MY FIRST ENDURO – THE BLUEGRASS ENDURO TOUR
This weekend just gone, I made my way over to Dublin for my first mountain bike enduro race, part of the Bluegrass Enduro Tour. I signed up out of sheer curiosity, pretty much the same reason I’ve entered track bike crits, road races, xc races and the like in the past… I never really enter things expecting or even wanting to do well, I just want to see what these events are like in case they’re brilliant and I love them.
So here’s the thing…I did love it! I loved it as much as the few track bike crits I’ve entered, but guess what? The fact that I am not fit enough and that I smoke (yes, yes, please spare me the barrage of criticism, I know it’s stupid self-sabotage) made it less enjoyable than it had the potential to be. More on than later…
The Bluegrass Enduro Tour is slightly different to other enduro events, as you don’t have a chance to check out the course in advance of riding it, something they call ‘blind riding.’ The aim of the game is to set a fast time on the timed downhill courses, then pedal your way from the bottom to the start of another timed section. As the event was spread over three venues near Dublin, we actually used a bus for some of the transfers, getting dropped off at the bottom of the next venue before making our way up for a run.
The first two stages took place at Ticknock. My very first run, I absolutely hammered it out of the start, blasting into the fast, flowing, hard packed singletrack as fast as I could. Within about 40 seconds I was panting like a mofo and could barely breathe, and that continued for the next four minutes. I had no idea the downhill sections would be so strenuous and require so much fitness – beforehand I’d just been worried about the transitions UP the hill, rather than racing down. After a minute or two, we turned off into a wood full of boggy mud, and I began slipping and sliding all over the place whilst I tried to overtake a couple of other people sliding around. When I got to the bottom I fell on the floor gasping for air. It was brilliant fun though.
Stage two was Ticknock again, and this was a fast, easy trail centre run, the only challenge being that it went on for about five minutes, and I’m not fit enough. I actually managed to come 5th out of 18 in this stage, so I’m quite pleased with that.
After a short bus ride we arrived at Ballinastoe where we rode up to the top of the hill together. The view was amazing; you could see all the way across to Dublin and the stormy seas. Things were looking a little grey and blustery out there, but luckily the weather held and we didn’t get any rain. For stage 3, you went straight into the woods, which were filled with horribly slippery, incredibly deep mud. I am so bad at riding thick mud, so I was really struggling to stay on my bike and keep going. I fell off and could barely get back on because I kept slipping everywhere, and at one point, I think I ended up facing back UP the hill! It was totally ridiculous, but somehow I got through it, and then completed the rest of the stage without any further problems. Stage 4 began with more mud, but it was steeper at the start so I was able to slide down it more easily! After sliding my way through the woods, I realised I had all my suspension locked out, so I had to stop for a bit and sort that out before finishing up the rest of the stage, which was pretty darn fun as there were loads of jumps (my fave!). I’d recommend Ballinstoe.
The final two stages took place at Djouce, and everyone had been freaking each other out all day about how hard it was going to be. I really wish people wouldn’t do that! Anyway, word was that the Gravity Enduro National Champs that took place there two weeks before had been so, so, so boggy and muddy that people actually couldn’t get down! In the event, stage 5 was totally fine, and really good fun. It was really steep and technical, and I enjoyed it a great deal. Stage 6, however… well…
After stage 5 we’d had to ride up to the top of Djouce again for our final descent, and I just totally bonked. I’ve actually been sick all week, so I think that my body just gave up due to exhaustion. Riding up to the top was really hard, I just felt like I had nothing in my legs, but after much internal moaning, I finally made it. After scoffing some energy bars at the top, I set off for my final run, and what a bummer.. it totally sucked! I don’t know if it was the tiredness, but the whole stage just seemed so difficult.
It began with a fairly open section with the most vicious roots that just totally wore out your arms and hands. After that, I somehow became attached to a tree that just wouldn’t let go of my pedal. After wrestling my bike free (embarrassing!) I carried on into the really muddy section. I just really suck in deep mud and was slithering all over the place. I also caught someone up and couldn’t get by, which meant I had to brake whenever they did and couldn’t just roll through stuff. And I took a wrong turning and fell in a bog. It was hellish, and once at the bottom I collapsed, zombified!
But despite the difficulties, which were all due to things I can change (work out more, quit the fags, ride more muddy stuff), I really, really loved the event and the format. And I ended up coming 7th out of 18th, which I feel really proud of.