No Such Thing as a Dry Race September 10, 2018
by TweedLove Team Rider CALUM JOHNSON
The Whyte King & Queen of the Hill was the final race of the 2018 TweedLove Triple Crown Enduro Series and this was going to be the most technical of the lot. Beginning up Caberston Forest for 3 steep and physical stages. Then crossing the valley to Traquair Forest for the final 2 stages of gnar. After a day of practicing in classic Scottish weather the trails were running perfect but I knew that was all about to change as I heard the rain lash down as I fell asleep.
Sat at the top of stage 1, nothing could of prepared us for the colossal amount of mud that awaited us. After dropping in I was immediately taken aback by quite how wet and slippery stage 1 was. The already tricky corners with no support were only made more difficult by the layer of slick mud which had coated the whole trail top to bottom. Stage 2 was a more watered down repeat of stage 1 where the thinner trees and steeper terrain allowed for mud to get washed away only to be replaced with plenty of off camber-roots to keep things interesting. As stage 2 was the longest and most physical stage of the day I conserved my energy and focussed on carrying speed and riding clean, which couldn’t of gone any better until the final corner where an awkward root would catch me out. Stage 3 had previously taken the victory of hardest stage in practice however to my great surprise and relief last nights rain had completely changed the conditions and boosted the grip levels allowing me to let the brakes go slightly and attack the stage.
It was a long transition up to the start of stage 4 at the top of Traquair Forest on the other side of the glen, but that was definitely made a whole lot easier by a good group of boys to ride up with. Stage 4 had definitely snuck the win for hardest stage of the day by combining steep, tight trails with wet clay covering each corner. Unfortunately my front wheel decided it didn’t fancy staying in the rut on one corner and instead took a more direct line straight down the hillside. This resulted in an unwanted tree hug and a very sore shoulder, but that wasn’t going to stop me making it to the top of stage 5. A mix of old and new DH trails wound their way down to Innerleithen. Cautious of the slippy conditions and now very aware of how quickly things could go wrong, I cruised my way down the final stage.
Once I had put my timing chip in I was delighted to have placed 3rdin a packed field and only a second from 2ndposition. 13thplace in the overall was also a great way to end my first year of racing the TweedLove Triple Crown, even taking the junior Triple Crown title as well. A massive thanks to Alpine Bikes for going above and beyond to let me borrow a bike as mine was being nursed back to health after an untimely frame crack. Also big thanks to WTB for maximising the little grip out on the course, VOID Cycling for letting me show off their awesome kit, Whyte Bikes for their constant support and fnally to the TweedLove Crew for putting on a brilliant series and for never being able to do enough for me.
Photos by IAN LINTON
Whyte King & Queen of the Hill – Ben Balfour’s race report August 30, 2018
Chain reactions and lessons learned
Saturday morning started off in Alpine Bikes with me attempting to fix my bike. With it sorted and in tip top condition with a fully stretched chain and bled brakes I set off; at the early time of 12 o’clock. With everyone coming down off the hill looking puzzled at my clean kit I felt it best to pick the pace up. I went through the stages forgetting the last as soon as I got to the next. Lucky for me I had brought my go pro to look over the footage that evening. Not so lucky I forgot to do that!
I was one of the last riders to practice the stages meaning they would be in the same condition for race day – or so I thought until I saw the forecast for the heavy rain that night. I managed to crash at the very end of the last stage with a set of skin gloves on. Apart from that practice was insane fun! I felt so stoked at the end of the day and I was ready to race – or so I thought..
I woke up on Sunday looking forward to riding some fresh trails some of which I’d only ridden once before until I looked out the window at the rain. Today was gonna be spicy. Stage one was down New York New York which had recently had some work done to it. I felt stiff as usual and it has only occurred to me now I should probably do some proper warm ups before my first stage. I felt I put a solid run down apart from wanting to feel a bit looser.
As I lined up for stage two I felt pretty calm trying to remember the course then shortly remembering I hadn’t actually ridden it in practice. Good idea… There was a sprint at the start that was gonna be fun. 3.. 2.. 1.. I put the power down and heard an almighty crunch. Had I run over an adder?
