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       

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
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
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
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
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.


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.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Davagh Enduro 2013

What a weekend!!!  I am just about catching my breath from what has been a very special weekend.  I normally compete at events but this time I got a taste of it from the organizer seat.  Seat? I haven’t sat down for the last two weeks in preparation for this. Well that’s a lie but that’s a whole different story that I won’t go into.

The event planning was at short notice but coming from a mountain bike back ground I had hoped I knew what would make a good event.  When we got the green light the first thing I did was pick a team that would help me and from their experience with the si timing and outdoor events I got the ball rolling.  Ivan Park was a bit reluctant to say yes because he was in training for a 6 day adventure race in South Africa.  I told him he could take a back seat until the weekend of the event and look after the timing but typical of Ivan got stuck in from the word go.  With any event like this there is more goes on before the day than the actual race day.  As this was the first event like this for us we had to start from scratch with literature, signs, marketing, number plates and even the podium was a last minute build.  Thanks to fellow Mountain biker and Davagh Enduro competitor  Jan Colville for building that for us two days before the event. 

Event plan, Risk assessment and insurance all taken care of I now got down to the route.  Despite this taking place in a trail centre it wasn’t as easy to get a good route as I had initially thought.  We then had a few late changes due to the amount of entries.  The event was now taking every minute of my spare time following up emails and making sure everything was going to be ready on time.  The issue I seemed to face time and again was people had no knowledge or experience of Mountain bike events.  So I was trying to talk them through it while getting my idea across.  It seemed to have worked and things were falling into place nicely.  We were overwhelmed with the entries and it wasn’t long till we had a sold out event.  We had riders from all over the world at our first event and to be able to show case such a great trail centre really was special.

I was receiving emails every day relating to Davagh Enduro but one really got my attention.  Wayne Davidson contacted me asking for advice on the course and if he would be able to compete.  Wayne had lost a leg in an accident and he wanted to know if he could compete.  I discussed the course with Wayne and asked about his general fitness and biking ability. I told him we had a sweeper rider for anyone in difficulty and marshals at both start and ends to each stage.  I left it up to Wayne to decide as this would be his first mountain bike event.   His enthusiasm and character showed just from the emails and I was delighted to hear that he wanted to compete.  To contemplate this was enough for me but to sign up and give it ago just shows the huge drive and determination the man has despite his accident.
Wayne Davidson - "Spirit Of the Enduro"

The week before the event I traveled with my son, Fiancée and some friends to take part in the European Single Speed Championships in Girona Catalunya.  Not an ideal thing the week before a major event but it had been booked and planned before I had even thought about Davagh Enduro.  I even managed to take home a trophy with the help from my fiancée princess Fiona ;-) On our final day my son took ill and we had an eventful flight home.  I then managed to pick up the bug and it was a terrible lead up to the Davagh Enduro weekend.  All of my event signage, number boards, radios, prizes and separate items for goodie bags arrived together.  The house was beginning to look like a warehouse with the amount of things we had.  It was only then I realized the magnitude of this event.   I got a bit of a breather between event planning and the sickness when I done a radio interview for BBC Radio Ulster on the Davagh trails.  It was nice to get out of the house having been house bound all week and extra nice to have the sport in which we loved covered in a popular BBC Radio programme. around 13mins into the programme.

The final few days leading up to the event got very busy.  With the entry list posted we then suddenly got inundated with requests for late entries.  We just couldn’t take on any more riders but with a few cancellations and a reshuffle we were able to take a few more happy riders.  Friday night came and we got up to davagh on a beautiful evening.  The sun was splitting the trees and the car park was packed.  Ivan arrived up and we loaded my van to mark the course.  Thanks to Marga and Mellissa for coming along to help as well.  We marked our course with arrows to help riders distinguish the direction of the course in the trail network.  We also taped any areas to help riders stay on course.  The worst thing when racing is arriving at a junction and not knowing where to go.  With the trails opened to the public on the Saturday we didn’t tie the tape but prepared it so it was ready for race day.  After a few hours of cable tying and taping we headed home late into the evening.  I got onto the laptop and Marga kindly started the goodie bags.  I got very little sleep Friday a mixture of excitement and the sickness kept me awake.  5am and I got up for breakfast and a coffee and headed straight up to Davagh to mark the start finish boards on the course for any riders arriving to practice. I got back to the carpark just in time to meet the guys from Mountain bike NI who had arrived to set up.  While they had there breakfast the piece on BBC Radio’s “Your place and mine” came on.  We stopped to listen and agreed how great it was to have mountain biking covered on local media. 

