Monday, 21 September 2015

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup Rd4

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup
Round 4
20th September 2015

Donard forest park in Newcastle Co. Down played host to the final round of what has been an epic Enduro Series. Donard is somewhere I rode in the past but hadn't been back in recent years.  It was good to get back down riding here again.  Set on the side of Slieve Donard, the park rises up the side of the steep mountain.  The trails here are awesome, steep, loamy and technical.  I got down early to avoid traffic. I had a nice fry in Nikkis at the entrance to the forest park (Breakfast of Athletes)

Stage 1
Sign on and chip on the wrist we rode through scrutineering.  Bikes checked and up the hill to climb to the mast.  At the mast we rode up to the rocky out crop and got set.  We set of down the side of the mast and straight away we were into slippy conditions.  I had changed the front tyre to a WTB warden and was already glad I did.  Steep, off camber, roots, rocks and muck.  Stage 1 is always a nervy one for me.  Trying to get into it without over cooking things.  Feeling the front end grip on tight corners give me a bit of confidence so I picked up the pace.  Still riding very safe I made a few mistakes riding off line or too hot into corners.  Thankfully no big moments just too many small errors.  When the rest of the crew got down it was similar stories.  We had two go OTB (Over the Bars) on the finish line drop.  Best move of the day was for Brendan, mid roll diving for the line to ensure his time finished mid crash.  Thankfully Brendan landed on a soft spot and lived to tell the tale.  We had a long transition around the side of the hill to the quarry following fireroads as we went.

Stage 2
At the trig point on the quarry we got a good view of the start of stage 2.  Jimmy had a big moment in practise here and this had people taking a good look before lining up to start.  A steep start on rocky shale with a tricky section of rocks before rocketing into the forest.  The surface was soft in places but with every corner covered in roots it was a case of using trees or stumps to bounce off to get around corners.  I got caught out on a number of sections following the line of the trail but missing a turn.  The bridge was one of these sections.  I was pre-warned about it but just missed the turn until it was too late.  Another new section to me climbed up into the hill with a series of dips and turns before falling back across to the finish.  A very slow section for me again and any gains I might have made initially was lost along here. We had another long transition to stage 3.  A big climb finishing with a long climb on foot through the trees.

Stage 3
This was a great stage starting with a tricky rocky section.  Followed by tight twisty soft loamy surface.  The corners had grip if you pushed hard into them.   We crossed trough the wall for a flat out open section. Turning into a freshly cut trail which lead us to the first fireroad crossing.  There was a drop off the road into the soft grassy section.  Most were rolling this as there was a slight kink after the drop.  The stage flattened out with a long section that had the legs burning.  Back into the trees and the stage tightened up again.  More sections that lead off the main trail and not looking ahead caught me out a fair few times on this stage again.  The lower section I hadn't ridden so things came up very fast.  I was loose and ragged but thankfully stayed on.  A final bombhole with a corner from hell.  Roots everywhere I hopped straight trying not to turn on the roots.  This then ran me wide and to a stop back onto the pedals and I dived between two trees.  Both bars caught but my momentum carried me through unscathed.  The finish of another spectacular stage.  Back up the climb and across to the mast.  There was lot of climbing in a short area but something I was coping with.  Fresh legs from no Saturday practise probably helped a lot.

