was running well but with multiple line choices it was hard to pick the right line. There was more lines here than at a Pete Doherty after party.  I had been doing well until I took the inside line on a corner with a tree.  The exposed roots caught me out and getting the leg trapped behind the back wheel and saddle I high sided and shot across to the left.  Somehow I managed to hold it without completely coming off and kept moving.  Hanging back in behind the saddle for another steep section with hucks and drops I let the bike go and think the faster pace saved me on a few knocks.  The Vitus Sommet was made for this type of steep technical riding and was working well. The rockshox Pike RCT3 solo air and Monarch plus RC3 Debonair took the rough terrain with ease. Damping and rebound were set pretty much perfect for this. Just before the crossing into the trail centre section I caught a root and had to dab the foot to keep moving.  I was through the worst of stage one and on a familiar section I got the power down and tried to push hard along this hard packed gravel trail centre surface.  I spotted another rider ahead and give a clear shout for rider up.  The rider pulled to the side and give me a clear run (Cheers for that) The last bombhole section took us off the trail centre and back onto the small drop and jump to the finish.  Stage 1 was an action packed stage with a bit of everything, really good to ride. 

I waited on the others then we climbed back up to start stage 2.  The transitions were good craic and you could hear stories of how stage 1 went for others.  Mental was a word I heard on numerous occasions.  We got up to the start of stage 2 and again there was a small queue. Just enough time to take a drink and dry out the goggles.

Stage 2
This stage started on the trail centre black before dropping into a natural section.  Goggles on pedal ready and boom into stage two.  The trail centre hard pack gravel was fast flowing and a few small rock gardens at the start were all we had to worry about.  This was all about flow and hard pedalling on every section.  I was conscious of saving some energy for the natural section which had a few technical off camber and rises to contend with.  My 760mm Nukeproof warhead bars are a great feel but with a few tight trees almost caught me out in the middle section.  I pushed hard along the trail and when I seen the tape indicating the turn into the natural trail got myself set up for the drop down into a rooty washed out corner.  I dropped down into the corner and with only a bit of rear wheel drift pulled it through the corner.  I got on the pedals and hammered across the walking path onto a grassy section that was caked in muck.  I tried to keep traction and pedalled up over a wee rise.  As I pushed through a tricky uphill bit I clipped a pedal and got sent off the trail.  I scrambled back onto the bike trying to save any lost time.  Into another off camber section there was a top, middle or bottom line.  Unlike Michael Barrymore I decided against the bottom and went high into a tight hairpin.  As I railed into the corner the bike just went were I wanted it to go.  Another tight hairpin left and one last push across the finish.

We waited for the others and with a short delay while Damien fixed his puncture we soon got on the move again for the climb up to stage 3

Stage 3
The familiar face of Keith Williams marshaling set us off into one of my favourite sections.  The top section of this trail was all natural but with tree cover had held up well despite the rain.  I set myself up and tore off into the tree lined trail.  Sweeping corners with bermed kickers, rocky drops and a soft pine covered surface.  Hammering into a tight hairpin and hopping the ruts I kept the power down as the bike seemed to grip well on the forest floor.  The steep drop into an open section had caught me out in the past. I took a tighter line staying out of a rut and this kept me steaming across the open for a jump and hard right back into the trees.  Another lovely tight section with a double drop and a rockgarden huck finished through a series of sweeping corners.  Half way through and now we joined the trail centre.  This started with a hard pedal then into a rock garden.  I got the power down and kept it flat into the next rock garden with a pre jump I sent it into the first section. The bike skipped around below me and no sign of the end of the rock garden I thought I over cooked it.  There was no good line and if I am honest I was on auto-pilot. I was just glad it skipped through without getting caught up. What seemed like an age the small bermed corner at the end was a relief railing me into the smooth trail.  The trail ramped up and this really worked the legs.  My heart rate went through the roof but with the end in sight I pushed on across the line.

A much needed rest and time to fuel up at the feed station.  While waiting on the others I took on some water and Bananas.  Damien arrived at the end with another puncture.  When your lucks out it really is out.  This was his second or third of the day.  We waited around till he got sorted and started the climb up to stage 4.  Stage 4 and 5 started in an area that resembled a forest hit by a hurricane.  Fallen trees zig zagged the path and the only way in was up a steep rocky incline.  This bit got us warmed up after a long stop at the end of stage 3. 

