Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Number Nine, the 2014 National Championships, Innerleithen....

Photo copyright of Kenny Muir

Tom's in the crib!

After Angie's World Enduro Series/Tweed Love trip it was my turn to hit up Innerleithen, this time for the 2014 National Championships, yep, the biggest domestic race of the year!

Headed up there on the Thursday night to get some proper practise in, many other riders had the same idea. Friday came and I had a thorough look at the course and then worked at getting my FTW's suspension dialled in, tyre wise I opted for my Michelin Wild Grip R's, as they seem to handle this type of mixed terrain really well with no compromises in the tight tree-lined technical sections.  Preparation over with, it was time to settle and wait for practise to start the next day.

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

The weather on Saturday took as turn for the worse, waking up to mist which then turned into rain and that was pretty much the story for the rest of the day and on into the night!  On the plus side it made the course nicely tacky and despite some highly polished roots making lines as sketchy as hell there was a fair bit of extra grip to be had under the greasy top sides. My trick was to stay light on the bike and keep the flow down the hillside. I had a few slips and slides earlier on but started to get lay of the track quite quickly, my confidence grew and the FTW was soon railing it.

Sunday came along and the track had dried up nicely, the sun was blazing and all things were right in the world!  My seeding was going so insanely fast up until the point where I caught the rider in front who wouldn't let me pass, I was screaming blue murder to make him move but he stayed in front of me and slowed me right down this dropped me to 13th place, I was gutted with that.  No time to rest on my laurels here though as I was soon back at the top ready for my race run. The plan was to just hit the whole course head on.  

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

Out of the gate and straight into the first tree lined technical section was great, the FTW was swallowing it all up. Across the two roads and into the tighter rutted sections I was a little cautious and made a couple of mistakes.  Coming into the bottom of the course I totally railed the singletrack and the following root fest, through the bombhole and down the sweeping turns towards the finish line.  I crossed the line in 9th place which I guess was good considering the mistakes I made up top, but I was gutted to not get the National Champion stripes.  Next time!

Overall it was a great weekend, Mike Marsden and his crew always pull a good event out of the hat, had a lot of laughs and got to ride the one of the best tracks in the country with my mates. 

Life's good on the road!

Healing vibes going out to my fellow team-mate Nick who had to reluctantly sit this year's event out 'cos of his wrist injury recovery, hurry up and get better we got trails to ride lad!


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Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Wolftrax bares its teeth.... the Laggan Scottish Enduro Report

Photo copyright of Trevor Worsey

The Seagull has landed, had the small issue of a pesky wedding getting in the way of this race report! Only kidding, for those not in the know I have just tied the knot with the love of my life and fellow Development team rider Angie Foster (nee Coates) and I am typing this up on a road trip through the French Alps which is part of our three-week bike fuelled honeymoon around Europe but more of this on another blog further down the line.

Now let me take you back to Laggan.....

Laggan is nestled inside the Cairngorms National Park, a hidden away but no less picturesque mountainous area of the Scottish Highlands. Having said that, don't let the beautiful panoramic landscapes here deceive you, the No Fuss Events team had pulled it out of the bag with a great technical series of enduro stages combining the trail centre and various black graded routes which contained some of the most gnarly off-camber I've ridden this season, nothing that my Orange Five can't handle mind you. It was quite simply awesome, no two ways about it, every round of the Scottish Enduro has been challenging with their spot-on mix of tracks.  The format for this weekend was a day of practise on the Saturday with full-bore racing across five stages on the Sunday.

Stage 1 was a wickedly, and dare I say evil, well thought through course of pure pedal power which separated the men from the boys, it was being ridden blind and it soon became apparent as to why! I took about 11 minutes along this section, despite it initially railing across technical rock gardens, it moved into technical climbs with deep loam, it was eleven minutes of pure sweat and lactic acid build up! I was swearing at myself, swearing at the course, swearing at my legs but still loved it, it was bloody hard going but I just clicked and got the pedalling down. I've praised my tyres in previous blog reports but honestly they ripped the trail up along here, I'm running Michelin's awesome Wild Rock R2's and really can't fault them, that loam was no match for my 27.5 wheeled beast!

Stage 2 was awesome, the Laggan Black Route, it was a fast and flowing granite city strewn with big rocks to catch out the unwary, my suspension got a full work out down here and I was laughing all the way, this is my kind of riding, absolutely LOVED IT! My Orange Five handled this section with aplomb, it completely came into its own, can we have more of this type of trail please?

