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!
Last weekend I competed in the Tweedlove, G-Form Enjoyro. The event itself was part of the final weekend of Tweedlove which also included the Shimano TweedLove International Enduro, the UK’s biggest Demo Weekend and the Cycle Law Scotland Skinny Tweed. (more…)
G-Form Enjoyro May 4, 2017
G-Form Enjoyro – “for have-a-go enduro riders who might feel slightly intimidated by the perceived commitment, technical difficulty or length of normal enduro races…”
Yep. Sounds like me!
TweeedLove Box Set June 24, 2015
Check out some nice collected TweedLove viewing. Edits by Chris Archer.
Glentress Seven 2015 – video June 22, 2015
What a day. Epic trails, the sweetest descent, a braw crowd and all tat sunshine. Love it!
TweedLove Family Ride video June 21, 2015
Here’s a great edit from Chris Archer from the TweedLove Family Ride. No cars, no hassle, just riding bikes. Perfect!
Great stuff to watch June 16, 2015
Check this lot out!