Stage 4
Steve Bell give us the heads up about the start. He showed us a good starting point avoiding a rut that had caught out a few riders even before the start beacon. I give the rider in front a hefty start and then dropped into the technical start. Smooth corners giveway to rocky ruts and washed out berms.  Two fast sweeping corners and already I seen the rider in front. I give a quick call and he stayed left I got down the inside. This was just in time for a steep rock drop and into a fast technical off camber corner.  Roots on the inside and a two wheel drift got the pulse racing but thankfully the ramp of mud on the corner held my wheels and kept me in the trail.  Another fast flowy section before crossing the walking paths and the infamous Moorish Tower (Paul Cromie your secrets safe with me) It was great to have marshal Dermot Devine shouting words of encouragement just in time for a wee rise in the trail.  A much needed gee up at the right time and I drove the pedals hard before turning left into a steep rough section.  Fast as I could push it through this section. The bike was gripping when I wanted and turning when I wanted, it was the confidence I needed to give it some more.  This bike just wants to be pushed hard on the steep stuff.  A tight left hander before dropping onto the fireroad past the feed station and linking onto the lower section of trail centre for a hard push to the finish.  

The legs really felt the burn at the end of that stage and with only two more left I hoped I had something left in the tank.  We got moving and headed back up the hill to the hike a bike section.  Again a tight wee pull with the bike on the shoulder really stretched the legs.

Stage 5
This was another quality stage starting in technical natural trails. Later finishing with a lung busting pull up the moorish return.  I had a technical line sussed in a previous weeks practice.  A steep drop with a tree stump half way down and a tree on the right.  I knew it cut a big chunk of time on the strava segment and having done it any time I rode it before that was the line I wanted to ride.  I started ok and was just getting into the flow when I nearly binned it on a deep rut.  It unsettled me a bit but I got on the power again getting ready to set up for the drop.  Looking up ahead I noticed the steeper line was taped off.  I tipped it around the corner and pedalled on trying to put it out of my head.  I hadnt rode this wee bit but pushed on regardless before rejoining the exit point I was used too.  The line seemed to set me up wrong for a tight tree lined rocky section and getting crossed up lost all flow.  I pushed on through another new section that took us to the moorish return. I knew the pain was about to begin with a long pull up a rise in the trial centre.  Slacking means lost time and as heavy as the legs felt I tried to drive it on.  I heard the familiar voice of the bashed up Wayne Davidson encouraging us to push hard for the finish.  I felt like I had a strong finish to that stage and with only one to go the adrenaline was pumping.  Another small delay for the unluckiest Klunker of the day Damien with yet another puncture. The wait give me time to get chatting to the boys of Carn wheelers and East tyrone Cycling club.  We all got moving again and joined the final queue of the day. 

Stage 6
This was a trail centre flat section to the finish.  I got on the pedals and pushed as hard as I could to get moving.  The legs were screaming at this stage but I knew the end was near.  I tried to make it flow rather than stay on the gas the whole way.  As the trail started to descend towards the pump track I got a chance to free wheel and pump the bermed corners keeping the pace up.  A rocky end to the trail which had caught me out before had me braking to avoid getting caught up.  A quick dip of the bars to take me around the rocks and into the pumptrack.  I pushed it into the pump track doubling the first section and then sweeping through the rest as I started to slow I just got on the pedals to take me over the last big whips. It was great to hear the final beep at the end of stage 6.

We handed back our number boards and rode across to the race village for our times.  With the timing system in full flow and riders still on the course I knew the time didnt mean much until it was over.  I seen 9th in class and 53rd overall.  I was delighted but expected this to fall with a fair few riders left out on course.  There was smiles all round and the area was really buzzing. After a shower and a coffee we headed back up to check out the times and see the prize giving.  With all riders in I had finished 11th in my Class (Masters B)and 63rd overall.  I was shocked with the time and really delighted to have been able to keep it steady through the day.  I had the odd mistake here and there and a few hold ups but think I know where I can improve.

