Monday, 10 August 2015

UK Gravity Enduro - Hamsterley Forest, 1st & 2nd August 2015

Hurrah, it's my summer holiday and race time all at once

Heading up to the North-East is always a pure delight and having raced at Hamsterley earlier in the year I knew what I was letting myself in for. It's a mint place to ride catering for both families and professional riders with its plethora of graded trails, you won't be stuck for ideas with advice from the forest's friendly bikers to guide you on your way.

The event, with its 20km loop taking in five stages plus the extra seeding time added from Saturday, had some people thinking it was too short however I disagreed. The transition times were tight and a shorter loop really levels the playing field for the riders who could only make it there for the weekend.  Having said that though, I was lucky with having a bit more time to spare, a plus side of being a teacher, and got some good practice in on the Friday which meant I could have a couple of warm-ups on the seeding runs. 

Seeding and Stage 5 - Despite its deceptively gentle appearance it's a long trail that demanded hard pedalling to ensure that you put in a decent time. There was a freshly cut section at the bottom of the trail that I hit too hard and came off my Five, thankfully I didn't lose too much time. Speaking of times, fair play going out to Elliott Heap who put down the fastest time of the day whilst still in the junior category, wowzers! 

During Gravity Enduro events riders seem to favour one or two of the trails over the others and for me these were Stages 3 and 4 which were slap bang next to the Descend Hamsterley Bike Park, the full-bore downhill side of the forest!  Here, it normally costs 5 quid to ride and you can book on the uplift system too, it's a really rad day out with friend and I recommend going!

Anyway, back to the racing, both of these stages really challenged my riding where you needed to be really switched on and focussed in order to rail the best lines, keeping up the pace.  Despite all of my stages going smoothly I wasn't up to a full-on race pace due to the onset of fatigue and this was reflected in my times, onwards and upwards to the next event.


Will Olson 1975 - 2015

Edit by Lee: The weekend was over shadowed as news came through that a fellow mountain bike brethren had passed away following a tragic accident during the Enduro World Series at Crested Butte in the 'States. Through respect to the rider and his family the event was cancelled and in honour of his memory his number 139 has been removed.  Lee and all of the team's riders hearts go out to Will Olson's family, a fund has been set up in his memory if you wish to donate: The Will Olson Memorial Fund.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

2015 National Championship - Llangollen, 18th & 19th July 2015

After the disaster that was the deluged Fort William I was excited to be back out on the bike again as I haven't been riding lately with my little 'un taking up all the 'daddy-time'.  First and foremost I need to do a big shout-out to Paul '#DoASkid' Stoddart for the lifts there and back, you ROCK fella!

The 'Champs this year were at Llangollen where the venue suits me to a T with its super steep terrain, however despite it being dry I was feeling hesitant as it may not have been the best choice to get back into the swing of things!  With that said my FTW beast of a machine failed to disappoint being perfectly at home here on the Welsh hillside handling like a dream. My Hayes brakes and Michelin tyres were all working superbly in the dusty conditions and where other people were having issues they didn't make me #DoASkid once!  (See what I did there, see?! ....I'll get my coat!).

Due to the extremely dry conditions the track was changing with every run, this was by no means a complaint as I was having tons of fun. Think I bust out about seven runs on Saturday becoming more confident with each one. 

Mother Nature strikes back, I was woken up over night to the sound of heavy rain coming down and my heart dropped at the thought of re-learning the track again.  It wasn't so bad in the morning, the track was back to being bone dry however some lines had been completely blown out.  I planned to take some new routes in my seeding run, it was risky but there was little else I could do.

My seeding run went alright, I was consistent and smooth but backed off on the new lines that I was trying out through lack of practising them earlier. I finished mid-pack and knew that there were some seconds to grab on my race run in the tank.

My race run could not have gone better; I hit everything with a little more gas and where I felt myself drifting the bike's handling saved my ass, Frank Wadelton, you are a genius!

I came over the line finishing in15th which I was overjoyed with considering the severe lack of riding time this year. My fitness has come on in leaps and bounds thanks to CrossFit Jacana in Durham.  I also want to the say a big "Thank You" to Lee and the team's sponsors for their support with putting an awesome ride together.

