May the fourth be with you!
After trashing their trails 18 months ago in persistent October rain, the Dept 26 Enduro in Bude was back on for the fourth year and May the Fourth be with you! Unfortunately with it being a bank holiday weekend and the second round of the PMBA National Enduro series, entry numbers were down to only 35 out of the proposed 50. I think it came as a shock to all of us to get tickets; the event having sold out in minutes last time around.
I was supposed to be on call all weekend but knew that all of my local mountain bike friends would be at this event; a race not to be missed. My amazing colleague, Serena offered to cover me for the day so game on!
With a road trip across the moor just for pre-race banter with all of our Thursday night ride group, we’d pushed it tight for a track walk, only really getting to look at the two technical sections (stage 3 and 5) in Canada Woods, walking down one and up the other. A quick look at the jump line that we all remembered from previous events and the new tabletop was about all we managed before riders briefing.
3rd off the line and just behind Rob, it wasn’t long before the four of us were reunited and riding together with odd sightings of friends here and there.
The first two stages were in Tiscott woods; the first being the most painful pedal that I think I’ve ever done in my life. I honestly thought that I’d prolapsed my right lung into my trachea on the long climb through the gully and thought I’d be sick before I stopped coughing at the bottom! The rest of the fun, flowy, rooty goodness was forgotten because of “that climb!”
Stage two was the jump line. I managed to case the first step up; a jump that I’m sure is well within me, but it meant that I then cased every subsequent jump until hitting the catch berm at the end. The gully that followed found me tank slapping majorly until I ended up sprawled across my top tube with the bike sideways off the trail. It wasn’t a full “off” but it was a full stop that I had to shimmy out of. I found it hard to get going again but managed to just about get to the top of the sharp climb without pedalling against hard gears. A corner then led to a drop into the finish line.
Stage three was in Canada and featured a lot of rooty, off camber, steep corners with a left hand fireroad sprint that came up on me a lot sooner than I anticipated! It was fun but a lot tighter than I remember it from the past three events.
Back to Tiscott for Stage four and there are only three things I remember from this trail. The very daunting tabletop that saw me completely over jump it and land pretty much in the berm the other side (I’m pretty sure there was a bar twist but it was definitely not intentional!), a drop into a loose fire road crossing where I heard my son rattling his cow bell like there was no tomorrow (thanks Ruan!) and two trees painted red that made me panic brake only to find that I sailed through them no problem! But all in all, I remember this being fun!!
However, stage 5, back in Canada was my favourite trail of the day. More off camber roots with techy, steep corners and a nasty tree that caught my finger on the last corner. The only trouble for me was that it was over too soon, unlike Rob who had a full on OTB and had to run uphill to collect his bike.
The final stage was in Tiscott and I remember it from old. There is a very steep pedal midway through the stage that pretty much stops you dead. There were a few roots to contend with there as well but the long trail to the finish is fun and flowy and had me smiling for the finish (mainly because I was knackered!)
Last time we raced this, I was so nervous about the result, and if I’m honest, I still am at most all other enduros. Given my nerves mid week, the feeling of almost serenity at the end of stage 6 was very novel to me. I actually didn’t care where I’d come, I’d had a brilliant day on my bike, riding with my friends and having my husband and kids there to support me (even if Teän, my daughter, wouldn’t watch any of it!) was the icing on the cake. I’d forgotten how much fun the Bude Enduro is and how good that feeling of community we have in the South West is.
Caja is an amazing young rider who has been smoking it for the last two years on the National scene. 18 months ago I was a little quicker on the descents and managed to beat her by a very small margin. Since then she has got mega quick downhill and I never expected to beat her again, ever! Equally, the rest of the female field; Mollie Leverton, Fran Dawson and Evie Hidderley have been getting faster and faster all winter and I really didn’t know how it would end. If I’m honest, I was hoping for second but would not have been surprised if any one of them (or all of them) had beaten me. Mollie had had a very unfortunate incident on Stage one where the tape had been split and not replaced, sending her down onto the fire road and completely off the stage. Judging by her times, she lost three minutes for this mistake, and probably should’ve asked for a rerun.
The top three from each category are called for the podium before the remainder of the results are published online so no-one knows where they’ve come until the very end. Calling the women’s podium last, Evie was called up for third place. To my massive surprise, Caja came in second. Did this mean I’d won it?? I was shaking as milliseconds felt like minutes and still didn’t want to believe that it was me, until…..they called my name! Top spot, the big log and the best trophy I have ever won! Not to mention a huge bag of goodies from Men Makers & Ride It Cycles, Bude. I almost cried, I was that shocked.
As for the rest of the Thursday night lot, Rob got fourth (damn that crash on stage 5), Phil came fifth and Rhys got ninth. I came thirteenth overall! We aced it!
Thank you so much Dept 26 for putting on yet another amazing event; it’s family friendly and epitomises everything that I love about mountain biking in the South West. Please don’t let lower numbers this year put you off doing it again, there’s a lot of us that would give up anything else to come ride your trails and we really appreciate you giving up your time to let us.
Thanks again to Trailmunki for sorting the bike (she is now sweet after much love over the last few weeks!), Flow MTB for my awesome kit and team support and Chris Chew for sorting my fitness out! I think you may have had a lot to do with that success so thanks for all the pain! And lastly I ought to thank my husband. Although I have a reputation to uphold, it really did mean the world to me to have my family there to support me. Whippet pretty much always lets me ride or race when I want to and doesn’t (always) moan when he’s left with the kids, (again!). Sometimes I take his eye rolling as negativity but today I realised that he actually believes I can do this, far more than I could believe it myself. Soppy bit over, I flipping love riding my bike!!Amy Jones