The event went well and the trails held up despite the rain.  Really enjoyable event and looking forward to the next one.

Glyn O'Brien and his team have done a smashing job. Round 1 in the bag and more of the same to come.  Bring it on!!!!!!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

La Trinxacadenes X

La Trinxacadenes X   6th Oct 2013

The background of the club and race
Trinxacadenes BTT is a Mountain bike club from a small Catalan town called Vallromanes.  The town is 45mins north east of Barcelona.  Every year they hold the annual La Trinxa mountain bike race.  This is a XC race over 36km with around 5700ft elevation gain, some brutal climbing even for the locals with category 3 and 4 climbs on a MTB.  It welcomes riders from all over Catalunya and further.  It also boasts a list of Pro and semi pro Riders due to the nature of the course.  This year would be the 10th anniversary year and the course was going to be even more difficult than seen in previous years. 
My fiancée comes from the village and through visiting our relatives I first started to meet members of the club.  Through the years I have been on many of their club rides and rode most of the surrounding area.   I hosted the Trinxacadenes club in Ireland earlier in the summer showing them some of our Trail Centres and coast lines.   I have been meaning to do the famous Trinxa race since I first visited but one thing or another always seemed to get in the way.  After the club made the effort to come to Ireland I decided to book the flights and race in La Trinxa X.  It later turned out to be the same weekend as the foxhunt but as the tickets were booked I couldn’t change my mind gutted and all as I was to miss Irelands biggest MTB race.

My original plan was to train as hard as I could to make the trip worthwhile but sickness meant I wasn’t on the bike for months.  It was a frustrating few months when all I wanted to do was ride.   The week before I had a few rides around my local trail centre Davagh.  The legs, lungs or head were not in a good place.  I was close to not competing but as we were going out anyway I decided to bring the bike.  Saturday I went for a warm up spin and on the first climb it really hit home how unfit I was.  The guys assured me that there will always be someone slower on the day.   Even though I am not a local I know the area very well and have covered the full route on different occasions.  Normally descending the single tracks in DH mode rather than climbing them in XC mode.

La Trinxa  The Race
Sunday morning the town was buzzing I collected my race number and got it fitted to the bike.  001 no pressure on me at all then!  As soon as I got mingled with the 525 riders it didn’t really matter what number I was.  I was never going to win this race so I just had to be thankful I was riding again and enjoy the course. 
We lined up behind the start line and after a fireworks start the race was on. We had a police escort out of the town and towards the mountains.  We started on the main road and followed a jeep.  The idea of the road section was to stretch out the field but I think everyone’s excitement took over and the bunch looked more like a peloton from La Volta a Catalunya.  We left the main road and got onto the first dirt roads.  These were single lane tracks but as there were so many riders the first climb became a bit of a bottle neck and with a chain reaction the riders at the back lost momentum and some had to get off and walk.  I managed to pick my line through walkers and with the odd shoulder to keep me upright I managed to get up the first climb of the day.   I passed Trinxa friends along the route.  Manel waved me through the town with his crutches and later Joan ‘Rambo’ Ramon shouting words of encouragement to me to keep me going on the first climb.  The race had only begun and I could already feel the pain in my legs and lungs.   I knew the route I was on and had a fair idea of what was to come.  When I am mentally and physically fit I can normally block out the pain but this was different.  Not being fit and not being mentally ready made it much more difficult.  “What would be the quickest way home if I was to pull out?” The thought crossed my mind on a few occasions.  I would then counter that with if I get up this next climb I am that little bit closer to the finish. 