See y'all on the next hill punks!


British Downhill Series, Round 5 - Moelfre, 11th & 12th July 2015

The Nelly posse rocked into the sun filled valley of Moelfre for the fifth round of the British National Series on the Friday evening.  After we set up the camp I headed off to walk the track and see how sick it was gonna be.

On Saturday morning the sun was out, we were all stoked up and ready to go, the track was riding sick and so was my Frank The Welder steed.  After smashing seven pinned runs I headed back with no injuries or breakages.

By Sunday morning the dust had thankfully dampened down making the track even faster.  I had a disappointing seeding run where I crashed half way down, I was gutted and knew I had to pull out all the stops in my race run.

Sadly the race run went to pot after I lost a lot of time stalling in a turn and this put me down into 15th, although that isn't too shabby I was hoping for a podium.  That's racing for you.

I had an admission that I won't be at the National Champs, it's the summer break and I will be heading over to Morzine to get the metal down, see you all when I get back.


Friday, 10 July 2015

UK Gravity Enduro Series, Grizedale, 27th - 28th June 2015

Grizedale, it is always with great excitement that I approach any kind of race in the Lake District, the scenery there is nothing less than sensational.

I spent nearly seven hours practicing on the Saturday including my seeding run, most of the riding this weekend was across terrain which had been cut in much earlier in the year. The UKGE guys work tirelessly on these races and they deserve real credit for the great effort creating such challenging stages.

Stage five was the seeding run which led down into the finish arena, it started off with a fast pedal over some freshly cut ground which was a gutsy all out push for the first thirty seconds. From there it progressed rapidly across increasingly technical terrain which included a cool drop into a tight right hander the exit speed of which got you straight up and over a long rooted section.  With no time to rest on your laurels you hit some tight twisting tree-lined turns which then spit you out into a full on pedal towards the finish arena. My seeding run went really well, I came down clean and crossed the line with a huge grin on my face. Awesome!

The sun was doing its best to bake everyone in their full face helmets however this was compensated by the scenery on the climb up from Coniston Water which was magnificent. I was with my good friend Gemma Ingall on the practice loop, riding with someone whilst checking out the stages made it all very sociable.

Race day:
Rain was predicted on Sunday for most of the morning; which was soon proved to be correct when it came down in abundance! This made an already challenging course extra difficult where not only were the stages unpredictable, the climbs were more mentally challenging.

Stage one started with a small drop followed by some tight twists across nice slippery roots where I kept as loose as possible on the bike and was certainly being aided by my Michelin encased Sun-Ringle 27.5" wheels. The fast middle section over some drops saw me miss a line and I wasted time struggling to get back onto the track. The stage concluded with a very slippery rock garden which I thankfully managed to glide over to the finish line, I was relieved to have completed the first stage!

Onwards and upwards, quite literally, to stage two. It was here where I was settling into the race having looked forward to this stage's mud, roots and fire road sprints. I really enjoyed it and had some fun on my Orange Five which was flying with aplomb, despite a little wipe out further down, ahem!

Stage three was rocky with the longest of fire road sprints where I stayed strong and finished well. Stage four saw me take a wrong line at the start and headed into the course tape, which was rather clever, I know! After unpicking myself I got the cadence back down to get some time back. For the last and indeed long transition I employed the ‘This Girl Can’ philosophy keeping a positive frame of mind and started to pedal up to stage five, by this time I had been out on the bike for three hours! Yes, this is one hell of a great bike event and it was here where I was blessed with a vista across Coniston Water, breath taking. 

Arriving safely at the top of the stage with a couple of minutes to spare the rain began to ease off.  I went out on a hard 'all or nothing' push from the start however my fatigue was showing with a couple of silly lines in the loose rocky sections at the bottom.  With that said I crossed the finish line in eighth place completely exhausted but happy.


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

British Downhill Series, Bala, 28th June 2015

Nelly's here!

Rolled into Bala with my family on Friday afternoon, having never ridden here before and from what other riders had been saying I kinda guessed that I was in for a surprise.  Sure enough after setting up camp I headed up the track and the rumours were confirmed, it looked totally sweet, seemed to flow really well with some sick features thrown in, just as I like them!

