Round 2 of the EWS was held in my home town of Peebles in the Scottish Borders. Having ridden the trails in this area for my whole life I knew that the valley would put on a show and treat the worlds best riders to a course that demanded technical ability, fitness and endurance. To make up for the lack of vertical feet we have in our rolling hills, the organisers were determined to make the course a long and challenging one.
Day 1 - Saturday
Day one consisted of 4 stages with 1400m of climbing and 50km distance. This would be the more technically demanding day. I set off from the expo at Peebles at around 9:40am and headed for Innerleithen, a distance of around 6 miles. Our transitions were fairly tight so there could be no messing around. You just had to get your head down and pedal.
I arrived atop of stage 1, a trail I had ridden countless times before. I was confident of putting in a good first stage. I was called to the start. 5...4...3...2...1, Go! I pedalled hard out the start gate and down into the woods. As soon as I dropped in I was faced with a trail very different to the one I was used to riding. Due to the amount of riders practicing throughout the week the trail had been churned up and axle deep ruts were all that was left. I cracked on regardless and caught my 30 second man before we emerged onto the fire road sprint. I put my all into the sprint but peaked too early and found I was struggling to breathe by the time the trail dropped into the forest again. Disaster struck and I misjudged a corner and flew over the bars, I believe I might have been knocked out by landing directly on my head. I woke up to find the fork axle had ripped through my jersey and was attached to me. I pulled it out and tried to finish the stage. I crossed the line. 210th on the first stage of the first day, I thought I had blown my chances. I had fallen at the first hurdle. I told myself to keep going and set a goal of getting back inside the top 100 by the end of sunday.
Stage 2 went much better, despite hitting a tree at the start I was able to ride fast and clean through what was being called the "most technically difficult Enduro World Series trail ever". This didn't phase me as I ride the trail weekly so I knew where to push and where to back off. I got stuck behind my 30 second man and couldn't get past. I still managed to get 80th which I was happy enough with.
Stage 3 was ok by all accounts, I had a small dismount/run and an altercation with another tree which caused an off track excursion. All in I was clawing back some time and beginning to ride to my potential, another top 100 stage result.
Stage 4, the final stage of the day was my best performance of the day. After putting the nightmare of stage 1 behind me I tried to push hard to get some time back. Due to University exams I had not yet ridden this stage fully so I would be riding most of it blind. Basically it was a succession of Innerleithen's best and fastest downhill tracks. I cracked on and was able to ride to the limit in places. I managed a 73rd which was my best EWS stage result ever so I was stoked to finish day 1 on a high.
Day 2 - Sunday
After pulling back time throughout Sunday I wanted to continue and my goal for the day was to ride the whole course clean with no crashes. Day 2 was 4 stages with 1500m climbing and 37km's to cover. This was going to be a tall order with yesterdays miles already in the legs, but I felt good and ready for the day.
Stage 1 started well, I raced clever and conserved energy where I could. The stage was long so I settled into a rhythm early on and ended up with a top 90 result which was a great way to start after yesterday.
Stage 2 was one I was dreading the most, I hadn't ridden it at all and there was a newly built section of trail I had never even ridden. It started on the famous black route trail centre trail and then dropped into the woods. The dirt was perfect, despite not riding it I was reacting well to the trail and reading it as it came. I was pinned and riding within my comfort zone, but still fast. I came across the line 73rd which I was stoked with.
Stage 3 was a bit different, it was short and sweet with a mix of steep and technical trail, I was riding well until my gears packed in just when I needed them most for the sprint. I had to do my best speed tuck and made it down 99th, disappointing but still feeling happy that I had yet to have so much as a bobble all day.
The last stage of the weekend was a long haul all the way from the top of Glentress to the bottom finishing in Peebles. It was a mix of really high speed open track and tight, twisty forest. I started well and was pushing hard in the top rocky corners, but I pushed too hard in one of them and the bike reverberated hard and I was pitched to the front, despite riding the stem for a while I managed to save the crash and kept pushing hard down the stage. I was going really well and riding sections faster than I ever had before until I hit a stump and came to a sudden halt. I picked myself up and crossed the line with a 100th.
My overall result was 106th, ok but not great. I just missed my goal of getting back inside the top 100. Perhaps without my final stage crash I might have achieved it but it wasn't to be. I leant a valuable lesson from the weekend. Not to go too hard out the gate on day 1, stage 1 and end up blowing your chances for a good overall result. This is something I will work on before the final Enduro World Series in Italy.
The weekend was also the first outing for my Kona Process 153. It performed faultlessly all weekend and I am stoked to finally have a big bike to ride on the more difficult enduro courses. As always a huge thanks to the marshals and everyone involved from the EWS and Tweedlove crew. Thank you for putting on such a special event which will leave a lasting legacy in the Valley.
Thank you also to Kona Grassroots for their support this year as well as my other sponsors; Hart's Cyclery, CycleLaw Scotland, SweetProtection, Renthal Cycling Products, HIGH5 Sports nutrition, EVOC, E Thirteen and FiveTen