Scottish Enduro Series Final
Well, that's it friends. The 2016 race season is officially over. The final Scottish Enduro Series this weekend at Ae forest marked the end of the year for me and let me tell you, I'm glad. I'm glad to have some time to rest, re-energise and refocus. It's been a long year with racing from early March through till mid October. I've had some great high points but unfortunately a few low points. Bad luck seems to have followed me this year but happily, I have avoided serious injury so I'm thankful for that at least. But we're not here to dwell on the season. I'll write a more in-depth reflective blog about the season later but for now lets take a look back at how the last SES of the year went.
Ae is a venue many in the Scottish mountain bike community are well acquainted with and the usual mix of downhill and trail centre tracks greeted us this weekend. A nice smorgasbord of stages were taped out and all riders, including myself were loving it. Autumn has well and truly set in now and it was a little on the nippy side. Precipitating drizzle punctuated the clouds on practice day, polishing roots and forcing riders to "surf" the mud which now made up the majority of each stage.
This race was the first time I had ridden my new 2017 Kona Process 153DL. After being delayed in its journey from Monaco (snazzy) it arrived, in what was quite possibly the biggest bike box I had ever seen, last friday. I didn't have time to set it up all that well and hopped on and hoped for the best really. But my god, what a flippin bike! For the first time since I was about 6 years old I have a bike which actually fits me! The XL 153 is one of the largest (in terms of reach) production mountain bikes currently available and it suits me down to the ground. Straight out the box with no changes and she ripped! Who says you can't buy a race ready enduro bike straight from a shop?
Race day came and to be honest I wasn't expecting much at all. While I was all hyped up on new bike stoke I hadn't had enough time on the bike to real dial it in to where I was 100% comfortable. With rain coming down, the tracks were set to get more unpredictable than they already were. I made it my goal to just take each stage as it came and that's what I did.
After a quick spin up the fire road with the rest of the elite field, I set off first down stage one. It was almost pitch black by the time I hit the woods and conditions were difficult. I had a few stalls but stayed upright, which was important. Stage one in the bag and onto the next one fast before I froze to death with the rain now soaking my gloves, socks, shoes and everything else I was wearing. Oh the joys of riding in Scotland!
Stage 2 was one for the fit guys. A long fire road pedal in the middle and alot of slow, flat turns in the final 3/4 of the stage. I gave it my best and was pleasantly surprised to finish it in 3rd. Maybe I can pedal after all.
Stage 3 was the biggest surprise and perhaps the highlight of my Scottish Enduro season. The stage consisted of a fast trail centre section which was bumpy and rather undulating, followed by a short and twisty natural section. This was where my momentum came into play. I pedalled hard and carried speed really well through the choppy rocks. The length of my new bike really helped things feel ultra stable at high speed. I ended up winning the stage by 4 seconds! I've never won a SES stage before so I was absolutely delighted.
Unfortunately, winning stage 3 was as good as my race got. I crashed on stages 4 and 5 pretty hard. This had me hemorrhaging time and I ended up 9th in the end. Not bad but not great. Another "steady eddy" result it seems.
With my 9th place I had enough points to jump up to 8th in the overall so close out the season inside the top ten. I am happy with this but I would have liked to have improved my speed somewhat this year. Consistency has been key for me and it has taken the past few seasons to figure that out. Now I am riding consistently quick but I am missing the edge you need to break into the top 5 or the challenge for the podium. I am given a confidence boost from my stage win though and know that I can actually ride at the pace of the leaders.
This winter I have alot of exciting things in the works, including a different approach to training and I can't wait for the season to roll around in 2017, although I'm looking forward to some time off.
Massive thanks to the SES for all the awesome events they put on this year. It is always a great series to get involved in and the organisation is second to none. Thanks also to Kona for sending through the new bike in time and for all their support this year.
Till next time.