Saturday was a beautiful day and from early on the carpark was busy.  The area was a hive of activity with Outdoor Concepts taking groups out on trail rides.  NIMBA representative Davey was busy taking groups out on Pre-Arranged member’s ride out which seemed to go on all day.  It was a credit to davy because he seemed to cater for everyone from new comers to old hands.  Davey even had time for some family fun when he went for a spin with his kids.  These are kids to look out for on the Mountain bike scene of the future. They are already taking the junior racing scene by storm.   Chain reaction Cycles had a demo day with people trying out bikes all day.  I spent the day between Davagh and my Parents making sure I had everything covered.  Saturday night came and we got down to the final preparations.  Sign on sheets and number boards ready and the timing chips cleared and checked.  I got the posts and secured the timing boxes to each of them while Ivan printed the rider lists.  We filled the last item into the 150 goodie bags. 

With the time close to 2am we thought we would call it a night or morning…  Just before bed I loaded the van with everything we had.  I couldn’t sleep a wink and every time I checked the time it seemed to have moved only 5 minutes.  Heavy rain and wind battered the window and I thought race day was going to be a wash out.  With the time ticking by and me getting no sleep I turned the alarms off before they sounded and got up.  A light breakfast and final check over the race details we headed up to davagh.  No sunrise this morning only dull skies and rain.  

With the course pre prepped we just had to secure the tape and install the timing stations.  This took over an hour and as we arrived back to the car park we again met Mountain Bike NI guys who had given us the loan of their huge gazebo for the registration area.  The sun started to filter through the clouds and it even had a bit of heat with it.  We set up the area and installed the bike racks.  As the flags, Gazebos and advertising went up the area was looking class.  The first competitors started to arrive along with my team of marshals and helpers.  Great timing with the guys taking over registration I could brief the stage marshals and take a few out on the course to instruct them on their position.  I arrived back to the car park and our medics had arrived.  We issued the medics with the radios and briefed them on the race format.  The place was getting busy and as it was close to briefing time I asked the Marshals to head out to their positions.  Chris from Mountain Bike NI kindly agreed to drive them up to their positions.  The top car park we had some Rocwell water and Bananas. 
Thanks to the guys at Rocwell water and Wilsons fruit and veg Bellaghy for helping us with our pit stop area. I think these proved to be a godsend to some on the second climb of the “widow maker”  

Everyone was in place and I got ready to give the briefing.  I am not great at that kind of thing and with the nerves it made it worse.  Thankfully everyone must have read the instructions email because most seemed to know what I was talking about.   I handed the mic over to Ivan to do the timing system briefing and headed to get a few photos taken with the councillors and some of our European competitors.
Michael Regan and a rider from Lyon, France Niko Grossi
I would be riding the course as 00 rider.  I wouldn’t be timed but acting as a stage opener.  I wanted to make sure the stages were clear and the tape was in place.  No issues on the first stage but on the second stage all the tape had been cut across the fireroad crossings.  When I went to tie the tape together it was clear someone had removed a piece to prevent it being tied again.  I set the tape on the ground and put a rock on the broken ends.  The visual would be enough for riders to see the direction.   Stage 3 had no issues but on stage 4 I had the same issues on the same fireroad crossing.  We found out later who done it apparently they have right off way in the area.  I think that might be one for the improvements log revolving tape so it wouldn’t prohibit him for having to step over it.  A small issue but let’s not let that get in the way of a great event.  I did want to highlight it to show the things Mountain bikers deal with on a regular basis especially when this is a sanctioned area and we had the right to be there.  Stage 5 no issues and as I reached the bottom I jumped off the bike and got ready to greet the riders to the finish of the final stage. 