The pedals went slack as I looked down to realise I was missing a chain. Adrenaline and stupidity told me to leave my chain behind. I quickly realised I was going to have to get down this stage somehow. In an attempt to pick up speed I decided to kick off the ground with my foot. Which got me nowhere. The clock was ticking, and frustration was high. I managed to pick up enough speed in the forest to get overtaken by Tom Wilson on a flat section. I knew I’d lost 20 seconds of time now. I managed to stick on his tail on the techy section until I came around a tight corner that I didn’t expect. I managed to get my wheel stuck on the wrong side of the tree which was just what I needed. From that stage I had lost 26 seconds from winning pace which I needed to make up. When I got to the bottom I realised what a good Idea it had been to have left my chain at the top. By this time my chain had been ridden into the mud by about 20 riders and the marshal couldn’t see it.
TweedLove Race teammate Calum Johnson kindly gave me a chain link for my non-existent chain. As I doggy paddled along to the event village I realised this would be the end of my race. I was going to miss my stage times and get a time penalty. On the plus side I think I got everyone I passed going up to stage one pretty stoked on how muddy they were about to get. After kindly getting my chain fixed for free by the guys at the Shimano tent, I had a generous 15 minutes to get to the top of the next stage. I started sprinting up until I realised I would need a motor bike to reach it to the top in time. Now I was riding on my own I had time to reflect and I decided I would carry on riding for the fun of it.
After remembering there was a food station at the bottom of stage three I was pretty keen to get to the bottom. I managed to stay supper loose down jawbone, almost too loose in some sections. I also sampled every cake at the food stall to keep me going for the last two stages. Barts Trail on stage four was pretty scary but I managed to put in a solid run. The final stage was amazing fun especially the new last new corners. Overall I managed to take second; 0.3 seconds off the win with a time penalty of 5 minutes which bumped me down to 8th. Ill probably take from this race that you need to fix your bike before practice day ideally, and check your chain stretch. But that’s racing.
Photo: Ian Linton
IMPORTANT – Help stop the tree disease August 15, 2018
We’ve heard from Forest Enterprise Scotland that the horrible tree disease we’ve all been dreading has reached Innerleithen’s Traquair forest. It likely means that a lot of trees will come down (which may or may not have impact on trails – as yet unclear) but the big thing for now is that we need to stop this going any further – it’s VERY important so PLEASE DO THIS.
- Before coming to the forest, make sure your bike, shoes, kit and dog are all clean.
- You must clean your bike after practice on Saturday, and after racing on Sunday.
- There is a free bike wash at Icycles on both days if you have your number board on your bike. There is also a free bike wash at Glentress Peel car park.
Here’s the word from the folk at Forest Enterprise Scotland:
It’s great to welcome everyone to the Tweed valley and we hope all competitors have a great time riding the trails this weekend. However, we’d like you all to be aware that we are dealing with the P Ramorum tree disease in the Tweed Valley so as a preventative measure please can you clean your bikes before you arrive and before you leave to help prevent the spread of the disease.
What about riders’ clothes?
Yes they should be cleaned as well/will carry the disease also – It’s difficult to expect bikers to clean kit Saturday to Sunday – but as long as they understand that they need to clean their kit before heading to the next destination or arrive with clean kit etc.
What is the disease?
Phytophthora ramorum, orP Ramorum for short, is a disease that affects a number of shrubs and which also kills larch trees.
Larch trees are an important species for timber but also a very common sight in our Scottish landscapes and on the National Forest Estate.. (They’re the ones that make the valley forests glow orange in the autumn. – Ed)
The disease has been present in Scotland for many years and whilst we can’t eliminate the disease entirely, we can slow the rate of its spread by felling the infected trees, and those around them, as quickly as possible.
Because P. Ramorum spores can be spread from tree to tree on footwear, dogs’ paws, tools, equipment and bicycle and other vehicle wheels, we can also help slow the rate of spread by taking a few minutes to ‘Keep it Clean’ and making sure that we don’t bring mud or debris from one forest into another.
If the concern is more about folk leaving here with the germs, is there equal concern about folk coming from elsewhere too?
Yep they should bring clean bikes and clean gear – because if they’ve been riding at Ae for example where there is a big area affected by PR then they come here with a dirty bike there is every chance they will spread the disease.
