Enduro is a fairly recent race format that harks back to the early days of mountain biking, you slowly make your way up hills chatting with friends, then race back down again as fast as you can! Being an ex-rower I can confirm that gravity is always going to be my friend downhill, it is the getting up hills in XC format that I struggle with! The great thing about being fit, is you can race lots of different formats and have fun! This year has included 12hr pairs,, short format XCO and running the London marathon, I may never trouble the front, but I am sure I deserve points for variety.
I have never raced an Enduro before but fueled by unhealthy amount of optimism (and a couple of glasses of red) I out in my entry for the QECP enduro on the 24th of July! A quick note, enduro races are very popular and sell out quickly if you are interested in giving on a try! I think this one sold out in a matter of days.
The format for the race was 4 timed downhill* stages connected by transition stages. The downhills were chip timed, with your cumulative time for all four determining your finish position. The transition stages were not timed, thankfully!
In the morning the course was open to practice and you were advised to run through each of the 4 stages for sighting and to look at different lines…….or if you were me, to pluck up enough courage to at least try some of the obstacles!
Practice was fine, but the transition was a bit of a dark horse, it was a steady fire road climb, that was never too steep, however over the course of the day, and riding it 8 times in total it certainly sapped the legs! Seeing some of the experts/pros taking the lines I was struggling with was eye opening, their l speed and level of flow was frankly awe inspiring!
After my practice runs I had 2 hours before my allocated start time, riders were set off at 30s intervals, and with nearly 300 riders it was a long process to go through. I had entered the fun category and seeded myself as one of the slowest riders (not wanting to get in the way of people who were more experienced), however lots of practice at long distance racing have meant i have learnt to preserve my legs at all costs! I settled down in my car to quietly read and refuel, only actually getting up with 15mins to spare before my start time!
Normally I would do a warm up, but as the race started with you at the bottom of the transition stage I reckoned by the time I had winched myself to the top I would be plenty warm enough!
Stages one and two were the most technical in my opinion, and hence were the ones I was most nervous about, I was quite glad I would get them out of the way first!
I found myself on the start for stage 1, was counted down and then I was off, fairly smooth and twisty through the trees it was all fairly mild until you crossed a fire road and then things picked up a bit! A couple of berms followed by a drop off got the heart racing, fairly twisty after this before coming into my ‘fear’ section! A steep downhill with three step downs, going into a rooty rutted right hand corner finished with another drop off! I had struggled with this in practice, but thankfully for me another parent at pedal2pedal was helping and gave me the perfect line to roll the section, but still hitting the corner at the bottom to make the drop off! After that the stage was a bit pedally, with some uphill climbs on the *downhill course! The stage finished right at the bottom of the hill and it was a mega winch to get back up to the top!
Stage 2 was a traverse across the hill followed by a very rooty section, my Five at this point showed its true colours, just floating over some big roots! You then went uphill slightly and the dropped down the hill with a few corners dropped in just to keep you focused and force the bike over some more big roots! The stage took you across the fire road used for transition so you knew you were going to have an audience for the steepest bit! I wasn’t that fast but I think I took that part smoothly! The stage finished off with a 500m flat sprint down some singletrack with some off camber hip jumps thrown in for fun! No one enjoyed that particular sprint!
Stage 3 was my least favourite, it was very tight and twisty through young trees with the danger of catching your bars ever present, leading into some tight downhill switch backs that were dusty and grip was at a premium! My back brake got a lot of use in that section! Again this stage finished at the same point as stage one, so a very long slog back up to the top!
By this stage the heat was started to get to me, on the downhill sections you were moving fast enough for a breeze, but the climb was hard work! I was glad I had lots of drink with me as I was sweating buckets! A light drizzle at this point didn’t really cool me down, but it bring a bit of cloud cover which was very welcome!
The final stage was a very fast flowing stage, with no major obstacles, but was all about the ability to carry speed (not my strong suit) and take corners flat out! Apart form not making one corner I enjoyed this stage! The finish spat you out into essentially the race village. You dropped off your timing chip and got a print out with your stage times. The timing was first rate!
I wasn’t last, (first race goal achieved) and I didn’t end up in A&E (my wifes target for me also achieved!). It did force me to ride sections normally I would walk down or avoid all together!
My key lessons from the race were:
1) My bike is far more capable than I am!
2) my fitness is fine and did not slow me down!
3) My technique needs lots of work, not enough flow, or ability to go round berms without dragging my rear break!
4) Enduro racing is FUN and quite relaxed, their was a really great vibe at the race village!
I am a bit hooked, and have signed up for two more enduro races already!
If you haven’t tried one, then give it a go, just don’t follow any of my race lines, they are generally awful 🙂