Race Report // 2014 UK Gravity Enduro // Round 1 Ae Forest
Let’s clear one thing up. I’ve read a few race reports from round 1 of the Gravity Enduro stating that it’s a sport for retired downhillers. While this may be true I’d like to let everyone know I have definitely not retired from downhill. Downhill is still my sport of choice, I just love racing and Enduro has a lot of racing.
I rocked up on Saturday morning at Ae Forest to set up my pits and get my Santacruz Tallboy ready for the event. My good friend Chris Hutchens popped round the Sick Skills pits in the morning and we arranged to scoot about the trails together and learn the stages. All the stages were really close to the pits apart from stage 3 which was about an hour away. According to reports in the pits stage 3 was a trail centre pedal fest that you could ride blind so we chose to miss it. I stuck my GoPro on and took some clips for some evening viewing.
After our practice lap we got back to the pits and prepared for the evening seeding run on the fast and rough stage 5. It would dictate what time we raced on Sunday but the time also counted towards our total race time as well. I knew I would loose time on the pedally stages the following day so my plan was to gain as much as possible on the gnarlier more skill orientated stages. With this in mind I stuck some 2.3 maxxis minions on for ultimate grip and speed and headed up for my run.
I may have left the pits a bit late or maybe I was tired after practice and rode up the hill a bit slowly but I JUST made it to the start. Riding up to the start area I could hear the start marshall shouting “FORTY TWO”….. “NUMBER FORTY TWO”…… “Anyone seen 42?” I looked down at my bike to see the number in question zip tied to my handlebars “Shit” “I’m here, when do I start?…. What, now?” I quickly stuck my goggles on , pulled my knee pads up, flipped my fox forks and shock over to trail, lowered my dropper post, clipped one foot in, spun my back wheel and clicked down into fourth then sprinted out the gate. What a warm up. I carried good speed, hit my lines, got scrappy in a few places but made it to the bottom with a fast run.
The commentator didn’t sound too excited so I assumed I had posted a decent time but nothing to shout about. I rode back to my pits and started cleaning everything up in preparation for Sunday. It wasn’t till someone walked past and congratulated me that I realised I had won seeding…. by 7 seconds. Not too shabby. I’d be the last rider off and I’d earnt myself a bit of a cushion for the pedally stages on Sunday, perfect.
Race day was quite relaxed. My start time wasn’t until midday so I had a bit of a lie in then prepared my bike and kit for the day. Here’s the blow by blow stage lowdown:
Stage 1: This was rough trail centre berms and jumps with a natural steep switchback finish. It was short enough that I knew I could beast the top then flow the bottom which I did. No mistakes and I claimed the win by another 7 seconds. Couldn’t believe it, did not expect that to happen.
Stage 2: Al Stock saved me on this stage. Just before he set off he mentioned he was going to run his shock on climb mode (lock out) as it was super pedally with lots of flat turns and no rough stuff. I thought this was a grand idea so I quickly flipped my shock to climb mode then proceeded to give it death on the pedally stage. I had to be smart with my efforts and lay down the power out of the turns. I was really careful to brake hard before the turns and carry as much speed as possible on the exits. Was expecting to be way out the back but I only lost 6 seconds over 3 minutes of sprinting.
Stage 3: Hadn’t ridden this one so made sure to look ahead loads and read the trail as it came. Ran the shock on lock out again and it worked a treat. I had been warned that there were some really steep and short tables on the trail so I was looking out for them. With my height I have plenty of room to absorb these kind of obstacles but I may have misjudged them to the hilarity of the marshal. I performed what is called a reverse pencil to flat on several of the jumps. Had I been on a motorbike you would have heard a lot of panic revving, kind of like this:
The rest of the run went pretty smooth, pedalled where I could but lost 6 seconds to the stage winner. To be expected but annoying.
Stage 4: By this point in the day I was starting to get tired. I struggled my way up to the top of the stage and planned to put in a smooth one. Things were going well, hitting all my lines, staying smooth and carrying speed. I got to the road crossing in the middle and tried to carry some speed into the uphill but I misjudged the grip levels and washed out onto my side. I jumped up and ran to where the track dropped off the road and jumped back on my bike. As I went down the next section I was fumbling about trying to clip my feet back in when I caught a root wrong and got thrown out the front door. I plowed the deck square on with my face, snapping my peak and scratching my goggles. Thank god I was wearing my 661 camber full face! It must have been quite an impact because the chin piece of my helmet smacked my collarbone and my chin strap dug in and bruised my throat. I got back on and made my way to the end of the stage at decent speed. My collarbone was hurting and I had the fear I had broken it. I decided that if I had managed to ride down it must be fine. I was only 10 seconds off the fastest time with two crashes so must have been on a good one.
Stage 5: Final stage of the day and after the mess I had just made of stage 4 I figured times would be really tight for the win. I decided I would turn on the afterburners and go for it. Things were going swimmingly. Held really good speed and nailed my lines but it was the end of the day and my judgement was slightly off. I overcooked it into a tight rooty section and clipped my hand on a tree. This fired me off balance straight towards a rather solid looking pine. I dropped my shoulder tensed up and just rammed the bugger with my left shoulder. I felt my spine crunch as some disks moved but I felt fine so gunned it to the finish. Crossed the line only .2 behind stage winner Al Stock so I was happy with that.
I started clearing all the pits up and packing up my kit while they processed the results. About half an hour later Al Stock came striding up to me, beer in hand and a smirk on his face. He booted me in the leg and said “You won it Cathro”.
On to the next one.