From zero (riding) to hero – Ben Balfour July 20, 2018
Our third TweedLove Race Team member, Ben Balfour, has spent the best part of the last year off the bike through injury but, with the prospect of taking on the UK’s best at the British Champ’s he managed to get back on the bike and enter the British Champs. With the Whyte King and Queen of the Hill race fast approaching we can’t wait to see if he can back up his success. Now over to Ben for his tale of going from zero time on the bike to smashing the British Champs…
After the best part of a year off my bike due a prolonged wrist injury that had dragged on I was super excited to get back to riding. I wanted to channel this frustration that had built up over this time into my efforts at racing and training. I really had no idea how I was going to do but I wanted to give it my best shot. I first got back on my bike properly three weeks before the race, spending a lot of my spare time riding the Golfie trails. I felt excited to come back to racing but had last minute doubts to whether I was up to it. Had I overdone it and would a long weekend racing put me right back to where I was a year ago?
Practice on Friday and Saturday was amazing fun. The stages were running super quick, and I felt loose on the bike. There was an excited atmosphere and I was looking forward to racing on the trails the next day.
Race day came too quickly with my 6am start and the usual last-minute rush to get all my bike and kit ready. Anticipation built as I cycled along the cycle path early Sunday morning wondering how the day would go.
As I started off down Morning Glory, twenty seconds ahead of team mate Callum, the reality hit. I was RACING! The top few corners felt rusty as I warmed up, and I made a stupid line mistake causing me to hit the next corner very hard and tight almost bottoming out. Losing valuable seconds and feeling my wrists buckle I thought that might have been the end my day. But as I rode out of the corner I felt no lasting pain. There was a small fire road sprint that took it out of me. The rest of the stage felt good. Someone in front of me had a pretty bad crash causing him to have to unfortunately pull out. As I sped out the bottom of the stage one I was already looking forward to getting up to the second stage; Fools Gold.
Stage two and three both felt super good and my wrists were feeling strong but already I could start to feel arm pump at the bottom of stage three. I hadn’t done many full out laps in an age… it was catching up with me! Stage four was down Water World which was the most technical stage of the day. All I wanted to do was stay on my bike because I knew I couldn’t make much time on the steep terrain; but of course, that didn’t happen! I managed to hit a tree with my brake lever crushing my finger between it and the bars. I was all good apart from my finger feeling like it had punched a tree. On the fifth stage I had a shocker and managed to come off the banking of a corner because I came into it too hot. At the bottom of that stage I was sure I had no chance of a podium position. But my goal had only really been to get through a long day. I put that behind me on stage six which was by far my favourite stage of the day! With the tight corners at the bottom running so quickly. Such a good stage to finish on!
When I got my times back I was completely shocked to find out I had won! This reality only really kicked in after I had gone home for a nap and came back for prize giving. Junior British Enduro Champion 2018.It was too good to be true after the disappointment of a full year off my bike.
My prolonged injury downtime forced me to discover new activities. Hill running proved the best substitute for fitness. It took me into new place and, although the adrenalin fix wasn’t there, the bonus was nothing more than trainers for kit, no bike to wash and maintain and a much-reduced laundry load! I now appreciate being able to ride my bike so much more, but I also appreciate the value of cross training. Over doing any one thing makes you more prone to injury. For me I shall keep mixing it up and every bit of hard on your body riding will be quality time.
I really want to thank Neil for believing in me and keeping me on the team, and also Alpine bikes for race support!
Photos: Ian Linton Photography
A day out at the Brits June 19, 2018
British champs on home turf, what could be sweeter. TweedLove, would be hosting the 2018 Whyte British Championships and it would be my first race against the best that Britain has to offer. I was going off early with the rest of the juniors in my category. I was looking forward to my first taste of racing on a bigger stage and buzzing to see how I would fare. It was going to be a long day with 53km of riding and 1600 metres of climbing which lay ahead of us and I couldn’t wait!