Stage 4
Starting from the same point as stage 1 but tracking around the opposite side of the hill.  I had rode some of this stage before so knew it would be a tricky one.  Some very fast steep sections with the dreaded off camber rooted lines.  I started this stage very fast.  On the limit in places but feeling good.  I got crossed up on one section and it took all flow out of my riding.  Trying to get clipped in again then when getting clipped in having to clip out that side for a corner.  I was just getting the pace again when the trail rose up killing all momentum and wrong gear had me ground to a halt almost.  A sketchy section took us across the fireroad into a steep slippy trail.  Very fast but thankfully I knew about a corner at the end of a big straight so I was well slowed for it.  Another stage done and back up the climb for the last walk to stage 5.  On the trek up to stage 5 the atmosphere was great.  Everyone had stories of near misses or crashes.  You could sense everyone was enjoying it but glad to be on the final stage.
Stage 5
The longest stage of the day had a bit of everything.  You could nearly say a perfect enduro stage if you where as Enduro as us.  With a long stage I had planned to take it easy at the start.  After the first few corners the trail started to flow and I was hard on the gas.  A trail like this drives you on and all plans of taking it easy went out the window.  Flat out along the first section through the wall and hard on the pedals for the rush down to the crossing.  I jumped off the fireroad and tried to keep the pace through the next bit.  It was very cut up and rutted.  Catching pedals and clipping in and out like my feet thought I was in River dance.  Rocky drops jumps and small gaps.  If I wasn't dropping off them I was catching a back wheel.  Some sections I had rode fast other days, I was very slow and making mistakes.  Getting tired and the slower pace always seems to make things worse.  There was another couple of moments of bad line choice before dropping back down into the finish area.  Across the line to finish 26th in my class and a top 100 place overall.
I was happy to come away with no major crashes. I had a great day on the bike and the first major race season done and dusted.  It was great riding with the klunkers, meeting new friends along the way and having a laugh. The Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup series in its first year has been Fantastic.  Massive thanks to Glyn, Cato and the mighty team behind them.

All eyes look towards Rostrevor in two weeks time.  Two times world Champion Gee Atherton comes across to try his luck against us ejits.  He is going to need all the luck in the world.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup Rd3

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup
Round 3
05th July 2015

With two rounds down the Vitus FirstTracks enduro cup rolled into Rostrevor. Rostrevor is known for its steep technical terrain. Glyn and his team used the best of this to test us sometimes to our limits. This round really did take it to the next level. 5 stages with three being natural Downhill trails and two trail centre trails. A course that would see us riding 17 miles with just under 4000ft of elevation gain.

Race village was set up in the Mountain bikers car park in the Kilbroney park. Vitus Bikes gazebos housed the Chain Reaction Cycles Mechanics and the sientries timing system. Sign on was quick and with my time already allocated. I was free to get the bike ready and join the rest of my riding crew for the day the klunkers guild.

We rolled out of the car park together with a beep from the start beacon. Heads down for a long drag up the infamous lung buster. Many choose to walk this and save the legs. Worse was to come when we past the Downhill trails. We took a left up into the walking trails that zigzagged up the steep face of slievemartin. Looking across to the red trail I thought it may have been easier riding the long way round. The calves took a stretching on this steep push up track. We walked up through the tree line into a mist covered mountain side joining the red trail. We saddled up for the short transition across the red to the top of Stage 1.

Stage 1 Boulderdash Black trail
After a good warm up getting to stage 1 we started on the mild boulderdash. We had a tough days riding ahead of us. One unlucky rider hadn't even made it to stage 1. Crashing hard on the transition, pulling out with suspected broken collar bone. This stage was trail centre grade surface with off camber open rock sections. Visibility was poor with a low hanging mist and a light drizzle of rain. I took it easy on the first few corners to get the legs working. After a few small rocky drops I got on the pedals. I pushed hard on a trail I knew fairly well. I had one moment on a rocky corner going straight on and loosing some time getting back on the track. With the first section nearly complete, I spotted the familiar figure of Warren McConnaughie of Industry Image photography. I give him a shout and set up for the wee rock drop.
We crossed the fire road and back onto the Black section. This part was hard to get flow going due to the design of the trail. Drops with landings on corners or rocks protruding onto the track. One caught my foot and had me off into the trees at speed. I gathered myself and got moving again, pedalling hard to the finish. We had another steep transition to stage 2.