Stages 3 and 4 leaned more towards root fests, the best way through was to keep your flow and bounce along taking care on the off-camber sections. I overtook a fair few riders who had over cooked things on the steep sections here, Laggan claimed many victims over the weekend including myself.

Finally Stage 5 was full-on trail centre gravity lead rumble, big berms and jumps in contrast to the previous stages it was now time to just get on it and rail hard. I'd say Stages 3 and 4 were my favourites of the day, both were really steep and very dusty! I crashed near the end of Stage 3 and missed a few of my lines on Stage 4 which pushed me down the standings. Once everything was tallied up I was in 13th place though which I was happy with considering, it was a great weekend and I tip my hat to No Fuss guys, this is part of racing at its best.

After getting back from our Euro jaunt the next race will be the Tour de Ben, a highlight event of our year and I'm looking forward racing that monster. As you may have noticed Angie was sadly absent from this round of the Scottish Enduro as she was away on a work trip in Europe at the time.

See you all on the next mountainside,


Friday, 4 July 2014

An Act of Survival, the British Downhill Series hits Llangollen......

Photo copyright of Laurence Crossman-Emms

Where Cromwell’s followers threw down the Pillar of Eliseg riders converged to throw down their gauntlets on one of the steepest downhill courses in Europe.  Spoken by many of the seasoned pros as being steeper and more technical than the World Cup course in Champery, the plethora of photography and action videos that soon followed were simply not doing this venue any justice, you had to be a participant. 

Come the end of the first practise day several riders had given up, packed away their belongings and headed home, defeated before even the racing got under way, I was not one of them, this was my debut race for The Development Racing Team and I was armed with my new FTW Industries bike, Si Paton had set the ultimate challenge simply to survive and I aimed to!

The whole course was unbelievably steep, the top wooded section was a full-on technical onslaught where even the pros were being cautious.  I took it easy on my first few runs, getting to grips with not just the course but my new bike’s characteristics, needless to say it was railing. 

Photo copyright of Sarah Barrett

The weather on Saturday wasn’t too good with torrential downpours, however the track dried out pretty damn quickly due to it’s gradient.  No real hard spills on Saturday, sure I had a few offs as did most but no damage, all in I was feeling good. 

Come Sunday the weather had changed for the better, it was kinda crazy how much the track had changed though, the rain the previous day had helped smooth some parts out somewhat in other sections it had exposed some nice big greasy roots to separate the men from the boys! 

Mr Sunshine soon popped out and the seeding got under way, I was feeling confident, hit all my lines and crossed the line in second place.

Seeding Results

I was elated with that, once back at the pits I grabbed my BMX and chilled out with my mates for a bit. 

Soon I was back in the start gate ready for my race run, after that beep I hit the top section hard suddenly realising how much the course had changed from earlier in the day, it was crazy!  Spectators were congregating where the biggest spills were happening and I didn’t let them down taking a few tumbles, gutted!  But hey, at least I got cheered!  Once out of the woods I absolutely railed the lower open sections, that bike of mine is a beast!  Crossed the line in 11th place and I’m very happy with that considering.

Photo copyright of Isac Paddick

It was a fantastic weekend, some good laughs with my mates and my hat is off to Si Paton for putting this course together, it’s certainly proved controversial.  Next up is the National Championships at Innerleithen, see you all there.


Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Brutal Planet.... Enduro World Series/Tweedlove, Innerleithen, 31st May - 1st June

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

"That was probably one of the toughest weekend’s racing of my life. I’ve never dug so deep and had so many words with myself. Eight awesome stages, 94 km and 2,900 metres of climbing. Pretty happy to place 28th against the world’s fastest riders."
- Angie Coates, Enduro World Series, Innerleithen.

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

For me this race will go down as one of the most exhilarating and soul destroying, yet in the same breath, also one of the most amazingly fun weekends of my life.  I almost didn't end up going after having my driving licence revoked the day before but shit happens and I just worked around it.  Steve being ill didn't help matters much and I'd been super busy at work, if I am honest just didn't feel like racing my bike, especially competing against the world's best. 

I motivated myself with the fact that I would get to see my friends for four days of pandemonium and throw my Orange Five about with aplomb, couldn't say "no" then really could I?!  

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

After heading up on the Thursday morning, I met up with Helen and Sarah and we got the wheels rolling straight away.  The race was a two-day format with day one taking us from Peebles along to the infamous golf course finishing on the Innerleithen side before spinning back to Peebles. Day Two was at Glentress equally as intense. 