We traversed tracks through the mountains all of which I have been on before and knew I could climb.  I looked at the Garmin and despite still climbing we hadn’t gone very far at all.  As we topped a climb at a cross roads we could see the front riders coming up the hill in front.  We would turn right and drop down before doing this climb.  It was like a kick in the teeth even at this early stage watching riders already with such a lead on us.  The sun was starting to break through the cloud and temperatures and humidity was getting worse than our summers. We were on a climb I have done many times. This was an open section of stoned track cutting through the hillside. The tree tops dropped down the steep valley to our right. Below us the costa towns filtered from the flora and the beaches spread like an unbroken yellow line all the way to the industrial port of Barcelona.  With the sun shining bright and a clear sky Barcelona streets and famous districts could be seen clearly.  Mount Tibidabo and La Sagrada Familia stood out in this impressive urban landscape.  The climb was made that little bit easier with such and impressive view.  I started passing a few riders and I must admit this did boost me.  Topping another climb we had a fast descent to the first food stop.  I took on some water and kept moving. 
The next section was an old favourite of mine and a really fast bit of single track.  I started to pass more and more riders and it was clear most of them are only made for climbing. I thought this is the only time I could make up ground so threw caution to the wind and let rip down the singletrack.  As fast as I went the next bit of climb had some of them fly past me like I was stopped.  I was beginning to enjoy it and taking it as a ride rather than a race.  We dropped further down the valleys and re-joined the first climb of the day except we would be descending it this time. At the bottom we would join a special bit of single track again one I have ridden many times.  It started with a climb to begin with and then a very fast technical descent.  There was a huge rain storm on the Friday night we arrived and as this trail is sand based the most of it was washed out forming huge ruts.  The fast start soon ended in a bottle neck at a rock section.  Tempo from trinxa warned the riders of the rocks below but what he shouted to me was rock garden so I kept er lit and rattled through the first bit.  My pedals gouged through the rut and I almost lost it but thankfully momentum carried me through.  The next sections were much the same with rocky, ruts and roots and quite technical.  I knew the fun was about to end as we popped out beside the golf course.  Without seeing the climb I was already shifting to the best climbing gear.  I knew what was round the next corner and as I turned it was clear others didn’t.  Riders with broken chains, punctures from the rocks in the previous section littered the side of the trail.  I got the head down and started to push hard on the climb.  Most where walking this section but on the big wheels I seemed to get over and up it ok.  As the gradient increased and the trail got worse due to the rain I was soon off and walking for the first time.  I looked around and no one was managing to climb this section.  I jumped back on the bike and headed towards Vallromanes.  This was the closest I would get to the town and the turning point for the short route.   Keep going or call it a day?  The legs were tired but I was enjoying being on the bike.  I was slow but I would hopefully get there onwards and upwards.

The trails I was now riding were all trails I would usually descend.  It was a strange feeling riding up these trails rather than down them.  We started a long slow climb again in the direction of the check point.  When it was almost in sight we of course turned left and dropped down a steep track.  This only meant one thing and another big climb back up the valley from almost sea level.  At the cross roads where I was expecting the checkpoint we then joined another bit of single track.  Locally named as Vietnam again this was another I always rode the opposite direction.  I knew it would be a tough climb so go the head down and kept the pedals turning.  At the top thankfully we had the feed station with some nuts, raisins, oranges, bananas and water.  I loaded up as much as I could and spoke to Niko from Nikos Bar in Vallromanes who was dishing out the food and drink.  The guys told me I had three more big climbs to go but I knew the way home if I wanted a short cut.  I had come this far and I wasn’t going to cut it short now.

The last section was tough on tired legs.  Long climbs with no shade from the sun steep descents that were too cut up to push on.  On the last big climb of the day I started to feel the cramps coming on.  I tried everything to stop them but in the end I had to jump off and stretch.  I found an old energy gel in the bag from god knows when but got it down me as anything was better than nothing at this stage.  I stretched out and hopped back on the bike.  The last push to the top and what I thought was all descent back to the finish line.  Unfortunately there were a few more deviations to my usual descent into Vallromanes and this was painful in the legs short sharp climbs but enough to almost get the cramps back in the legs.  We turned onto another favourite bit of single track and with slower riders in front I took my chance to pass and pushed hard.  A few other riders done the same and it turned into a real bit of craic as we all seemed to be around the same pace.  Hitting berms and drops the pace really picked up and at the bottom a few high 5’s as we all appreciated the final bit of the course.  As we dropped through the trees we could hear the music from the finish line. Again on a cruel twist we down a complete lap of the town before getting there but at this stage the hard work was done.
My first Trinxa in the bag and although I didn’t place too highly I wasn’t disappointed.  My only aim was to finish it and I did.  A tough event and one I look forward to trying again with a better pair of legs and head ready for it.   Big thanks to Trinxacadenes club, all the marshals and helpers and to my family for being at the finish line to welcome me back.
The race is very accessible to anyone looking for a challenge. Easyjet fly to Barcelona and with a good rail, bus and taxi service you could be in Vallromanes in an hour.   More information can be found at www.trinxacadenes.com       