The day started with a quick blast along the cycle path to wake up the legs before steeply ascending up through Traquair Forest to stage one; MORNING GLORY. The top section was slick! A narrow trail of rocks and roots with just enough moisture to threaten a slide out when at race pace. After dropping onto the top fireroad a lung-busting sprint led you into the steep stuff. The game plan was to ride smooth and take it easy as it was the first stage, easier said than done. I was glad to reach the bottom with no major mistakes however it was gutting to have passed my friend and competitor Tormid Doherty who had hit the deck and fractured his collar bone into four pieces! Hope you heal up quick and get back riding soon mate.
Straight out of stage one and right back up to the top for FOOLS GOLD. The top section was similar to the last before crossing the fireroad onto a fast straight with fun gap jumps and step downs. I was riding fast, maybe too fast! Just before entering the final descent down the new goldrun turns, I clipped a pedal. Nothing major just enough to pick up my back wheel and send it of to the side. I now had my front wheel on the trail and my back wheel skidding alongside me. I was sliding sideways down the steepest section of the stage straight towards a tempting tree. I didn’t lose too much time but it was annoying to already be behind after only doing a third of the stages.
It was a long transition from the bottom of Traquair forest to the top of the moor up Caberston where SCOTLAND THE PERFECT STAGE awaited us. This was the longest stage of the day taking us from the top of the hill right to the bottom. It was also a very physical stage even though there was not a huge amount of pedalling to be done. A full body work out is an understatement. Unfortunately stage 3 followed the same trend as the 2 previous. Multiple small crashes and mishaps followed me down the trail as I overcooked turns in the tight, steep Golfie corners.
Stage 4; F.E.A.R. also known as my living nightmare. An early crash had sent me out the front door and headfirst down the steep and slippery hillside. By the time I had clambered back up the trail to retrieve my bike I had already been passed by fellow racer Tom Wilson who had started 20 seconds behind me. I attempted to follow Tom as we ventured down the valley towards Walkerburn. But no later than 30 seconds after I had got back on my bike Tom also crashed followed by me ploughing into the back of him causing a tangle of legs, bodies and bikes. When I eventually reached the bottom of stage 4 I knew I had some serious work to be done if I wanted to rectify my mistakes and try to come away from the British Champs with a good result. Unfortunately Tom had reached the end of his race as he had totalled his back brake rendering it useless.
It wasn’t far to climb before we reached the penultimate stage; BORN SLIPPY. An oldschool track that was new to the majority of racers but would be just as challenging as the other stages. A series of loose, rocky corners led you into the steep trees towards the bottom of the hill. Unfortunately it had taken me up to this point to realise that time could be made up by staying on my bike and being smooth. Luckily for this stage I followed those tips and made it to the bottom clean and in control.
After blasting along the cycle past for the second time in the day we climbed up the last ascent of the day towards THERE’S NO OTHER WAY. I had been looking forward to this stage as it was the stage I was most comfortable on and excited to race down. To make things even better there was a new addition of corners to take us from the end of the first trail down to Peebles.
After finishing the day with 2 strong stages I had done just enough to secure 3rdposition in the junior E1 category. Although not my best form all day I am still pleased and proud to say that I’m up with the fastest in the UK in my first year of racing enduro. Congratulations to my TweedLove RT teammate on taking the British championships jersey after being off the bike for the best part of a year! And also to my riding buddy Polly Henderson earning the champs jersey convincingly infront of a world class field and even taking 3rdin the overall. Thanks so much to the whole TweedLove crew for putting together an amazing event and creating a great racing atmosphere. I’d also like to thank Void for keeping me looking good and kitted out, WTB for supplying me with components to help me race my best, alongside Whyte Bikes and Alpine Bikes for all their support.
Pics by Ian Linton
Liz Read – Finding my Gritopia May 17, 2018
Keen gravel rider and friend of TweedLove, Liz Read has been taken out on a preview lap of the Gritopia route and she absolutely loved it! Here’s what she had to say about it:
“I was lucky enough to preview the TweedLove Gritopia route before it’s announcement, and what a route it is!