Stage 2 Yellow water Downhill track
Now the fun really began with this full on track. I hadn't ridden this in practice so it was a case of trying to look well ahead and not make any silly mistakes. We started rolling down the hill and across the ford on yellow water river. There was a slight climb after the river, continuing with a fast descent then hard on the brakes. Turning into yellow water dh track already there was steep drops and roots at every turn. The track isn't overly steep but one you had to be on your game on. A big drop to the side of the track made you want to stay on course. We had multiple line choices over drops, around tree stumps and rocks spread throughout the tree lined trail. We skirted the banks of the river until reaching the finish just above yellow water picnic area. The transition to stage 3 was straight up the steep forest road climb which ran parallel to the track of stage 2. Another tough climb in the legs. As we reached the turn off for stage 3 we shouted words of encouragement to other riders on there way into the yellow water track.

Stage 3 Yellow Water Black
This stage was a return to trail centre grade trail. The first section was fast but tight. No major corners but trying to keep the pace up was hard due to the tight nature of the trees and rocks. The trail climbed slightly before a road crossing and the legs already felt the burn. We travelled across a rough section of rock garden slabs. Then a tight turn joining the red trail for a flat out sprint. I tried to keep the pace high tipping the bars on the slight kinks on the trail. Flicking and turning the bike trying to
dodge the rocks lined along the side. There were a few bum tightened moments when the toe clipped but thankfully it was only a slight brushing. A long transition followed the ulster way back towards Kilbroney. We picked up the horse track used for the cross country race climb and rode this back onto the lung buster. Another tight climb up to the start of stage 4.

Stage 4 Red, NPS, Caravan Return
We started on the red trail centre link up. A flat trail meandering across the forest. The tame nature of this trail soon made way to a steep technical roller coaster ride. I made the mistake of slowing to turn in where I thought the trail went. I then spotted the tape and realised I was on the wrong line and rejoined. I then pushed a bit too hard into the first steep section. Warren was on hand to capture me blasting through this section getting crossed up and having to dab the foot around a tight corner. 
Trying to get going again the bike bounced across roots and rocks. I was finding it hard to get the flow going and the track was ridding me. I was out of control but trying to keep the pace. At the fire road crossings I always tried to ease up to save a silly crash. Not looking ahead I nearly missed the turn back into the trail. With I tight turn I rejoined and dropped into the steep section. Rattling through a series of smoother turns I felt I could get a few pedal strokes in. I seen a gully in front. I had one eye on it and one eye on the tape lined trees I thought I would huck across. It was only on landing and falling away from the trail, I realised the tape had been broken and the trail turned left at that point. I scrambled back up the steep bank and hopped on the bike. Bouncing down the next section I really was all over the place. I heard Wayne calling out for a pound of sausages and had a good laugh still trying to concentrate on were I was going.
I crossed the fire road and as the trail smoothed out into trail centre grade I got on the pedals. This section felt like a tarmac road after the pounding I had taken above. One stage to go and one big climb to get there passing the start of stage 4.

Stage 5 DH3
I had previously ridden part of this so in some way knew what was to come. In racing scenario that all went out the window. A rodeo ride lay ahead on this tight twisty steep track. Over the back of the bike and with only a couple of pedal strokes I was already hurtling through the stage. Clipping the feet and pedals and dabbing the feet on many corners. One section I was bouncing on the back wheel. Every time I tried to get moving I hit a rock or unclipped.
I was still moving though and despite the terrible ridding enjoying the stage. A couple of dismounts and remounts, fire road crossings and crowd lined sections I tried to push on the smoother bottom section. This stage really give me a kicking but hearing the beep of the final stage beacon I sat back and rolled to a stop on the fire road.

The series was always advertised as getting progressively more difficult. This really was a step up but a good step up. I didn't ride well but I enjoyed it and that is my goal in this series. 21st in my category of Masters B and 97th overall.

Donard Forest is the Location for Round 4 entries are still ope:

Photos By Industry Image Photograph:

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.



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!!!!!!