The Weapons; Sarah Newman, Helen Gaskell, Angie Coates & Bex Barona

Our medicine show was soon on the road and we headed to the golf course for some practice, the tracks were sick, steep twisty turns littered with roots and rock, the transitions were tiring, draggy fire road. We finished Thursday on Stage 4 across on the Innerleithen side and that was me done. On Friday we all decided to take it easy, Glentress wasn't as technical so I opted to race those blind on the Sunday in order to get a bit of practice at Inners on Stage 3.  This stage put the biggest smile on my face ever, it was on 'Pro Spacer' which is one of my most favourite tracks ever, the steep turns brought the old full on downhill lass out in me, I could ride that track every day for breakfast. So.Much.Fun!

Waiting at the top of Stage 4 with my amazing Michelin Wild Rock R2 tyres all set for the assault...

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

After an evening of relaxing and preparing on Friday evening I was race ready, the girls were first off at 8.15am (How early? Yes, I know, that's what I said!).  A 12km spin along the Tweed Valley to Inners and then up towards the golf course tracks, we only had 1.5 hours to get to the top of the hill for Stage 1 from Peebles so I channelled my inner Linda Carter!  It was hard to gauge how much time we had, for me the stages were pretty tight over the whole weekend, but this is as they should be really, it was achievable and not impossible. 

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

Photo copyright of Liam Moss

My first two stages were utter crap, I just wasn't in the zone and maybe still asleep. Bex was behind me and we ended up overtaking each other at different places laughing as we went. It made it really fun but not great for times and positions obviously.  Soon we were off over to Inners and Stage 3 which cheered me right up, my Five felt absolutely amazing down there, just like a mini DH bike.  I held it together and kept it clean, the same with Stage 4 really although I over-cooked the brakes here so popped to see Tim Flooks once I got back down who sorted them out. 

One Orange Five, fully primed and ready to rock....

Once done dunked my big ass in the River Tweed to cool off!!! Phew!!  That night Steve came up to support me with the Bo dog, happy days!!  Still a poorly mite though.

Day two; we had just one hour to get to the top of the Black Route at Glentress next to the mast! I made it with just 45 seconds to spare, wiped my goggles and hit the trail blind. Wiped out some tape after missing a turn but it was an awesome trail, in fact every stage at Glentress was new to me and I cant wait to do them again. I had a couple of moments on some stages and a stall on Stage 3, bugger, but all in all I was fairly happy. The last track was the best by far, it felt like the bottom of the Megavalanche track, absolutely blinding.

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

Sarah and Helen, such natural posers eh!

Come of the end of Sunday I placed 28th out of about 40 girls in the E1 category and was really happy considering everything.  I just had a mint four days riding with my best mates and soon-to-be bridesmaids :)

Roll on the next one. 

I would just like to add a big THANK YOU here going out to Ian Linton for the pics, they are amazing, thanks Ian x

Hope everyone's doing well out there, my next report will see me taking you all on a journey around the Tour de Mont Blanc, join me soon!


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A very sad day....

Hello everyone, it’s Ellen here.  With a very heavy heart I must announce that I am leaving The Development Racing Team due to changes in my personal circumstances that will not allow me to fully concentrate on my racing.  I will of course be at the sidelines shouting the team’s riders on at a few of the races.  Obviously I’m absolutely gutted to having had to make this decision.

I’ve been blown away by the FTW Industries frame and would like to say a massive “Thank You” to Frank Wadelton for letting me get out there on it.  Lee has been amazing with his support, not just with me but with the whole team.  I however cannot give it 100 percent and that will not be fair on the other riders who achieve some amazing results.

With sadness I must bid a farewell. Many thanks going out to the team, to the team’s sponsors for their support and Lee’s belief in all of his riders and keeping the team going.


Friday, 9 May 2014

Into the rugged North... the Alwinton Enduro, May 4th 2014

(Photo copyright of Geoff at Backpacking in Britain)
Whilst Angie's away with the Team Berghaus crew in sunny Spain the Seagull’s here with the Alwinton NDH Enduro run down, let’s do this!
Last weekend saw the second round of the NDH Enduro Series at Alwinton forest, for those of you who didnt race it last year this is probably the meanest most testing Enduro race in the UK, putting it bluntly you go there to hug trees and get bruises!
(Photo copyright of Paul Mears)
Alwinton’s tracks are notoriously steep, fast, rooty and all out naughty, absolutely perfect for my trusty Orange Five! There’s not a lot of pedalling involved which is what makes life great. With its wild nature it’s insanely fun to ride and incredibly hard to race on as the majority found out, myself included!
(Photo copyright of Victoria Dawe)
The tracks were in awesome condition, still fairly wet from the previous week’s rain but that just made for good entertainment. Just about everyone on the hill seemed to be smiling even though the majority of us spent a lot of time on our arses!!
This was probably one of the best races i’ve done in over two years, there were 3 race tracks in total (all dirtily technical) and due to the nature of them it was damn hard to get clean runs, I tip my hat to the few that managed it.

