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.

Race Day

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!