It provides some absolutely stunning views, as only the Tweed Valley can, along with some rowdy descents which left me wanting more – even the climbing was fun! Honest…
The route starts with a familiar climb up some traditional mountain biking trails – sometimes this climb can feel a bit of a slog, but on the gravel bike things moved much faster, which was great! I also hear there may be a few unexpected surprises here…
Once at the top there’s a fast flowy descent, which left me grinning from ear to ear, what a cracker on the gravel bike, it is fast and long. By now I was starting to get well off the beaten track and after a bit of a breather came another extremely pretty climb, generally a fairly mild gradient, riding past little streams, buzzards, some picturesque ruins and lots of fabulous views. As the kilometres ticked up, I began to feel I was on a proper adventure, far from the usual routes within the valley. Smooth forest road laid the way for a fast descent onto a tarmac section. Gravel bikes come into their own on this type of ride – ticking off the distance without the drag of an MTB.
Now to a different corner of the valley for a bit more climbing to get to the top of the forest, and that’s all the climbing done. There was no time for switching off yet though – fast paths and techy descending here, but all very rideable and SO MUCH FUN…
For a 60km ride this packs a good punch – I can’t believe there is so much to explore out there that I’ve never ridden before…
Grab a ticket for this event, its an absolute belter of a route, guaranteed to put a smile on your face!”
So, as Liz says, get over to http://tweedlove.com/2018-event-info/gritopia-2018, get yourself a ticket, and find your Gritopia on Saturday June 9th.
Race Report: Calum Johnson, Whyte Vallelujah 2018 April 5, 2018
Calum Johnson is the latest signing to the TweedLove race team in 2018. Joining Callum Thornley and Ben Balfour (currently out with an injury), Calum is bringing a wealth of local knowledge and a huge appetite to win. He’s just completed his first TweedLove enduro event at Vallelujah 2018 and has documented his experience of the race below. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings for Calum and the rest of the team!
Pulling on my fresh, new Tweedlove Race Team jersey, I could barely keep my excitement at bay and as I cycled down Peebles high street to the race village I could feel the atmosphere building. The Park Hotel grounds were packed full of brightly coloured race kits and bling bikes. Meeting up with Callum Thornley, my fellow Tweedlove teammate made me even more excited. We were going to have a blast.
The days racing started up Cademuir with ‘The Beast is deid’, an old school techy DH track made twice as hard by a slick of mud coating the trail from top to bottom. I was feeling confident as I sat at the start gate pulling my goggles on. The trail started with a couple of skittery gravel corners before diving into the forest. I took the first stage easy trying to stay smooth and minimise the likelihood of sliding out on a particularly awkward root or sneaky flat corner. I was the first Junior to drop in and took 6th place for the stage in my category.
After attempting to rid my tyres of the remnants of the stage 1 it was time to take on the steepest stage of the day; ‘Dangermouse’. This was and still is one of my favourite trails in the Tweed Valley, so it was fair to say I was buzzing to sink my teeth into it! The stage traverses a rooty banking before, with no warning it dives almost straight down the near vertical hillside. I pushed hard all the way down just teetering on the edge of control, I knew I could make some good time on this stage. I finished this stage in just over 52 seconds putting close to 4 seconds into my nearest competitor, keeping me right in the mix of a very closely contested overall battle.
Stage 3 was ‘Squeeze Me Please Me’… a mantra myself and, I’d imagine most of the field were probably saying to themselves whilst attempting to get down the stage. This would be the final descent of the largely downhill orientated Cademuir stages and one I was definitely dreading. The game plan was simple; stay on the trail and hope I don’t end up wrapped around a tree. After spending just over 2 minutes squeezing my bars through the narrowest of gaps I was glad to be out of the trees. I ended up 2nd on this stage only 6 hundredths of a second behind Tom Wilson who had been right behind me on the last two stages.
After a quick refuel of hot cross buns it was time to head up to Glentress for some physical and fast racing. Stage 4 ‘Fish Supper’, a.k.a. the lung buster was two superb natural trails connected by a flat out, minute long sprint. Coming from a cross-country background I felt that this stage played to my strengths and I was determined to ‘gie it laldy!’. I narrowly took the stage win but by no more than a second or so.
A short climb later and it was time for stage 5 ‘Lowdown Pondlife’, possibly the fastest stage of the day, made up of 4 gnarly black trails finishing down by the ponds. ‘Off the brakes’ was key to this stage as carrying speed through the rough was critical. I was focussed, ready to push hard through the smoother, more flowy top sections before dropping into the steep dark forest for ‘ponduro’; the final section of the stage. By the time I was splashing through the stream at the bottom my arms and legs were burning from the effort. Tom was fast on this stage beating me by nearly 5 seconds. It was going to be tight going into the final stage as I led the junior category by less than a second.
