2015 XC Enduro Report by Matt Jones
Many thanks to Matt for allowing us to publish his report of the 2015 XC Enduro - above Matt receiving his trophy.
I first got in to mountain bike racing up in Kielder where the local trail builders ran excellent small scale endurance races with a soup and sandwich included in the entry fee at the obligatory pub visit afterwards. All proceeds went to local charity and trail building activity. It feels like these sorts of races are scarce these days with the growth of xc and the enduro scene regularly seeing £50 a day entry fees that feels a little bit exclusive for what is already a pretty middle class sport. So I was delighted to partake in an absolute cracker of an event in the Forest of Dean with proceeds going to local charities. Don't get me wrong, big sponsored up events are great but it's grass roots racing like this that I think we need to see more of to encourage newbies to give it a go.
...the XC Enduro event offered riders a choice of laps with the max being 4 expected to take the fastest riders around the 3 hour mark of pretty quick trail conditions considering the time of year! The course had a real mix of trails with some long gradual fire road and double track climbs amongst tight steep rooty switchback ascents. On the downs, some classic sections in the forest were included such as 'Elephant Man' whilst a really fun slidey gully called "Bluebell Gully" caught out many a rider to the whoops and bomb hole turns. Equally some flat twisty and rooty traverses in the second third of the course made it a full-on xc race course where you had to focus 100% to keep the momentum and wheels planted. And to finish some steep sharp ups in the woods made cramp a common occurrence in the second half of the course for many riders.
I came in to the race after a hard session the day before to try and build some fatigue over the course of the weekend in training for the World 24hr champs in October in California. I'd entered the 4 lap to get a good few hours in the bank. From the off I felt pretty good, only just off a front group of around 5 riders including none other than Ant White, endurance hero, oh and there was some chap called Liam Killeen in there as well... I tried to bridge the gap but realised pretty quickly I would burn all my matches in the first 20 mins if I did so sat back behind the group about 10 seconds down then disaster, a missed left turn in the singletrack where a lone arrow off the main trail wasn't particularly visible* led to an eventual 10 minute re-routing via some standing around and pondering where it went wrong with about 20 other riders. Frustrating but these things can happen I suppose when you've got your head down through the singletrack.
I was then mixed in with the 2 lappers so was totally unclear how many places I had lost and got held up quite a lot on the tight sections where passing wasn't really an option. I just decided to crack on and hope to claw some people back. I caught up with Chris Thompson who had dispatched me at Bonty 12 earlier in the year and then yo-yoed with Clee Cycles rider Rich so I knew I was going at a reasonable lick. Rich eventually pulled out after 3 laps but I managed to regain a few places overall I think although I couldn't really tell who was doing which race by that point. On the last lap I managed to find myself alone for most of the time but weary that Chris would be digging to catch up so I kept the hammer down. I managed nearly the exact same time for my last two laps which was a good sign of endurance and bar a bit of cramp, got through unscathed. Much to my surprise I managed to cross the line Age Cat winner and a respectable 6th overall. Annoyingly I was lapping faster than the two other riders in front for the entire race but the wayward first lap adventure kept them out of reach.
Liam Killeen toyed with the field before pulling out an expected polishing off of the competitors but local Ant White who was concerned that he hadn't really ridden his bike for a week dug in to his million miles a year bank and came home in second place. Last years winner Jared Linden was third home in the 4 lap. MT Zoom rider Iwona Szmyd cleared up in the ladies 4 lap cat. In the two lap race young guns Stan Pritchard and Alfie Beaty were closely followed by James Dickens to make up the top 3. Full results here via the excellent live timing system on the day. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the cake that greeted the finishers. Definitely the biggest slab of rocky road I have ever had the pleasure of dispatching, top work Lions Clubs! The marshalls were all great and some really got in to it shouting at riders to 'pedal faster' and 'stay on your bike', Rob Warner watch out!
Next up for me is the World 24hr champs across the pond then beer season begins!
- Matt Jones
*Organiser's Note: - our course marker had also strung out a length of tape from the tree trunk behind the arrow and down 2 or 3 meters in the direction of the turn... unfortunately not all users of the forest tracks support mountain biking in the area and sometimes they interfere with event markings and signage.