As the first riders started filtering or rather blasting into the finish I congratulated them and marked them off the rider list.  Ciara McManus of Summit mountain bike was first to arrive and hardly out of breath.  I might have to incorporate a two or three lap elite field next time.  As more and more riders checked out at the end of stage 5 I started to get a sense of how the race went.  Happy but exhausted bodies stopped for a chat.  It was brilliant to hear the positive feedback from everyone.  With some shaking my hand and congratulating me on a great event I really began to feel that the vision I had on a good event had worked and worked well.  The race format let clubs teams and friends ride together racing the stage then teaming up for the link ups.  This was evident with Plush MTB crew having chosen to ride together.  Each taking to the stage and waiting for the next at the finish.  I have to apologize to Stephen Davidson on what appeared to be a temperamental timing chip.  If I hadn’t witnessed it I would have said he was making excuses ;-)  It didn’t seem to spoil his event and he was smiling at the finish, when he finally got his breath back that was.  Although I think it was more from all the cursing at the timing chip than the ridding.  With most of the riders through I got a marshal replacement and rode back to the event tent to get changed.  There was one small rain storm and then the sun came out again to light up a delighted crowd of mountain bikers.  I drove around the course to pick up the marshals and could tell from their stories that we had happy riders.  When we reached the event area the last of the riders had just finished.  We got the final race positions printed and got ready for the prize giving.  Riders stood around enjoying soup and sandwiches prepared by Joan.   Ivan kindly agreed to do the mic duties and I would present the prizes.  With the each class we awarded a medal with 4th place receiving a sufferfest video kindly donated by the guys at sufferfest to help the rider achieve that podium place next time out. As this event was aimed at new comers and riders who hadn’t competed before we decided to do a raffle for the prizes so everyone had a chance to win something.  Tickets were drawn and the banter was good.  I think I even managed to crack a smile myself.

With the event looking like a success it was time for the Spirit of the Davagh Enduro award.   It didn’t take much deciding on whom to award the prize to.   I was honored to present Wayne Davidson his prize.  Wayne has shown that this sport is for anyone his character and determination was evident from the first email but to meet him in person and greet him at the finish was truly awe inspiring.  Wayne finished 56th in his class and 126th overall out of 140 finishers.  Congratulations to Wayne on topping of a truly great weekend.  I could now relax and take in the atmosphere.  After things had died down we started the clean-up.  Ivan took to the trails on the bike and I followed around the fireroad in the van with Marga.  We removed all our signs and tape and the small amount of litter we found. What we did lift looked like it had been there for a while.   So thank you to all for helping us with the leave no trace policy.  As we drove around we could see the trails buzzing with riders the evening sun in the trees and a car park packed with families enjoying a vibrant forest.  One last job to complete and then it was time for home.  We got the results together and uploaded to the results page.  

I am delighted with how the event worked out.  Thank you to all the riders for making this a truly epic event.  Thank you all for the kind words I am pleased everyone has had a great weekend.  There seems to be the same question being asked… when is the next one.   I hope it’s soon and I would love to organize more.  On speaking to some of you the only issue we heard was the position of the finish dibbers and the height they were positioned.  It is good to hear these types of things because I can do something about them next time.

An event like this doesn’t take place without marshals and helpers.  Everyone who helped on the day before and after thank you so much. My Fiancée Marga, Shirley, Jonny Jones, Jonny Wilson, Lisa, My Sister Andi, Derek, Andy Lyle, Jonathon, Stephen and his Mate, My Father Paul, My Mother Mary for Babysitting, Joan for the food, Warren of Industry Images Photography, Alastair and Anna-Louise First Aid Community Rescue Service, Jan Colville the podium maker (Ivan reckons that’s the closest he will ever get to a podium!!  Sssh he didn’t really but it will make for good work time banter) ;)  and finally Ivan Park for agreeing to help me out with the timing and running the event.  Good team work has paid off. 

We have all got to say a huge thanks to Cookstown Council, OutdoorRectreation NI, Broughderg Community group, Local Mountain Bikers, Forestry Service NI, Architrail and anyone else who have helped bring this vision to where it is today.  Davagh forest Trails are now well and truly delivered and permanently on the Mountain bike Map. 

I have thanked our sponsors individually but I would like to thank them again here.  Without them this event wouldn’t have been as successful as it was.  Hopefully everyone can show their appreciation by supporting our sponsors.

Meat at Regan’s
Chain Reaction Cycles
Paradox Omega Oil
The Shepherds Rest Draperstown
The Market INN Draperstown
Diamond Service Station Draperstown
Steelweld Fabrications ltd Cookstown
Rocwell Water
Wilsons Fruit and Veg Bellaghy
Sufferfest Cycle Training videos
Eventsec Security

Photos Courtesy of Industry Images:

The Davagh Enduro Kings and Queens

Full results:

Female Open Class
1st Julie Mc Corry
2nd Joanne McCallum
3rd Eileen Regan

Female Vet
1st Ciara Macmanus Summit Mountain Biking
2nd Liz McLaughlin Not The Sunday Run
3rd Debbie Irvine
4th Molly Stack

Male Junior
1st David Montgomery
2nd Kelan Grant Plush MTB
3rd Gareth Kerr
4th Aymen McGonigle

