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.