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Race Report – South West Kenda Enduro, Haldon Forest – Amy Jones

2019 south west enduro amy jones riding for flow mtb

South West Enduro Starts Off With a Bang!

We have always struggled down in the South West to get a lasting Enduro series. My very first Enduro was at Grogley in 2015 when one of the three part X Fusion series rounds took place there. It was a great event but was to be the last of its kind around here. Our annual “mates race” at Cotton Wood (invitation only!) is the closest we’ve come recently, but as cool as that is, it’s a fun Wednesday evening with your mates for three weeks of the year and nothing is taken too seriously! However, we don’t struggle for local talent, there are just a lot of us who are forced to travel “Up North” to get our Enduro fix.

However, our troubled plight has been resolved! With the help of the hugely organised Southern Enduro crew, the South West Kenda Enduro has arrived to kick off the season!

I’ve never been very enamored with my trips to Haldon Forest Park. There are some great, groomed trails that are amazing for families and beginners or for a long pedal but nothing seemed too exciting. I obviously wasn’t looking in the right places! Among the red and the blue FC arrows, there are some hidden gems; rooty, twisty technical singletrack sections that made up stages one and two.

My head wasn’t in the “fun” zone during practice to fully enjoy their awesomeness but by race time I was grinning from ear to ear even when I “rocking horsed” over the finish line of stage 2 with my chain around my ankle!

Everything was rollable in these sections, but they gave plenty of opportunity to put my recent “pump training” into practice. It helped that two of my friends; Hannah and Wilko were marshaling stage 2. Thanks for the encouragement and the photos dudes!

Stages three and four were over in Cafe Side. A totally confusing name (as my husband found out) as there is no cafe there! Here the trails were steeper and more technical with jumps and drop offs a plenty should you want to commit. There was a steep drop off on stage three with a massive tree root traversing the down slope. Had I looked at it from the fire road below, I probably wouldn’t have ridden off it! However, rolling into it blind was totally the way to get over that fear!

Stage four was by far the most fun stage of the day. It featured two gap jumps and so many drops with flowy berms, off camber root sections and little uphill nips to catch you off guard, just when you’d found your flow. I was gutted to enter the first fireroad after the bumpy, pumpy start section with my chain, yet again, around my ankle! There was no way I could pump through the next section without the aid of my pedals and I eventually gave in, got off and put my chain back on (always in a fumbley, shaky manner as you’re trying to be quick to not ruin your race run entirely!). In my attempt to build speed as fast as I could once I’d got back on, I completely misjudged the line, coming head on with a tree. Off I got again to realign the bike and run up the next short incline before jumping back on and having the most fun on the rest of the stage! I seemed to hit every line right, every drop off with speed and full on enjoyed every section, probably because I knew I’d ruined my day and relaxed into the trail.

On my final push up the hill, head full of disappointment, I caught sight of my friends Mollie and Andrea. It was great to finally see someone to talk to, have a laugh with and brush off that horrible feeling. I was number one off the grid and because I was scared of the rider behind me catching me on the descents (I’d Roots & Rain stalked her prior to the race) I had pedaled off towards the first stage at my usual pace and subsequently lost everyone. I think we had all made mistakes here and there but I was pretty sure mine was a game changer.

As Mollie and Andrea went off to stage 4, I headed back down the hill to watch my mate Rob come down the root drop and catch up with my brother and niece who’d come to watch me. (I totally missed my husband and own children in the doing though! Oops!) Following that and a puncture slowing my return to the event village to a walk, it turned out that I’d kept a lot of people waiting to see how the final podium would look. To my amazement, my chip scanned to reveal that I’d taken the win in my class; just in front of Vicki Maynard who was so nice to me given I’d knocked her off the top spot. I’m so sorry Vicki, you totally deserved that glory but it was so great to stand next to you on that box!

At the end of last Summer, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to continue racing. I felt like I’d probably hit the top of my game. I’d scared myself a bit in Scotland, despite my pleasing result and perhaps from here, it could only go downhill. The Winter Series at Gawton reminded me of how amazing the camaraderie of racing is and I have made some lasting friends because of it (although two of them have since spent the last few months injured so I can’t ride with them!) I have an ace group of guys that I ride with and who never mind me stopping to session stuff or give me pointers/encouragement along the way. Rob, Rhys and Matt were there yesterday; the banter bringing my nervousness back to an acceptable level (even if I have a ‘Red’ personality and use second gear too much!). And thanks to the husband for having the kids whilst I gallivant around the country, I’m sorry you drove all that way to not see me at all!

Without my local bike shop, Trailmunki, I would not have raced at all yesterday. Thanks Alex for your continued, non pressurised support and for essentially rebuilding every aspect of my bike on Friday, even if you did have to use a dremel! I’m glad I missed that bit! Thanks to Rob Drake and Jay Williamson for my “pump training” and to Chris at CC Professional Fitness for helping me get race fit. I will get faster (I hope!). Lastly thanks to Flow MTB for believing in me, accepting me onto the team and for making me part of the family. Here’s to Enduro Season! Good luck everybody!!

And if you’re looking to getting into Enduro racing in the South West, why not try the Kernow Enduro at Mount Edgcumbe next Sunday (24th March 2019)!

Amy Jones

Thanks to our 2019 sponsors DHaRCO clothing, 100% UK, Glower Clothing, FINDRA, MTB Instruction, Corley Cycles.

Photo: BigMacPhotography