Male Open
1st Gareth McKee
2nd Lindsay Watson PLUSHmtb/muckyNutz
3rd Andy Godfrey
4th Alastair Beckett

Male Vet
1st Richard Archer ETCC
2nd William Mulligan Banbridge CC
3rd Dale McMullan
4th Philip Harkness

1st Gareth McKee
2nd David Montgomery
3rd Lindsay Watson PLUSHmtb/muckyNutz
4th Andy Godfrey

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Causeway Coast Adventure Race Groomsport

The Causeway Coast Adventure Race Series

Round 3 Groomsport
24th February 2013
Team: 62 Cycles Adventure Racing
Andy Lyle and Mickey Regan
Race Report by: Mickey Regan

It was our first race back after a long lay off. We had planned to do the full series but illness and other things out of our control meant we missed the first two rounds. Heading to Groomsport with no goal or targets we just wanted to filter back into the racing and enjoy.

The weather was perfect for racing. Clear blue skies dry under foot and a nice chill in the air to keep us cool. The race format was slightly different to other races we have done. The race would be a points based race with a 5 hour cut off time (failure to return within the 5 hours meant point deductions) something to think about while out on the course.

We would start in Groomsport harbor with a very short Kayak leg across the bay and back. I think this was the shortest ever kayak leg and I heard no complaints from anyone. We jumped into the boats dibbed and got the heads down to paddle across the bay to the checkpoint. Strong paddling meant we passed 4 boats on the way out passing one more just before the checkpoint. Unfortunately we give them a bit of room and they nipped in front of us to dib before us. Once dibbed we got the head down again for the return leg passing another 3 boats. Out of the boats and it was out onto the first run section.

Google maps orienteering through the village of groomsport.
We had a number of checkpoints to pick up in any order. We had no issues with this fairly simple navigation section. Others seemed to use the out of bounds field to buy a bit of time but we stuck to the course and cleared this section returning to the boat house for a brain teaser. Andy made a lightening start and was filling in answers before I even got looking at the sheet. Once I got my head around it I got a couple of answers clearing all but 3 of the clues. I think we ended up getting 16 correct. On leaving the boat house we ran back to the harbor wall to collect the bikes.

Bike Section
The bike route had a number of mandatory check points and some optional bonus checkpoints. Straight away we went for some of the bonus checkpoints. Two of these where used in the last Bangor race so it was ground we knew fairly well. One of which was at a reservoir with a wooded section. On arriving to the gates Andy said it is just off the road so we left the bikes and headed in on foot. After initially thinking we were at the correct bridge a quick look at the map we realised it was further into the wood. Thankfully we hadn’t wasted too much time. We should really have taken the bikes in and made up a bit of time as other teams had done. Thankfully we weren’t the only team to read the map wrong at this point. There was a large group of teams took a long time searching for the checkpoint at the first bridge loosing a lot of time. We got back onto the bikes and blasted around the course picking up some bonus and the mandatory check points. The 62 Cycles Carbon 29er was the perfect tool for a race like this. Such a light frame we could really hammer along the bike stages. With this in mind we decided to try to get as many bonus checkpoints as we could while on the bike.

At this stage there was a good group bunched together. Faster teams having picked up bonus checkpoints joining slower teams on the mandatory course. Crossing some major roads we climbed up into the leadmines. The lead mines looks like a bit of a maze but to be honest it was pretty straight forward. The chimney was the biggest structure in the mines. So disregarding the zigzagged paths I took the direct route. Straight up the side of the quarry. Again leaving the quarry was as hard as you wanted to make it. I took to higher ground so we could have a look down towards Newtonards. Some people let the trails confuse them but looking at a map and straight lining out was how we done it. Having stopped at the gates for the checkpoint we decided to push further out for an optional checkpoint. We knew this would involved a big climb out the Belfast road but on the bikes is where we believed we could make the best use of our time. We were a bit slower than we hoped along this section but it was extra points. The route made great use of any off road areas and one check point was in a small wood that was really nice to pedal through. Back onto the roads and we followed the maps to the Transition area at Cairnwood.

Foot Orienteering Cairnwood
The foot section had two mandatory check points and three optional. Andy wasn’t in the form for running so we decided to go for the two mandatory and one optional on the way back to transition. We jogged/walked this section and found the checkpoints with a bit of compass and map reading. No issues we arrived back to transition for a special task. We had three horse shoes each and had to throw them at metal poles. Hit the poles for the points simple. More easy points in the bag for us.