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Rostrevor Mountain Bike Festival 2013

The week leading up to the Rostrevor Mountain bike festival was a busy one on the bike. We visited Rostrevor the weekend before to get a spin around the trails for “Research” purposes. We then had a few trips to Castlewellan to review the trails and pump track. I was riding singlespeed 29er so the legs got a good work out. Friday evening of Rostrevor MTB festival and we took another ride around Castlewellan to complete the full loop of the reds and blacks.

 Castlewellan (Pump track and castle backdrop)

Saturday Morning we dropped my son off with my sister who was baby sitting for us and we drove over to yellow water. Myself and Marga parked we were going to ride the red loop. We parked out here so we were warmed up before the fireroad climb in Rostrevor. The morning was beautiful and despite the cool temperature we soon warmed up on the bike. We rode the red trail towards rostrevor joining what would be stage 4 of the enduro for the run into the event field. We got to the packed festival field to see all the gazebos and tents already set up. Downhill riders practicing the course blasted through the trees into the finish line. Chat about how the trail was riding, good lines bad lines and big moments could be heard by the energetic riders. We spoke to a few friends then headed out for the climb to the top. This starts with a long steep fireroad climb cutting back for the first section of single track. The climb from here is a gradual ascent zigzagging through the forest past the upper car park a slight path transition then back into a perfect climbing single track that leads into and out of the forest with views getting better and better as we climbed. Kodak Corner was a pit stop for some photos and water then onwards to get to the top. There was a strong breeze at the top. We stopped to admire the amazing views rolling out across the forest that dropped away below us. The views from here are breath taking (Nothing to do with the climb at all) We can see the cooley Mountains across the Lough, the Mournes piercing the sky line ahead and down the lough towards Newry. The trail starts to get fast and flowing from this part and at times it was hard not to look around while riding. We pushed on through the next forest sections and joined what would be stage 1 of the enduro. I thought to myself that will be a long transition from the event field to Stage 1. We rode stage 1 again taking it fairly easy trying to remember good parts to push and good parts to get a breather. After stage 1 we met Colin Finley on the quad out marking the course we told him we were on the red loop but would get back up tomorrow to ride the blacks. We headed out across the final sections and back to the van. A great loop of what is an epic ride. We drove down to Rostrevor to have some lunch in the Kilbroney Park Café I highly recommend the cloughmore burger for hungry mtbers this double decker burger and chips really hit the spot. We met up with some friends and had a chat about the weekend. There was a real buzz in the air. Even the non MTBers took great interest in proceedings and it was great to see such crowds in and around the Park.

Sunday I got a lift to Rostrevor with Andy. Marga and Liam would follow us later in the day. Andy, Barry and I wanted to ride the Black sections that would be in the Enduro so headed out fairly early to get a small loop in. We went fairly quickly and rode some sections that I previously haven’t ridden. The black was hard work it is a trail that you really have to work at and look ahead with some dodgy rocks on landings. I caught my toe on one as I tipped into a tight corner thinking I had broken my tow the language was colorful to say the least. Thankfully the pain eased I wasn’t sure if it was the adrenaline as we quickly dropped into another section of black. There was a fireroad transition between stage 2 and 3 and it was a tight climb on fresh legs thinking about the Enduro it was only going to feel a lot worse. We got to the red transition and pedaled our way across to the start of stage 3. We took the black route thinking it was part of the enduro and had a great run down it with lots of smiles. It would later turn out that the route was following the red. Thankfully we had ridden it already anyway. We rode the reds back towards the event field stopping to shout encouragement to some of our friends taking part in the xc race that had began. I met up with Marga and Liam dropped off the bike and went to watch the DH. The big Rock on DH 2 “On the pulse” was like something from a stage of the world cup DH. The course was lined with spectators and photographers. The atmosphere was electric cow bells, whistles and roars went up for every rider down. Watching a few crashes the roars of appreciation went up as the riders got themselves up and back onto the bike. The photos and videos of this trail do not do it justice. It is an extremely steep technical section and fair play to all riders pinning it through this section for all our enjoyment. After the racing finished we went to the Kilbroney Pub and Steak house for Dinner then got checked into our B&B the fir trees. It was a lovely location with the mountains and forest out the back door and views across the lough to the cooley mountains out the front. An early night as we were all shattered from the day out in the fresh air.

