Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup Rd2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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