Back onto the road the next section was a really nice addition to the course. We followed the ulsterway along a series of tracks and trails through wooded areas and fields. It was really nice to get off the roads and onto the tracks. The bonus checkpoint here seemed to be the most direct route anyway and on terrain like this it would have been rude not to go for it. After picking up the bonus checkpoint there was a really nice single track through a wood leading out onto the crawfordsburn road. Turning left we pedaled hard into the village. A checkpoint that had us run under the railway tracks again seemed to confuse some people as we seen teams ride past the station. Looking at our time we pushed hard to the next transition. This was an optional run. Again looking at how long it would take use to complete this versus the remainder of the course we skipped it all together. Back on the bikes pushing hard to pick up the remaining mandatory checkpoints.

We got to transition and with the time we had we done the special task. This tested team work. We had to walk on planks that we would lift with ropes. Moving our feet together in a left right motion. Walking around a slalom course we done this first go without putting our feet down. Another easy 20 points in the bag.

Looking at the time we had left and the size of the course we decided to cut out the Bangor run. This was an optional run through the streets. The bike sections where our strong point and we thought we had enough time to clear almost the entire bike loop. Pushing hard around the first three check points it became apparent that we wouldn’t have time for the full course as two of the checkpoints where way out of our way. We had said from the start we wanted to finish inside the time. With this in mind we took the ring road around bangor and headed straight for groomsport. We crossed the line on 4 hours 48mins. As we where one of the first teams back we went straight into first place. I expected that position to drop rapidly as more teams arrived. It wasn’t long before we dropped to second and then third. With more and more teams arriving in and dropping below us we started to wonder had our plan worked? I knew good time management could help us do well but didn’t think just as well we had done considering how unfit the pair of us where.

We dropped down one more place into 4th with multiple CCAR series champions Billy and Gerry piping us to a podium finish. We were both delighted with the result our highest race finish yet. Not necessarily our fastest or best race yet but definitely one of our smartest.

We have got the bug back and ready for the next one.

Paul McArthur did an amazing job yet again on the course. Having already planned courses in this area Paul was still able to make this one totally deferent to the previous. The additional bike sections and off road trails really helped make this race. The fact that such a big course was used really meant you had to think. Time management and planning really helped us.

Big thanks as always to the CCAR crew for the great race and pre race banter.

Next race: 23rd March City of Culture Derry

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Davagh Forest Promotional MTB Shoot

Davagh forest is my local forest and probably the forest in which I really started my love of Mountain biking.

The forest is situated in the Sperrin mountains close to Draperstown. For years Mountain bikers helped maintain a network of old walking trails that had fallen into disrepair through lack of maintenance and no use from walkers. As the trails were forgotten mountain bikers created a small series of trails to ride. For years locals campaigned to try and get some help from forestry service to help build trails. For years the forestry service dismissed any notion that they would ever create mountain bike trails.

This would all change with the help of Cookstown Council, Outdoor Recreation NI (Formerly CAAN)local representatives and the NI Mountain Biking Association. Years of talks, planning, let downs, highs and lows finally have paid off in 2012/13. Outdoor Recreation NI created the frame work in which Architrail would design the trail network. Planning permission was agreed, Forestry service would allow Cookstown Council control over the trail network and Local contractors FP McCann would create the trails.

Building work on the trails is into the last few months. The Marketing team from Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland are now finalizing their marketing strategy for Davagh, Castlewellan and Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trail Centers.

I was asked if I would come along to Davagh on a photo shoot. The marketing team needed some Mountain bike photos and I was delighted to help out. We spent the day on the new trails and what a day it turned out. The trail network is fantastic.

Photos by:
The standard of trails in Davagh are on par with anything I have ridden in Scotland. It is a trail that doesn't leave you wanting. Perhaps a bit short at the minute but that leaves room for improvement. This will definitely be a big boost for the local economy.

The trail designers Architrail and FP McCann have done a brilliant job. I will admit I was a bit skeptical when I heard who got the build contract mainly because this was the first time they produced trails like this. It would transpire that I had no need to worry because under the management of Phil Saxena of Architrail and his team they have really pulled it off.  Lets face it unless they brought in build teams from outside NI no one here had the experience. It was great for the economy that the local business got the contract and had the ability to deliver a top class finish. Now they have the experience and the knowledge they can deliver more projects like this if and when funding is available. I am pretty confident you will see a massive boost to the area in this rapidly growing sport/hobby/lifestyle.

I am really looking forward to the trails officially opening.

Well done to all involved and hopefully this is just the beginning.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Snow MTB

Mountain biking in Tollymore Snow