ChrisRoberts and his team consistently deliver a well oiled and fun race series that runs from Dec - March over the winter season. It’s run at the Forest of Dean where Pedalabikeaway’s facilities mean there is hot food and drink, a bike wash, bike shop and workshop facilities, as well as plenty of hot water in the loos to wash your hands with which is glorious when it is cold. This was my first full series after getting hooked in Jan 2014. You can read about December’s race in my previous blog entry. Here’s a round-up of the remaining races from 2015.
SHEEPSKULL - JAN 2015
A return to the track that I popped my MiniDH cherry on! I pretty much knew what I was getting into with this one this time. A flattish, but twisty, rooty, pedally section starts you off before crossing the top fire road. It’s then into a more jumpy, flow section before you find yourself faced with the multiple line choices across the roots. After a couple of attempts I nailed the line which drops you onto the middle fireroad. After dropping into the lower section comes the hardest part of the trail on the hardtail; it’s quite rough, but once over that and after clearing an off-camber root is a pedally, slightly uphill section which makes your thighs burn. This leads to a bit of a chute, but watch your aim as you don’t want to catch your bars on the trees either side. Into some jumpy berms and then it was a bit of a surprise to find two new small step downs and a small rock garden (thanks to the trail pixies) before the penultimate berm. Once safely through the bottom berms it’s a sprint to the line including a re-shaped short jumpy section.
|Safely missed the trees - photo credit Martin Beech|
Run 1 got off to an ok start, but crossing the top fireroad I made a mistake and ended up on the wrong side of the track to what I wanted and had to slow a bit to get things back under control. I managed to get lined up and crossed the large root section without a problem. Dropping into the lower section I saw Karen Spray, the rider in front of me, so had a target. I couldn’t rest on my laurels however as I had experienced rider Lindsay Handley behind me and I didn’t want to get caught. I got a little squirrelly on the step downs and rocks but managed to hold it together. I didn’t catch Karen and thankfully Lindsay didn’t catch me! Run 1 saw me in 4th place.
For run 2 I was on a mission to get my lines right. With Emma Braithwaite 5secs ahead in 3rd it was a big ask to even get that time. I crossed the top fireroad and hit my line which set me up much better for the next section. I crossed the roots in one piece then on down into the lower section of the course. Here I put a bigger effort into trying to jump the off camber root and just about pulled it off; the rear wheel caught and slid but I hung on in there. Fortunately, with a bit more speed behind me the small uphill was painful but more doable. I rode the bottom section much better and sprinted as hard as I could to the line. I crossed just about 2secs quicker and was really happy with my run. I was still 4th but super happy with my performance.
CORKSCREW - MARCH 2015
Another track I was already familiar with. It has a super fun jumpy top section (my Cotic BFe loves to get airborne!), before crossing the fireroad and into the gullied, rooty section. During practice I got more and more comfortable on the jumps up top and where last year I was trying to squash them, this year I was giving them my all and feeling more comfortable doing so. First run through the roots was rubbish but as I got used to them again and added more speed it got so much better, as did my lines.
|Top section jumping - Photo Credit Shimma Photography|
Once again during run 1 I had Karen in front of me and Lindsay behind to keep me on my toes. I sprinted off from the top of the table we were starting on and was fairly happy with my top section lines. I crossed over the fireroad and hit the roots, looking ahead I could see Karen just going over the rooty drop, eventually just catching her after the berm but in the gulley. There are not many alternate lines on corkscrew, however right at the bottom I had watched others ride, but not ridden myself, a slightly alternate line choice. I decided to try this but knew I had to flick left slightly before crossing behind Karen to get on this tighter inside line. I managed it and as I rejoined the fireroad we were neck and neck, I just didn’t want to take Karen out! We were both sprinting but I made it over the line first, just. Not far behind was Lindsay who thankfully didn’t catch me! I was in 3rd at this point and 4secs off 2nd so I had my target.
|Roots & Gulley - Photo Credit Craig Hinchliffe|
Run 2 I went much harder on the top section and dropped fairly hard onto the fireroad and across. I let the bike go as much as I could and was really happy with my lines, before the final sprint to the line, just keeping out of the soggy mud off to the left of the fireroad. I felt really good and took a good chunk of time off but not quite enough; I needed a mere 0.66secs more to have taken 2nd!! Super close and exciting racing, but more importantly loads of fun with really good banter between everyone.
|Final gulley to the finish - Photo Credit Josh Stone|
ENDO - MARCH 2015
A complete and utter unknown trail for me. I firstly have to thank Toohula Moomin, along with Ieuan Williams...without whom I’m not entirely sure I would have found the start so easily.
The short top section was a pedally, flip-flop loamy-ish affair; it felt like doing slalom to start with as you had to be quick with the direction changes. After a few wider corners there was a steepish rolldown to the fireroad. You dropped onto it, had to sweep right and then flip left into the next section of the trail. The only problem was the fireroad surface was super loose, and with even more riders riding it ended up becoming more like a sandpit. The next section required a decent amount of attention as it was a multiple-line rooty, switchback section. It took me quite a while to decide my lines and then get them dialled in; this included pulling off what looked like an impossible line due to crossing some roots that dropped away and then not ploughing into a strategically placed tree stump, and this was only the first turn. Most of the other turns weren’t as tough being mostly loamy. The final, and quite rooty turn started you on your highspeed journey heading out of the trees and onto bottom section; jumps, drops and a road gap before the final table top coming into the finish.
Due to a number of the usual girls being away at another event, for run 1 I was last down. Karen was once again in front of me, so I was chasing her. The top section went well, but I probably slowed a little too much on the fireroad. Another taking the first rooty turn well, on the second turn I dropped too low into a loamy part and lost momentum. I got back up to speed and started catching Karen on the very bottom section but didn’t quite have enough to make the catch this time. Based on my mistake I had a mission for run 2 which was to go harder and make sure I didn’t screw up. On the plus side, I was for the first time finding myself sat in the number 1 position. On that basis I knew I would be last down again, so it was quite a surprise to be called first in the category for run 2; no idea why! I knew I had to go hard, but not having someone to chase felt a bit odd. I felt like I did the top section well and maintained some really good speed on the fireroad this time, having taken a slightly different line. I also nailed the corner I had an issue with before. But I got caught again and on the penultimate rooty turn I once again ended up too low and it was much harder to get the speed back this time. I then tried to go as fast as possible on the lower section, railing the berms but my main issue was having to scrub speed for the jumps and drops as I still am not 100% with controlling my bike in the air; something to work on more over the nicer weather. In the end I was about 1sec slower for run 2, however run 1 was enough for me to take the win by 7.5secs.....I was still annoyed though with having made mistakes on both runs; I must return!
|Top step at last! - Photo credit Chris Roberts|
I’ve had such an amazing time racing the MiniDH’s and a massive thank you must go to Chris Roberts and crew. I also know I have come on leaps and bounds since my first foray into miniDH in Jan 2014; I really feel that my time riding out in the Pyrenees with AQR Holidays and being coached by Kate and Ian Potter of AQR Coaching has played a big part in this. Finally, I’m not sure I would have had as much fun if it wasn’t for my awesome XS Cotic BFe, lovingly maintained by my other half Rob, aka Finely Tuned Ride.