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