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.