Saturday morning and the sun was shining, I couldn't wait to smash some runs down the track. The great weather stayed all day and the bike was riding mint although it took a while to get my lines dialled in I got there eventually.  

After eight runs I called it a day and headed off to wash the bike down.

Awaking on Sunday morning to the pitter patter of rain I realised that it was going to be a wet one, damn!  After riding in the previous day's dust and getting the course nailed down this was horrible and my practice runs were not good.  

My seeding didn't go well as I crashed a few times mid-run like a lot of people, the course was a quagmire in parts. With the seeding run out of the way my race run went well, I lost a little time in the woods but crossed the line in 8th place which I was really happy with considering.

Next up is Moelfre, see you all on the mountainside!


Sunday, 5 July 2015

Welsh Gravity Enduro Series, Cwmcarn, 21st June 2015

Robyn's in the crib!

It’s been a busy June, I was competing in the Woodhall Spa Triathlon over the 13th and 14th and then cruising up to Wales for the third round of the Welsh GravityEnduro Series. Yep, I'm Sporty Spice!

This has really turned out to be a fantastic collection of races so far with many fresh faces coming to the fore. It's a fantastic building block to the National UK Gravity Series and Charlie puts on a great show with some awesome stages!  So far we have ridden Bike Park Wales and Afan, now for the third round we're at the trail centre of Cwmcarn in South Wales. It’s enough to want to make you leave the beaches of the South West!

What was going to be particularly exciting were where each of the timed stages would come out live so you could tell how well you were doing throughout the race. I think there are pros and cons for this. You used to be able to out-psyche your opponents knowing you had done well or by keeping a positive demeanour despite knowing that you may not have had a great time on the previous stage.

Charlie was running a three stage race this time around incorporating parts of the Cafall trail and the Pedalhounds downhill with the final stage taking in the Y Mynydd (The Mountain) downhill trail. The climbs were more challenging here than in previous rounds, we are talking an hour transition and this is something I am more used to with Steve Parr's UK Gravity Series, it means your downhill skills are tested whilst being fatigued. I was literally hanging on to my Burgtec bars hurtling down the Y Mynydd! I will definitely be visiting here again for some more riding in the near future.

I had a great dusty day with no mishaps and took home the second place in Elite.  It’s great to see the women's field growing and how quickly we are all progressing! I will see you all at Grizedale next weekend.


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

British Downhill Series, Round 3 - Llangollen, 30th & 31st May 2015


Tom Newrick: We arrived at the venue early on Friday morning and set up the tents, even at that hour there were some murmurings about the course and the track-walk proved it to be true, it was steep, very, very steep!  

I knew then that it was going to be a struggle on the track. Headed up for my first practice run on Saturday morning and came off twice, each further run I was still coming off my bike and my body was starting to hurt.

Come Sunday morning I headed back up for my first practice run and landed really hard after being catapulted over the bars.  Being completely battered and bruised I could not justify racing on the course and sadly pulled out of the event.

Lee here: I fully understand the position Tom Newrick had been placed in, the course was very controversial, although it's a UCi sanctioned event and needs to challenge riders, this track may have exceeded the limit. I mean it says a lot when the pro riders are in agreement with how punishing the course was. I don't blame Tom for pulling out of the event at all as he could have had a serious injury.

This now leads me to what happened with the team's Tom Nelson.

Nelly made the ultimate mistake of not signing on in the morning before his practise runs, that is his own mistake and he knows it was wrong (and hopefully he's learned from it and won't do it again!).  I fully understand and appreciate his mother's anger after the event, and indeed must admit to being pretty angry with the carry on myself.

My question was in regards to how Nelly managed to have four practice runs without being pulled up by the start line commissaire in regards to not signing on.

The commissaire notes the rider numbers down however he can't check those against the start sheet until the Saturday evening as this is when the timing company collate the sign on sheets and produce the seeding list.  Nelly had tried to sign on at the end of the day however by this time the commissaires had left the venue.  One of the arguments was that some other riders had got late entries however those riders signed on before the commissaires had left.  Nelly however was too late and Si Paton was sadly placed in an unfortunate position, he could only say no, the BDS are sanctioned UCi events and his hands are tied to that, so unfortunately Nelly was unable to race.