Enduro Race Day

I got up early for a full fry, some toast, orange juice and then a coffee. I got Liam his breakfast and went to get ready. Bags packed gear on I got the bike said good bye to Marga and Liam and rode the couple of miles to the Kilbroney Park. I met Andy who was suffering badly from a sick stomach and we were shortly joined by Barry. This would be our ridding crew for the day. Race the stages stick together for the transitions. Timing chip and number plate collected we got the bikes ready and hit the climb. Slow and steady to start the day it didn’t take long till we got warmed up. The craic was good on the way up. We got to the first singletrack section and were joined by a few others asking if this was stage one. We had a good laugh and said it’s a good 40mins climb to stage one to a shocked reaction. As we crossed the forest drive we met others coming up the road. We told them there was a checkpoint and they said they didn’t know what why to go as they couldn’t see any signs. We kept climbing the single track and looking back could see a steady stream of riders behind us and snaking their way above us on the upper sections. We stopped briefly at Kodak corner for a water stop and to regroup then back on the pedals to ride to the top. It was a bit cooler in the mist and we kept moving to stay warm. Rolling around the trails we joined a small group ready to start the stage.

Stage 1 http://www.vimeo.com/65601088
I took off into the stage very tense and wasn’t flowing. I was putting too much work in and not letting the bike move around beneath me. I think I just got caught up in the moment and was very slow across the board walk sections. I was pushing too hard and could feel I wasn’t quick. I can normally ride that section with a few pedal strokes on the ups. I seemed to be pedaling on the down, on the flats and on the ups. I could tell I wasn’t riding well but pushed on and catching another rider give me a bit of a lift. I pushed hard along the tight forest section and think made up a bit of lost time. Stage 1 done and dusted it was a short transition along the red trail then onto the forest roads again.

Stage 2 http://www.vimeo.com/65600869
This was the black trail starting on a fireroad. There was a tight corner into the single track and a rough rocky section straight after it. In practice I snapped my feet out of the pedals so had this in my mind. Some riders in front missed the turn in and went to the fireroad before turning and rejoining the trail. The marshal went and had a look but said there is no change from when they set it up. I got ready and took off into the stage rounding the corner one foot clipped one out it was a rough ride across the rocks jumping back on the pedals I got the head down for a few wee rocky jumps. Already the bike was feeling heavy and this was only stage two. Hitting rocks I was hopping in practice I was breathing hard and still pushing the pedals too much instead of letting it run. This section had a few fireroad crossings and was by far the most demanding stage. Drops into corners rocks on exits to corners you really had to be on the ball on this one. By the bottom I was hanging together. I was filming the stages on the gopro and you can hear my heart beating in the video. A mixture of adrenaline, nerves and pedaling too much instead of letting it flow. We had a long climb to get to stage 3 and stopping at stage 4 start. We got some bananas and water, the riders who had already completed stage 3 wished us good luck on a grueling climb. We knew what to expect so got the heads down and got on with it. We reached stage 3 after a nice Red grade single track transition.

Stage 3 I forgot to start the camera then nearly crashed twice trying to press play while on the move so give up.

Stage three started terrible as I leaned in to get my time my foot slipped of the pedal after a slow start I picked up the pace. This tight forest section lead out onto an open section. Again I pedaled too much across the top section but on cutting down through the fireroad I got a bit of flow going and had a very fast finish to the stage. Barring the terrible start I think the second half was one of the better feeling stages for me. We took the fire road back over to stage 4 and again stopped for a breather some water and bananas.

