Birthday Guilt and Badass Trails
It’s been a pretty full on week leading up to the second round of the South West Kenda Enduro series at Minehead. I’d been feeling guilty ever since I entered as the 7th July is Ruan, my son’s birthday, and this year he was three (old enough to know exactly what’s going on!). In an attempt to alleviate said guilt we’d had five days of cakes and parties and a day trip to Butlins on the Saturday.
Despite the guilt, I was still very much excited to be riding these trails again. They were absolutely epic at the Southern Enduro Champs held here last month and despite a torrential downpour the night before, were still going to be loose, loamy and fast!
As with every event, they were struggling to get marshalls and rumours were rife that only three of the four intended stages were to be raced. Thanks then to all of the marshalls who enabled the race to not only go ahead, but allow us to have four great stages.
As per usual, practice was spent with Rob and Rhys, with a guest appearance from Russell. Richard and Paul started riding with us but I think their climbing ability outshone ours and we lost them after the second climb. I’d tried to channel my inner “Mollie” and put all my positive energy into riding and not stressing about who I was riding against.
Having said that, I’d made a serious error. Usually I follow Rob and Rhys in practice; a loose term as I usually only see them for the first three corners at best. However, due to traffic and a few excursions off track, I was with them the whole way down stage one in both of our practice runs. It meant that going into my race run I had absolutely no idea where I was going!
The top section was a series of very tight flat corners and I felt myself snatching brake all the way through here.
The mid section featured a gap jump that I’d cased many times last year when it was in stage 4 of the Champs. It was probably not the faster line but as there was a jump, it was agreed that we had to jump it! Last year, the marshall present had begged me not to try it again but I was determined not to avoid it. Run one of practice saw us in traffic and too slow to attempt it. On the climb up to stage 2 we witnessed a young Pilgrim Flyer lose his front end and smack the tree next to it with his head. Slightly off putting . (I hope you’re feeling ok mate, it was a hell of a thud!) A second practice run saw me fly over it comfortably but in my race run I cased it. This could only mean one thing (in my head at the time), I was going to slow. I tried to make up for it on the fun bottom section of the track but I couldn’t help but feel I could’ve ridden better.
Stage two was my least favourite (stage 4 of this year’s Champs). There are a lot of tight corners between the trees and a horrible tree stump that I couldn’t work out how to ride around or over comfortably. It seemed to stop me dead every time I attempted it and I just couldn’t find any flow. I knew that there were a few high line options to open out the corners but at one point I was pedalling uphill into the forest and spotted the corner way below me! Not what you want when you’re racing Katie Wakely!
Stage three was my absolute favourite! Lots of loamy, bermed corners, a hip jump (that I actually cleared in my race run) and a road gap! It was stage 5 of the Champs and did not fail to disappoint in either race!
Stage 4 was the last stage and yet again, I didn’t want the race to end. Following much the same path as stage 7 of Champs, and featuring the trademark tight corners through trees, it had a lot of flow, exiting eventually into the start field with a long, bendy descent through the grass. Luckily the finish line was a little way from the finish box as I managed to skid both left and right as I approached the tape at the bottom of the hill, not making the corner at all!
Yet again, this was another brilliant event put on by both the South West Enduro and Southern Enduro teams! Everything seemed to run very smoothly and even the weather obliged! I was absolutely over the moon to come in second between Katie Wakely and Ellie Dewdney and surprised myself entirely with how quick my times were as it felt wrong all day!
Rob excelled himself, coming in third in hardtail (although he was in second for a very long time before the final results came through). It’s a long deserved podium but you’d think he’d look a bit happier about it!
Ruan seemed to very much enjoy his birthday. He got to shout “pedal” at me on three out of the four finishes, and stand with me on the podium (it was his sister that fell of, not him -eek). So thanks to Whip for trailing them up that big hill and keeping them entertained all day. It turned out that he could’ve raced Vets as I was back before their class had set off; swapping the kids over would’ve been easy but he didn’t fancy swapping my sweaty kit!
I must also say thanks to the afore mentioned group of blokes that swallowed their pride, sang Happy Birthday to Ruan and valiantly dived into a bright yellow cake shaped like a dog! Now that’s friendship!!!