(Photo copyright of Paul Mears)
It certainly felt like I was riding fast yet couldn’t quite keep it together and kept humping trees hahaha! Luckily for me that was the only order of the day as most people took a tumble or two, I finished in second place which I was very chuffed with, flat pedals for medals at Alwinton I tell ya! 
Mega apologies to Orange Mountain Bikes for not wearing a team jersey on the podium, I think the previous bloodied arm photos explain why and me not wanting to look like an extra from ‘The Walking Dead’ up on the step!

(Photo copyright of Paul Mears)
All in all it was a great weekend and a massive thanks goes out to the NDH crew for making these kinda races take place. In my opinion the no-frills approach along with Carl Davison’s track building skills gives way to some of the best racing in the country, well done again bro’!

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Monday, 5 May 2014

Man Down, taking the hits on the Dunkeld hillside, Scottish Downhill Series, 27th April 2014

(Photo copyright of David Mould)

Nick's back in the crib....  Sadly this was going to prove to be a weekend that Zak and me would rather forget about though....

On the way up there we should have taken the dark skies as a bad omen, it was raining cats and dogs, once at the venue the main camping field looked like a huge pit of Nutella and the foreboding doom of what the course was going to look like started to set in. This was gonna be fun.

After Zak hit the podium at the Penshaw weekender I knew that I too had to redeem myself after what happened at Innerleithen.  I mean I was totally buzzing about the course, I've raced here before and Dunkeld's amazing, rock strewn, steep and definitely separates the wheat from the chaff.  You and your bike are pounded left, right and centre with none of that pedalling like Chris Hoy shit, no sirree!

(Photo copyright of William MacDonald)

Tyre choice was crucial, I opted for some Michelin Grip'R Descent tyres during the morning's practise to see how they handled.  The SDA guys had changed the top section, as Zak was saying it was less of a hassle and we were both a little disappointed.  That said there were still plenty of rocks to catch out the unwary and further down, everything still covered in the brown slop, were tons of stumps and roots.  The tyres handled damned well, good mud clearing and they kept the bike moving, come mid-day though with more rain pouring down I switched over to my Michelin Dig'R tyres instead, everything was getting really cut up and these gave me the edge.  The only bright thing about this weekend were our Ride 100% iTrack gloves which were standing out like beacons in the gloomy conditions and as grippy as hell in the wet, love them!

(Photo copyright of Louis Arnold)

Reckon we both got about five runs in, not too bad considering the poor uplifts however to be fair still not enough on a course like this one.  Zak was totally flooring it, he was pinning all his lines, a pure purple blur! Both of our bikes were running so sweet, utterly stoked with that. Later on in the day it was drying out and things were getting faster, all was going good.

The came Sunday the course had changed so much it was a total onslaught, being so hard to hit my lines the only thing I could do was lay off the brakes and let the bike do all the work. It wasn't pretty but I was doing well on my first race run considering .....until the last section that was.  This was where I bounced down into the wrong line and tried to hit the main rut round the corner compressing my front wheel way down and down I went hitting the floor! My run was over, got straight back up but I was unable to hold the bars and redeem myself with a second run, I'd smashed my hand up badly and it was then a case of "Hello hospital!" and some x-rays!

There were no two ways about about it, Zak was on a belter all through Saturday and Sunday morning, that guy's got balls! 

(Photo copyright of Malcolm Porter)

He was super excited on Sunday morning but as with me it didn't pan out.  He was a quarter of the way in on his last practise run and after coming off hard in one of the steep shoots knocked himself unconscious, he was clean out for the count and stretchered off the course. Worrying times, but hey we're North-East lads, we're made of strong stuff you know and he was soon back up and walking about although still dazed.  He didn't get to race, poor blighter.

All in and despite of the accidents, Dunkeld's an awesome race venue and very worthy of being on the circuit, it was still a great weekend riding a great track.

Both of us know that the pressure is on now though.....