Saturday, 30 August 2014

Lost on the High Road........ the photo journal

Angie: The Lake District is the perfect training ground for the forthcoming Orange Bikes Tour de Ben, having got a group of great friends together we came up with the plan of riding along the High Street.  Well that was the theory anyway as despite our maps we still managed to get lost.  On returning some seven hours later our bodies were utterly spent however, let's face it, the epic Cumbrian scenery speaks for itself.

We started from Staveley in the South Lakes with the aim to ride the High Street to Pooley Bridge in the North, through Haweswater, past the Mosedale cottage bothy and then back to Staveley.  Well that was the plan anyway.  Somewhere along the trail we ended up in Patterdale over the eastern side and were forced to take a longer route back.  It was epic.......

Here's a roll call to my fellow biking heroes of the day:

Helen Gaskell
Sarah Newman
Lucy Bell
Gordon Foster and
Matt Robinson

You guys rule!

Bring on the next epic ride out!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Nemesis...... Scottish Downhill Series, Innerleithen, 17th August 2014

"Well after not racing since breaking my wrist I have realised that today was a shower of shit!" - Nick Turner, Innerleithen SDA 2014

Nick: Tom and me were back up at Innerleithen for the fourth round of the Scottish Downhill Series, we both had scores to settle with Plora Rig!  This was supposed to have been my comeback race after breaking my wrist earlier in the year and indeed with becoming a new dad, with that now in hindsight.... ha!

It was my first race using the Stan's No Tubes systems and my new Michelin Wild Rock R2’s on the Sun A.D.D. PRO 27.5 wheels .....yes I know the tyres are being marketed for enduro racing, but trust me, they are amazing for downhill!  As you can now tell, I’ve turned to the dark side of the force with the 27.5 set up.

Home grown team pits or bust!

The track walk was eye opening, the course left little to be desired.  Out of all the routes they could have used they chose the one with complete lack of flow and a tonne of flat sections. As I got to grips with it over the weekend it became marginally better, but not by much.  What did you think Tom?

Tom: Racing at Innerleithen never goes to plan for me having had a run of bad luck up there in the past, crashing, getting flats and catching people up.  Have to back Nick up with what he’s just said, the SDA came up with some strange ideas in regards to the course’s design, just no flow.

A brief respite from the pedal fest...

The weather thankfully held together on both practice and race days with just overcast drizzle to contend with, the forecasted rain thankfully held off.

Nick: Track conditions remained pretty consistent and I was feeling confident on the course as the day progressed however like many other riders I was also trying to follow older sections of track and ducking under tapes, it took a while to put the course together in my head.

Tom: But ducking under the tape was kinda fun though, I had a few moments of wondering where I was going in practice…. Where’d the tape go? ....Oh!

I was following Nick on some of my runs and he was picking up a fair whack of speed as the day progressed, it wasn’t long before we were both catching people up which is both a blessing and a curse.  Both of our FTW bikes were totally on it, couldn’t fault anything, my Michelin’s were simply railing, all was good.

Nick: I got one full run in on Sunday morning, scoping the changes in the course, hitting about I’d say 80% of my lines and my confidence was back.

First race run started well hitting the tricky sections up top faster then in practice when all of a sudden I ran out of a corner and punched a tree with the hand I broke. Thought I was in trouble right there but carried on, however I had wasted quite a bit of time worrying about my wrist and was unable to make it up, completely off the pace.

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

Tom: My first race run wasn't going too badly, hit the top section full on and started to get into my stride however overcooked things on the off camber roots further down which lost me a bit of time.  I was disappointed but that’s downhill racing for you, my concentration then switched straight to my second run.

Nick: My second race run was make or break, a bad pun considering, I know!
Out of the gate I went hell for leather, bouncing over the off camber roots one footed into the first corner, Rudolf Nureyev I was not!  In my head I was trying to calm myself down and get back into a flow, which is hard when the voice in your head is screaming “CALM THE HELL DOWN!” and keeping your concentration away from the job in hand!  I made a fatal mistake and ran out of track again, had to pull over to the side and let the next rider past as I didn't want to mess up their run too.

I have never felt so disappointed with a race result/performance. Particularly after feeling so good on the bike in practice, it was almost a psychological problem when it came to the race runs.  Gutted, no two ways about it.  I need a coffee, back over to Tom….

Tom: I was back up in the start gate and ready for my second shot hoping this one would be better.  It wasn’t to be, came off on the off camber roots, jumped straight back on the bike wasting no time, despite the crash I was going quicker this time made some little mistakes further down the course but I felt good.  Crossed that finish line in tenth place which although could have been better I was happy with considering.

Photo copyright of Ian Linton

Our next race is Fort William where we’re both sure the bikes will come into their own.  I’m heading back to Keswick and getting out in the Cumbrian Mountains.  Nick wants to do a shout out, Nick?

Nick: Aye, Innerleithen completely kicked my ass, come Fort William I will be back up to full fitness with a huge thanks to Crossfit Jacana in Durham which have had me blowing out my ass three to four days a week since my wrist was fixed. Their head coach has been a massive help with rehab from my injury, a big thanks going out to them.

See you all on the Aonach Mor.

Punk ain't dead!

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,