Stage 4 http://www.vimeo.com/65597088
I took off from the start into the single track and caught my shoulder on the tree. I kept it up right and the momentum carried me forward I got up on the pedals again and pushed hard. The reverb saddle came in handy as my legs were burning. Reaching the more flowing sections I dropped the saddle got out the seat and pushed hard. Crossing the fireroad I got onto a bit I really enjoy and opened up finishing the stage strong. We regrouped at the end took on some water energy drink and what ever else we had to try and get some life back into our legs. We climbed part of the xc course on the old horse trekking trail. This natural section was a bit energy sapping but as it was the final climb of the day I just go the power down and tore up it. Reaching the fireroad it was head down heavy breathing and a complete slog fest to get up the climb. I past loads of guys walking or riding slow but I just wanted to get it over with so kept it lit to the top. Cutting back on ourselves the last section climbed slightly past the start of the NPS DH trail then the pulse DH2 trail before a last small climb up to Mega Mission DH1 and our Stage 5.
Hitting the tree at the start of stage 4
Stage 5 http://www.vimeo.com/65591161
The chat was that of nervousness, excitement and exhaustion. No one was forming a queue and willingly letting others take the lead. As we got our breath back and the wind picked up it began to get colder. Now was the time the last stage the biggest fun stage but had we all got energy to make it down? Out of the gates and into the steep drop in quickly followed by a left and a right berm. My plan was to ride hard but try and keep my wheels on the ground and keep the pace up. It was going to be easier said than done on a course with some steep drops and fast corners. I had a few moments when the back wheel caught the lip and I thought I was going out the front door. Thankfully my plan worked and I got down the first section. Into the second section and the bit I had already ridden. I opened up a bit here and again nearly got caught out when the bike compressed on the bottom of a few of the table tops. The swear jar would be over flowing by the bottom of this section but anyone would forgive me having just ridden over 3000ft of elevation gain in 20 odd miles. The pace over the stages was far too slow for my liking but sure it was a days craic on the bikes. I crossed the last fireroad cheered on by a couple of mates and dropped into the last section of berms and table tops before crossing the forest drive and through the bumpiest bit of natural forest I had ridden. Burst through the trees to the finish field exhausted but on top of the world. The Enduro format is just like a day out on the trails with the lads. Ripping through the stages and meeting up to discuss what went wrong and what went right. Looking back I can see I tried to pedal too much even on sections I should have been letting the bike do the work. I finished up 25th in the Masters and 55th overall.

The whole weekend was epic on all levels. The event team lead by Glyn O’Brien done a brilliant job. Martin Grimley held a great xc event, Michael & Tina and the rest of the CRC crew had one of the best DH events I think I have ever seen. The course didn’t suit all but the crowds appreciated the tremendous effort by all the riders. The roars that went up as the riders made or didn’t make the rock were great and the banter from the crowd was like that of a world cup event. Finally Finso and Stevied and the PlushMTB crew for a great Challenging Enduro. Thank you to all you guys for making this a weekend to remember. Thanks to all the other marshals and helpers for keeping the race flowing.

Results:  http://elitetiming.co.uk/Results/mtb_06_05_13.pdf

A special mention must go out to Joanne McCallum on completing the hat trick of events. Joanne took her seeding DH run on Sunday morning then completed the xc race. Jumped back on the uplift truck to get her DH race run in which she had half completed when the course was red flagged due to another rider crashing hard. A tired Joanne went back to the top to finish the race run getting down to the finish in one piece. To complete the hat trick she hauled her bike around the Enduro course which most found difficult enough on Fresh legs. Many thought about doing the three events myself included but you done it. Well done Joanne on a brilliant weekends racing.
Joanne McCallum hitting the ROCK on DH2 On the Pulse

The mountain bike scene has never looked better here. There are a lot of people who have worked hard over the years to get it where it is today. People who do it to give us the facilities we all love. These people continue to get rough treatment from people who appear to spend more time behind a keyboard than on a bike. Having an opinion is one thing but slating everything and anything just for the sake of argument is a bit sad. Its time to wise up!

Get out on your bike and ride.