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A weekend racing bikes - Alex rides the Gravity Enduro

   Words by Aaron Scott

   on 29/08/2013 17:40:00

The rather eloquent saying, 'poor preparation leads to poor performance' rang true for me on an uncharacteristically sunny weekend in August as I took part in round 4 of the Fetish Gravity Enduro over at Eastridge.

My intention was to spend Friday night at home relaxing and then set off early the following morning. Unfortunately after a week spent avoiding preparing for the weekend I was up until the early hours of Saturday morning making sure I didn’t forget anything (which I promptly did).

As Saturday dawned bright and sunny, I couldn’t say the same for me as I dragged myself out of bed after what at best could be described as a nap. With a two hour journey and a handful of loo stops ahead I set off withShrewsburyfirmly in my sights – Eastridge trails are a short distance from the town ofShrewsbury.

I’d given myself three hours to complete the two hour journey so enough time to get lost and also stop off for the much needed coffee stop. Telford services is my usual stop for a drink when Cymru bound and as this journey followed a similar path, I found myself sat down with a large Americano waiting for Tim, my companion for this weekends racing.

Time to refuel

Suitably jittery from an overdose of caffeine we hit the road for the final leg of the journey. After spending the bulk of the drive down in sunglasses we arrived at Eastridge Woods with dark clouds looming and the promise of rain not far away.

We collected our timing chips and number boards and then decided to get the gazebo up and our section of the world’s most uneven field marked out before we headed out for practice.

Ready to ride

The format of this Enduro is five timed stages linked together by roughly 25km of trail acting as transition stages. The five stages vary in length from 2-4 minutes and are the only element of the route that goes towards your final time. You are allowed between 20 – 40 minutes to get from the end of one stage to the start of the next which is usually plenty of time and gives you chance for a breather.

Seeding takes place on stage five and is run on the Saturday afternoon, with this in mind we headed off to practice stage five. Your seeding time is added to your overall time and places you next to people with a similar time for race day, so the chance of catching someone on a race run is minimized. A 20 second gap separate riders which means the chance of being caught in seeding is high as a midpack rider could set off just before the series leader and with stage 5 taking less than 2 minutes for the fast guys the pressure is on from the onset.

After a slow run down with plenty of stops to check out some lines we soon came to the conclusion that it could be a great track to ride but a tricky one to race on. There were a number of spots that would be vital to a good time but could also be prime spots for a crash. A couple of full runs down and we headed back to the pits for a brew and to wait for seeding to start.

Cue first forgotten item, after a few runs I’d decided to up the pressure on my rear shock. “Now where did I put that shock pump?” After ten minutes of turning the van upside down I was left to going round the pits looking for someone to borrow a pump from. Unfortunately this was not the end of shock woes for the weekend. With the bike set up and ready to go, we headed off on the 20 minute ride to the start of seeding.

Nobody wants to pay this guy a visit

The usual routine here is that the marshals will have 6 or 7 riders queued up and ready to go but for some reason I heard my number being called whilst I was 20ft away from the start. With less than 20 seconds to go and my helmet unclipped and glasses round my neck, I was a picture of calm as I tried to get myself sorted and ready to ride.

As soon as I hear the beeps or someone counting me down any scrap of talent seems to go out the window today was no different. Blowing turns and missing lines the first 30 seconds of my run were a masterclass in how not to ride. Finally I got into my stride and things started to feel right. Entry points into turns seeming familiar, legs feeling good and then nothing! I’d gone for gold on the entrance into the lower section of the course and tried to gap a section that I’d been eyeing up in practice, this resulted in me going too hot into the next turn and straight into the bushes. Nothing too serious if it hadn’t been a race, in this case I probably spent 10-15 seconds dragging myself out of the bush and getting back up to speed. In a two minute race this is a lifetime and it left me with a rather poor seeding time and a lot of time to make up the next day.

Home for the night

My race started at just after 11am the next day so plenty of time to have breakfast over in the pits and chat to some familiar faces from the previous rounds. Feeling good about the days racing, I grabbed my bike from the van and went for a quick cursory ride to check nothing had decided to spontaneously break during the night. For whatever reason my rear shock decided to give up on me and any attempt to ride my bike was met with what can only be described as the sound of a cat being flogged. Not good, but with less than an hour before my race started I was left with little choice but to ride my bike in it’s current state, flogged cat and all!

The only way is down!

With the racing underway it looked to be going well and as soon as I started a stage the poor shock performance was soon forgotten. Two stages down and I started to feel good, each run I was catching the guy in front of me so despite my poor seeding my times hinted towards top 30 with a chance of maybe getting into the top 20 if I managed to keep it together.

Sadly this was not to be and after a crash in stage three and a mechanical in stage four that left me having to run down the last half of the stage any chance of a good result went out the window.

Forgetting tools, bad weather and crashes are all part of racing and despite the stress it really is a fantastic way to spend a weekend riding. I know I’m not going to be challenging for the top step anytime soon but I’m happy to go and pitch myself against my friends and see how we all stack up against each other. The banter that goes along with this leaves us feeling like we are in our own little race. My guess is that’s the same for most people and whilst I always want to do well, the big draw for me is being able to spend a weekend riding my bike.

Roll on Stage 5!

Oh and don’t forget the shock pump.

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