Mixing it up in the valley

September 15, 2017

Bang! – Whyte King and Queen of the Hill – Innerleithen

I have never raced an Enduro before and when the opportunity appeared to race one I was absolutely buzzing. The idea of riding with your mates all weekend in a racing format couldn’t be more appealing! The King & Queen of the Hill is the last of the Triple Crown Tweedlove Series. This year the race was based in Innerleithen. 3 stages up Golfie then 2 proper pedally stages up Inners. Being a ‘local’ I have rode pretty much every trail up Glentress but I have yet to ride all the trails up Innerleithen and ‘The Golfie’ so I was excited to explore the trails on practice day.

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Squashing one of the many big drops on Caddon Bank. (Dialled in UK)

The night before practice was a night of rush to get my bike clean and all my kit ready. 2 tubes, tyres levers, a pump, multitool, chain tool and link, some cable ties and some tape wrapped round my inhaler is what I packed in my bum bag and pockets. That night I did a last minute tyre swap from a Trail Boss to a Vigilante on the rear. Apparently it was really slick on Stage 1 and 2 so I was now running Vigilantes front and rear. I pumped my tyres pretty hard because we decided to go up Inners first and the trails there (Caddon Bank) are puncture hell. Stage 5 was a mixture of wet roots at the top and surprisingly dry, flat out sections at the bottom with an uphill sprint in the middle just to keep things interesting! The start of 4 was very tight and awkward but that changed when it opened out onto Caddon Bank, the fastest trail of the day. 1 was pedally, boggy, sloppy, pedally and flowy in the ruts at the top of New Wolf. Stage 2 was tight and slick, but grippy and fast at the huge bus stops at the bottom. 3 was fast, flat out and annoyingly some of the trees seemed to want fights with my shoulders in practice!

After collecting our timing chips we went and queued up for the 1st wave at 09:25. The climb up to stage 1 was the longest of the day. All the way to the reservoir then even further. At the start gate of 1 I didn’t really feel any nerves. I started the stage pretty much as soon as I got to the top so there wasn’t much time for them. I had a great start in the ruts. I was keeping my speed out the turns and feeling pretty quick. I had a good flat section, only 1 or 2 foot dabs but I felt a bit tense. Coming to the bottom I heard the shouts from crowds and that put me off. I thought, ‘oh let’s speed up to impress them’, and my wheel washed out! It was a comical, slow motion sort of crash. But one that lost me some time. Apart from that stage 1 was sick!

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Finding my flow in the ruts and turns off Stage 1. (Ian Linton)

Stage 2 was Boner top to bottom. It was quite washed out by the time we got there in practice so it was going to be interesting to race. I had a great top section. No mistakes and no dabs but my bottom section was a bit sketchy. I narrowly missed a few trees and that set me up badly for some other bits. The bus stops at the bottom were always going to be great fun, and they were. The slog back up to Stage 3 was grim. The mud was sticky and it clogged your tyres. Thankfully there was a food station half way but unfortunately it only had bananas! I was looking forward to 3, as it was my favourite stage up the Golfie. Community Service, a brilliant fire road sprint and into Final Fling. I was going well for the first few corners of the trail and I carried that on all the way to the bottom of Community Service. My legs surprisingly felt fresh in the sprint along the fire road then I dropped into Final Fling. I was dodging in between trees and narrowly missing them all but I was feeling fast. Then I saw my dad and sister shouting me on and that gave me a good boost. I got to the bottom with a solid run with no mistake. I was stoked.

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Bar humping to make it over the gaps of stage 4. (Dialled in UK)

Now it was time to change sides of the town and spin over to Inners. 4 consisted of Jane’s Lane, a tight and very awkward trail that joined onto Caddon Bank half way down, which was quite the opposite. I was starting to feel my legs hurting now, and when the food station appeared around the next corner I was so happy. Seeing and eating all those cakes was brilliant. I think I ate 7 in total, which in hindsight was probably way too much, but ah well. A track pump awaited us at the top of stage 4. Caddon Bank was known for punctures so 30psi pressures were necessary. I had a poor start to Jane’s Lane in the tight trees, coming to a stand still on multiple occasions. As I came out of the very dark trees the sprint began. Non-stop pedalling apart from in corners and mid air that is. Squashing all the drops and tucking into the bike for those all-important aero gains on the straights. The buzz you get when racing at that speed is brilliant then – BANG – it was one of those crashes that happens so quickly you don’t even know how you did it. My front wheel washed out on one of the easiest parts of the track. I still genuinely don’t know how it happened. I firstly did a quick once over in my mind to check if anything was REALLY hurt, groaned a bit, twisted my bars back in place, groaned a bit more and carried on. According to Strava I was going 43km/h (27mph) when it happened.

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Post crash, disguising the pain with some cheeky devil horns. (Ian Linton)

I got to the bottom of the stage and sat down. Phil Ackerman and Jon Quale, who had looked after me for the weekend and took me round the course, came over. Phil, being a physio, said I would need to go to hospital. I was absolutely gutted. They bandaged me up then my mum drove me to the BGH. After 4 hours of waiting I got my stitches. 5 in the elbow, 2 in the hip and a grazed back. It was the worst way to end the best day of racing ever. When I got home, to my surprise I found out I was sitting 2nd place junior, just 30 seconds behind 1st before my crash. I was and still am really chuffed with that. I learnt a heck of a lot from that weekend and I will never forget it!

Stage 1 – 3rd place +10.80s

Stage 2 – 4th place +17.37s

Stage 3 – 2nd place +4.33s

Stage 4 – 21st place +43.56s

 

Relief! Back on the bike

2 weeks later was the Scottish XC Championships at Glentress Forest. I wasn’t too sure if I would be healed up in time for this race. But thankfully, I was. The course was similar to the GT7 route but quite a bit shorter. My old man was racing an XC race for the first time so on the Saturday I went round the course with him. The lap was around 25 minutes long and my category (the U14s) were due to race 2 laps. My injuries were feeling OK but my confidence was on the low on the descents. My race started at 11:30am the next day. I had a really good start, leading for the first 10 minutes then the beast that is Corran Carrick-Anderson overtook me and pedaled away into the distance. I felt surprisingly good on the downhills and I just kept tapping it out the whole race and I ended up 2nd place U14. I was stoked as it was the second time I had been on my bike after my crash!