Race Report // SES Round 1 // Nevis Range 2014
The analogy “If you juggle too many balls you’ll drop one eventually” is one that is probably quite apt, especially since I can only juggle with three balls… on a good day.
It’s Friday, 3pm and some boxes have just turned up at the door. The boxes contain some of the parts for my new Enduro racing machine and it’s like christmas x 10 opening them all to find the shiny goodness inside. The pleasure is short lived as the bike needs to be finished for practice the following day and unfortunately not everything has arrived. In the confusion of trying to coordinate all the deliveries from all the different sponsors I’ve forgotten one.
I called up Dave at Singletrack bikes to check when the order would be arriving to find out I hadn’t specified a date. Almost everything was there at the shop but I had neglected to tell them that it was needed before the weekend. Long story short and the day was saved by good samaritan James Orr who swung by the shop, swiped up the kit and trucked on to Nevis Range with the plan to meet me in the morning. Weekend saved!
Saturday morning I planned to get the steed built up fast so I could get out there, get used to the bike and learn the trail. Things didn’t quite go to plan and the bike build went well into the afternoon. It was around about 2 o’clock when I finished but the bike looked lush. Really pleased with how it turned out.
I kitted up and headed out for a practice lap with trials legend Gary MacDonald and freshly tanned pinner Ben Miller. The bike felt absolutely mint and I was happy as Larry. Suspension required a few tweaks to get it how I like it but I know I’ve got a beauty. Here’s the lowdown on the stages:
• Stage one – Long, pedal, hard-pack, headwind, berms.
• Stage two – Muddy, technical, rooty, bog, steps-of-death, ruts, rad, 110-degree-turn-to-uphill.
• Stage three – Natural-start, rocks, humps, non-stop-pedal-from-the-fire-road, leg-burner
• Stage four – Uphill-start, watch-out-for-the-fence, flat-out, rumble-strip, berms, skid-through-finish, collapse, smile.
I was feeling good for the race and had the goal of getting on the podium. I knew I’d be strong on the technical stages and the high speed descents, I’d just have to grit the teeth and give it death on the pedals.
Unfortunately due to an oversight on how bad the weather was I was greeted with a bit of a mess when I arrived at the race site. The Sick Skills easy up had imploded upon itself in the high winds. I’d anchored it so well it couldn’t fly away and just caved under the strain. It was a sad moment and not the best start to the day. Didn’t help that my jacket had blown away in the strong winds the evening before without my knowing.
Anyway, enough of the doom and gloom. I lined up on the start gate sans jacket looking fresh yet a bit chilly. I headed out with first group up to stage one where the racing would begin. Now I could put what happened down to being too cold or not used to the new bike but when I set off I overcooked it into one of the first gravelly turns and layed ‘er down right in front of everyone. A quick bow to everyone and I jumped back on and got going again. I took it easy on the corners and flowed the trail posting a decent time despite my little offski.
On the climb up to stage 2 things took a turn for the worse, I dismounted my bike and my 4 year old gravity dropper decided to shoot to full extension and jam itself there. I spent a good 15 minutes pulling the post apart with help from the start marshall who also happened to be the Innerleithen MTB racings main man. Not even with our combined efforts could we get the post to go down. By this time I was shivering with the cold and deciding whether I should continue and probably die on stage two or call it a day. With a moment of clarity I decided , screw it, let’s have some fun. There’s no way I can be competitive with a seat up my arse but I can go for a shred.
With that in mind I trickled my way down stage two with the occasional seat to bum contact to try and throw me out the front door. I pushed down the steps of death and had a quick chat with the marshal then carried on at a decent pace. Turns out I should have just gone for it but we’ll get to that later.
Stage 3 was really good. I loved the natural top section, not quite sure how I did it but i rallied through there at mach 17 with the seat up to shouts from Joe Barnes and Lachlan Blair. Steered my way down to the fire road then gave it death on the pedal. Got a lot to learn with gauging efforts though as I blew up about 200 metres before the finish and crawled my way across the line.
Stage 4 had a bit of a change due to the heavy rain so it started on the puggy line. I rolled up to the start scanned the card and laid down some ponies. After sprinting along the puggy line for 100 metres or so I could see a mass of tape and what looked like a fence in front of me. Not sure what was coming up I just followed the tire marks and tried to swerve my way through the traffic calming measure presented to me. In hindsight I was probably a bit keen to try and hit it at that speed blind but I almost made it through. Small delay as I quickly got shifting again and I pieced my way down to the finish, seat up and all. Had a small issue trying to scan my timing card at the bottom. I know your told not to wave it but when it’s not working you get desperate and start flapping it around all over the place.
When all was said and done I finished up in 18th position which I was quite surprised with to be honest. With stage positions of 17th on the first with a tumble, 32nd on the second with numb hands and a seat up my bum, 9th on the third with just a seat up my bum and 12th on the fourth with a fence hug and a seat still up my bum.
Well I can officially say I have learnt some lessons from the weekend and I am looking forward to rectifying them and getting onto that podium asap. Massive thanks have to go out to all the sponsors that have helped me out this year:
One industries, Santacruz/Jungle, Straitline, Mojo Suspension, Renthal, Works Components, Ti Springs, Nevis Range MTB, Uplift Scotland, Singletrackbikes, Maxxis, Hope and anyone else that’s helped!
Cheers to everyone at NoFuss, Innerleithen MTB Racing and everyone that was involved in running the event.
See you at the next one.