It was a longer transition in comparison to the others as we ascended to ‘Snow Chi Min’ which was easily the longest stage of the day, just in case anybody wasn’t aching already. I started the stage well with conserving energy and staying smooth being at the forefront of my mind, so by the time it came to the long fire road I still had enough left in the tank to get me round. But it wasn’t to be. Just after peeling off the fire road to enter the final descent of the day I hit the deck. Not a big crash but definitely not one I needed when the racing was so tight. To make matters worse a lost chain meant I had to freewheel from then on. Gutted! I Placed 4th on the stage whilst Tom had finished strong and taken first by almost 40 seconds. But fortunately, I had done well enough in the earlier stages of the day to be able to hold onto 2nd place in the junior category. It had been my first ever Tweedlove Enduro and it had been a ball. Some brilliantly close racing between myself and Tom all day, as well as finishing 21st in the days overall timings after 6 brilliant stages.
Huge thanks to all the Tweedlove Events team for putting on an excellent event to kick off the season as well as all marshals and volunteers which help the event run so smoothly.
Race Report: Callum Thornley, Whyte Vallelujah 2018 March 28, 2018
After a cold and snowy winter it was finally time to get back to racing at Tweedlove’s Whyte Vallelujah.
My main focus for this race was to keep rubber side down, after an eventful Dunkeld SES last year! This was also my first race on my new Whyte S-150s. I played in the Galashiels Rugby 7s on the Friday and unfortunately injured my hand. Wasn’t sure if I was going to race until my dad found some carpet underlay and we just taped that to my grip! It seemed to work as my hand was almost painless throughout the weekend.
I was very lucky to get a WTB Vigilante the night before the race to put on the front wheel. On the earlier stages up Cademuir the Vigilante stuck like glue to the gloopy mud then over the river at Glentress it did the exact same in very different conditions. Thanks a lot WTB!
Surprisingly, the weather was looking well good with suns all day Saturday so practice was quality. I went round with team mate Calum Johnson for practice. It was good fun ‘training’ all the stages. The stages were all running prime and I was even looking forward to the fire road sprints. I really noticed the big 29er wheels of the S150 on the upper section of stage 6, Hochi-Min. On the hundreds of roots and braking bumps the bike seemed to glide over them seamlessly.
Jayden Randell joined me and Calum for Race day and we were off at 10:25, first stage at 11:00. I was well nervous before the first stage, worried about crashing or not doing well but I tried to push all the negative thoughts aside and dropped in. It was a solid run but most importantly no crashes so I was chuffed and on to the next one. S2 was so tight in practice, but was actually a really fun stage to race. Trying to manoeuvre my bars through the trees was a fun challenge.
Quick cheese toasty stop then up Janet’s Brae to Stage 3 up Glentress. Stage 3 was a pure gravity stage, barely any pedalling. Probably one of the best stages, in my opinion, out of all the Tweedlove Enduros! Start at Ewok, then Double X, then onto the Bitch followed by Ponduro. Absolutely class. I had a solid stage down here, no mistakes or feet down and buzzing at the bottom! It was pretty awesome how my new Whyte coped so well with different types of riding from the tight, slow and steep stage 2 to the downhill style flat out stage 3. The last stage was a mad one, 8 minutes long and a hefty fire road sprint in the middle. The transition was a big one as well, from the ponds to the top of Hochi-Min was quite the trek. My bike was also proving to climb really well and made climbing these transitions far easier. This stage suited me well and it all came together and I got a pretty much perfect stage, apart from a brief chat with a tree about 20 metres from the finish line. I would have also been 8th overall on that stage which I’m well pleased with!
All in all great weekend and would do it all again in a heart-beat. Stoked about staying on my bike the whole weekend and getting the win in Under 16 E3 category! So glad I got the Whyte S150 as it’s ideal for the UK’s riding and is a superb all rounder bike!
Big thanks as usual to TweedLove, Whyte, WTB and Alpine Bikes for the support!
