Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Rostrevor Mountain Bike Festival 2013

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

 Castlewellan (Pump track and castle backdrop)

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

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

Enduro Race Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get out on your bike and ride.


BigWheels said...

A well written piece, I suppose you needed your XC legs with you for the Enduro. I took part in the XC on the Sunday and spectated on the Monday, an excellent weekend of racing. With any luck the Irish government will see what's just happened last weekend in Rostrevor and stop the wanton destruction of the forests and start creating trails, it's a no brainer, what with the uptake of the sport in all disciplines on this small island.

Paraic said...

Hi Michael, fantastic post! I shared your video footage and a link to your blog on out news site, hope that's ok. You can check it out int he video section of www.knobblytyres.com

If you see someone in Knobbly Tyre's gear at an event soon make sure to come and say hello!

Michael Regan said...

Alfreadp not a problem thanks for the share. Hope your readers enjoy. Will look out for you guys at other events.

Unknown said...

Well Michael, I really enjoyed reading that although I would have to say you did not look too tired horsing your bike up that fireroad climb to the last stage while I struggled pushing mine!

Where to next?, would castlewellan be suitable for an enduro event, it would certainly be a great way to show of the trails as both the Davagh and Rostrevor enduros where such great successes!

Maybe these new trail centers could be incorporated into the irish gravity enduro series or dare I say a new ulster enduro series?, Davagh and Rostrevor where my first 2 enduro events and although they left me totally exhausted, they have gave me an appetite for this type of event and now I just can't wait until the next one!

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