|Took a AQR hire bike for a spin whilst on holiday|
Cannock Chase - August 2015
After bring pleasantly surprised by the course in 2014, my initial enthusiasm was dumped well and truly on the ground. No additional technical features had been added, and even worse it had been dumbed down by removing the drop that apparently troubled everyone in 2014. I finally discovered that after two weeks riding on 710mm bars, my XC ones were way too small and I struggled all weekend to get used to riding narrow bars again. Zero sprint power in the legs so I once again hung on in there and finished the XC season with a 100% finishing record.
Ae UKGE - August 2015
Having recently returned from two weeks in the Pyrenees I had a new mindset to pursue following my previous two UKGEs; it worked a treat too! The event used a load of the downhill trails however that did mean becoming particularly familiar with the one main fireroad climb. At the top of Stage 1 I felt my suspension seemed to be quite soft until I discovered it was my rear tyre that was soft; I'd left it too late to do anything so rode S1 in mild fear of rolling it off the rim. I had to back off a bit but managed it and the steep muddy chute at the end. After seeing if just more air would be the answer to my problem I eventually had to tube the tyre which I wasn't thrilled about as I knew what was to come. S2 was more an XC affair so that was fine but following was the gnarliest stage. S3 was my favourite; steep, slippery and scary, and whilst I struggled with getting back in the pedals occasionally (did I mention this race also suffered from rain?!), for the first time ever I caught the rider in front. Alas, a slip right at the end and having to run in the last 10m over the line meant I wasn't able to cash in on my catch that time around. Again during S4 I caught the rider, but again I tried too hard and made a silly mistake which cost me time in the end. By S5 my arms were killing me and it was pretty much all I could do to hang on at the end. This race for me made one thing crystal clear; XC was dead, long live enduro/DH!
|On a flat tyre - Photo Credit: Doc Ward|
Dyfi UKGE - September 2015
Yep, you guessed it, more rain! So much so that the initial part of S4 had to be neutralised as it was near impossible to walk, let alone ride. This was a big ol’ loop and as such tactical practice meant missing out practice on S2; I barely made it back in time for seeding! Seeding/S5 was a super fast, fun, off-camber grassy trail with natural drops in it. Fortunately the weather had held off for us a little so at least the grass was relatively grippy....it did then rain more. S2 was the blind stage for myself and a number of others. It was trail centre track so likely to be the least ‘surprising’; that changed about 100m in when cresting a blind rock rise I found myself looking at a particularly painful looking jaggered landing. Fortunately I’d gone off full gas and momentum and looking ahead carried me clear. Part way down S3 I glimpsed the girl in front; this time I remained calm. Hitting the fire road I sprinted to the next section and went in fast and got on the back of her wheel. As there was little passing room I opted to sit on her wheel rather than push it. Eventually the trail flattened off then widened and I passed. Making it down the final steep section I was overjoyed to have finally caught and passed a rider! The same happened on S4, although the rider in front was very unlucky to end up with a massive branch through her wheel which significantly slowed her down getting back on her bike! S5 saw the beginning of more rain, but we all made it down before it really opened up thankfully. I was really pleased to find out I’d also gone faster than seeding. This was my best result all year seeing me finally make it to 8/10 as opposed to bringing up the rear!
|Into the dark woods - Photo Credit: Doc Ward|
Plans for 2016
2016 sees me back to school for the entire year. I can’t commit to a rigid training schedule or to racing (plus if I break myself I would fall too far behind on my course) therefore I’m on a ‘racing break’ (that doesn't mean I won't be riding bikes though). That said, I want to squeeze in a challenge in my ‘summer hols’, it just needs firming up first. Otherwise, 2017 will be when I get back on the MTB circuit where I’ll be looking to take on rounds of the British Enduro Series on board my awesome Cotic Rocket, as well as hopefully some Pearce Cycles DH races (of course I’ll need a new bike for those ;)).
|Rocket power for 2017 - Photo Credit: Jon Edwards|
Whilst I’ve not set any races alight this year, there are a number of people who have continued to support me throughout the year and I owe a debt of gratitude to them: all those who’ve helped me at the various races, either XC bottle feeding duties or enduro practice/racing where I’ve made even more friends; Cotic for the amazing Soda, Soul and BFe hardtails I've been using and for the new Rocket firepower which will hopefully serve me well in future enduros/miniDHs; AQR Coaching's Kate and Ian Potter who have been invaluable as coaches (including for the head), especially during my two weeks at AQR HQ in the Pyrenees; and my long suffering other half Rob Rowe aka Finely Tuned Ride who has always ensured my bikes have been in tip top condition pre race.