The second round of the Scottish Enduro Series came up rather quickly if you ask me. It seems like only yesterday that we were in Innerleithen slogging it through rain, mud and even a bit of snow. The race was set to be an entirely different affair to round 1. The sun was out and the trails were dry making for some fast and furious racing.
I rocked up to practice late morning on saturday having just had a full service, new cables, brake bleed and and oval chainring fitted to my Cube Stereo 140 Super HPC race 29er by The Bike Shop Scotland. I checked out most of the stages on my own taking steady runs through each one and stopping in certain sections trying some different lines. It was clear that the NoFuss team had chosen some awesome and technically challenging trails.
Race day arrived and I was feeling the nerves. The Elite field was stacked full of ex world cup downhill riders, National champions and EWS regulars; I'd have my work cut out to put in a good result. I did most of the loop with Sam Flockhart, an ex-world cup downhiller and a new talent on the enduro circuit. Expect to see him at the top of the results sheet soon.
Suddenly, I was atop stage 1 ready to drop in. I took a breath, steadied myself and went for it. The start was rough, with a right-left corner section. I nailed most of my lines but, after the first fire-road crossing, I made some mistakes on the tight corners leaving me stalling. I stopped dead twice and nearly crashed at the bottom section but I had made it. Stage 1 in the bag and I was feeling loose. 7th to start and ready for more.
Stage 2 was an entirely different animal. It was flat and uphill for most of the way. A trail centre pedal fest of pain. I paced myself well but felt I could have given it a bit more after I finished the stage. Despite this, I still got 5th on the stage which I was pleased with as it shows my fitness is there. I was only 11 seconds of the winning time on the stage which gave me confidence moving forward.
Stage 3 was mixed between trail centre and a natural section to finish. I rode the trail centre section well, however, I slowed up on the natural section and this cost me valuable time. I ended the stage 6th.
Stage 4 and 5 were effectively downhill tracks and I wanted to try and hang things out a bit more and open up the throttle to try and move up the leader board. I rode stage 4 well; there were two large off camber corners which everyone was struggling with in practice. The line which seemed to be working best was to set up really wide and cut back in, carrying extra speed into the wooded section. I opted for a slightly different approach; instead of going wide, I cut the corner really tight, hugging the tape and carrying my speed into the next section. Slow in, fast out. This was a technique I had spent time on with Dirt School's Rab Wardell during a coaching session earlier in the week and I was stoked to be able to put the techniques into practice.
Stage 5 was a bitter disappointment. After a fairly consistent race, things fell apart on stage 5. I completely missed my lines through the dark and wet wooded sector and made a mess of the whole section. I lost all my momentum and just couldn't make the time back up. A disappointing 11th finish on the stage.
Overall I finished 7th. I have mixed feelings about this, it is another top 10 but I know I could have climbed up a few more positions if I had minimised the mistakes. However, I'm healthy and enjoying my riding and you can't ask for much more than that! I'll keep on pushing to get inside that top 5.
Thanks to CUBE for their support this year, The Bike Shop Scotland for the servicing, HIGH5, Scotoiler, DirtSchool for their guidance and support and NoFuss and all the marshals for a great day out.
Thanks the the awesome Trev Worsey, Ian Linton and Kevin Sloan for the shots.
Next up is the Dunkeld Enduro, see you there!