Rolling with the punches… October 20, 2017
TweedLove Race Team rider Callum Thornley suffers a horrible loss, but heads to Dunkeld to do battle with the steeps.
Less than 2 weeks before the Dunkeld SES, disaster struck – 5 of my family’s bikes were stolen out of our garage, including my cherished Whyte T-130. I was absolutely devastated. It was unlikely I was going to be able to race until, amazingly, Alpine Bikes at Glentress arranged a bike I could use, not only for the race, but a whole week before it as well.
It was a beauty. Whyte G160 RS: 160mm of travel, Eagle 1×12 drivetrain, 27.5 wheels, a sick paint job – it was some bike. I took it up the local trails first and it felt quick. You could really notice the extra travel on the fast downhill type stuff yet somehow it also excelled on the steep techy trails. It turned out to be ideal for the gnar up at Dunkeld.
After crashing out at the Tweedlove/Whyte King and Queen in August I was really determined to actually complete an enduro and I couldn’t have picked a harder one to do that! Dunkeld is known for having some of the gnarliest, steepest trails in Scotland. It didn’t disappoint. Accompanying me for the weekend were the usual boys: Calum Johnson, Jonte Willins, and Russell Brown. We went and got our number boards then set off for practice.
First to the Hermitage side, a pretty short climb then looking at lines on stage 1. It was the Dunkeld middle and lower downhill; it felt like a mini DH. Stage 2 was much more my cup of tea; it was really rooty and muddy, yet still fast. The transition to 3 was ideal, there wasn’t one. 3 was really long. It was a mudfest, really hard to keep your feet on the pedals and with the added uphill sprints in the middle it was a brutal stage. A long lunch followed, then it was time for the other side of the town. Stage 4 was arguably the hardest stage of the weekend, because of all the steep, rooty chutes with washed out turns at the bottom. The climb back up was exactly the same for stages 4, 5, & 6. It was brutally steep as well. Stage 5, “The Rudder” was brilliant, some proper steep berms, flat out fast sections with some drops in the mix as well. Kudos to the builders of 5 and 6 because they are superb trails! Stage 6 was similar to 5 but way more rocky and harder. “The Mast” stage 6, was my favourite stage of the weekend.
After getting our timing chips, then listening to the briefing we set out to stage 1. It was quite a long wait at the top, about 30mins. Long enough to feel the nerves. I had a reasonably good stage 1 but a silly crash near the start meant lost time. At the start of stage two there were 3 possible lines, but we had heard that the taping had changed so after having a look we lined up. The first section before the fire road was rad with no mistakes. Then I got carried away coming in to the start of the next section, and I decked it. When I got to the bottom of stage 2 I realized my finger was pretty swollen. Actually really swollen. It wasn’t too sore but I couldn’t bend it that much and to make matters worse it was my rear-braking finger. I figured it wasn’t broken or dislocated or anything just staved and badly bruised so I just got on with it! Stage 3 was mental, I had a pretty good stage but it was impossible to not make mistakes on that one.
After lunch it was across the river over to stage 4. At the top I told myself just to take it easy. Keep rubber side down. Funnily enough that stage was my best result! Valuable lesson learnt there. The struggle was real now. Getting back up that unbelievably steep hill was some effort and I could feel myself getting pretty tired. Stage 5 was perfect, no mistakes and according to the strava times I would have been right up there, that’s until the most stupid crash I’ve ever had. It was on a fire road crossing, enough said. When I reached the top of the last ascent, the feeling was so good.
Just one stage left and I’m done, and to makes things even better it was the best stage of the day! Same old story really, great top section then fatigue crept in and I lost concentration and had a mini off before the climb near the finish. Somehow my chain was jammed in the cassette and the mech was also in the cassette! The back wheel wasn’t turning. So I had to complete the rest of the stage carrying my bike. Obviously there was more time gone out the window but I’d finished. It was some feeling.
I ended up 10th place Junior, which I’m well, chuffed with. Got 4 years left of being in the category so roll on the next few years!
Finally, massive thank you to Tweedlove for their ongoing support throughout the year, and to Alpine Bikes because without them I wouldn’t have been able to race!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!