What a weekend at Tweedlove Vallelujah. Tradition usually dictates that this early season race is wet, muddy and generally miserable. Despite the torrid conditions of years gone by, it has always been a race where you see rider after rider with a huge smile on their face. However, this year we got a special treat, the sun came out! A wave of high pressure was sweeping across Scotland, turning the TweedValley into the Costa del TweedValley. To coin a popular weather presenter phrase, it was “scorchio”.
The venue chosen this year was Glentress, a popular trails centre nestled right in the heart of the Valley. Glentress was once hailed as the “best trail centre in the UK”, possibly even the world but as time has marched forward, Glentress has not. Many of the trails have suffered as a result of the centre’s own popularity and success and now braking bumps, drainages issues and rough tracks grace much of the forest. So when someone tells you Glentress is not technical or difficult, they are simply wrong. Riding these trails at race pace is a high stakes game. You can generate a much higher average speed on trail centre terrain than you can on natural terrain and if you get it wrong, its not soft mud you’re hitting. It’s a hard, unforgiving, wind-dust / gravel combo which you have to pick out your wounds one pebble at a time.
I was pretty confident to get this one underway as trail centre is usually an area of my riding repertoire which I would consider top notch. However in the days leading up to the race my rear shock gave up the ghost (after a total of 2 weeks ride time) and I was left with no replacement. Thankfully a last minute replacement was found and the guys at Fall Line Cycles got my steed tip top for racing. The new shock was very different so I was not starting things off on the best foot. But my goal was to stay positive and forget about the negative things and focus on the positive things. In terms of race set up, I changed my pedals from my usual Crankbrothers Mallet E's to the smaller Candy pedal for maximum pedalling ability.
The stages were a great mix of physical and technical riding. The course dried out nicely and I had an awesome time out riding with my pals. My plan of attack was to cruise stages 1,3 and 4 and attack on stage 2. Stage 2 was the longest and with its limited gradient, I knew I could potentially go fast. All was going well after stage 1 and I started stage 2 with my strategy of attack firmly in mind. I was riding well and paced things nicely until, “BANG!” a sharp edge caught my rear wheel and I still had a long way to go till the end of the stage, but I’d already completed the majority of it. I threw caution to the wind and tried to ride it out on the rim. I struggled to get the flat tyre moving and it felt like my wheels were made of lead. I finished the stage dejected and thought my race was over. I put my spare tube in the wheel and decided to carry on to finish the race.
In the final 2 stages I pushed hard with my weakened wheel and ended the day in 4th in senior and 6th overall which was ok all things considered. I was pleased to get some good points and despite my mechanical troubles, at least finish the race This race was a great indication of my fitness and I’m pleased that all the work and training I put in over winter with my coach, Phil Mac, is paying off.
There are so many things I’ve yet to get sorted this year but it is great to have a good marker in the sand as to where I’m at and now I can focus my goals more. Big thanks to Fall Line Cycles for the mechanical support, CrankBrothers for allowing me to have great options for pedals and everyone else who helps me along on this journey. Next up is Scottish Enduro Series Rd 2 in April.
Till next time,