Have you ever fancied racing an Enduro race? Ever wondered what to expect? Then watch the video above and read on…
Tracy Evans took her first step into the world of Enduro racing back in February of this year and here is the third of 5 blogs about her experiences at the Welsh Gravity Enduro Mash Up Series:
Round 4: Afan Bryn Bettws
Well it’s race day again, round 4 of the Welsh Gravity Enduro at Bryn Betwys Afan. I’m excited and nervous about the stages but also happy as the sun is shining and it’s going to be a good day! Before I start I can’t decide if I need to put more air in my wheels, as they feel a bit squishy. I decide to leave them and see how they are. I’m worried that if I play with them they will feel weird when I’m riding.
I decide to do Stage 3 (373 into the 4x) first as it’s the reason I haven’t slept for the past few nights. The 373 bit is fine, but the cut through to the 4x involves a steep muddy chute that installs fear into me at the sheer thought of it. I know the organisers have worked on this bit on Friday so I’m secretly hoping it’s still smooth with no ruts. I ask the chap behind me at the start to leave me a big gap, which he kindly does and I’m off. I ride the 373 bit ok, although I don’t have the best lines (I’m too busy thinking about the scary bit ahead to concentrate). As I see the marshal directing me to the chute I keep going and as I roll over the edge I see it… It’s not smooth… in fact it looks worse than ever with lots of ruts meeting to form one big rut. Fear and panic sets in – especially as I can’t decide which rut to go for… but I quickly tell myself to keep going. At this point I let go of the brakes, squeeze the handlebars really tight and zoom down the cute at what I class as a death defying speed. I’m on fire, superwoman is back. Whoop Whoop! Then reality kicks in as I reach the bottom of the chute and smack straight into the tree. Splat, I’m like the bug hitting the windscreen – with the addition of a girlie scream (sorry ladies – I couldn’t help myself!). I’ve lost company with my bike and goggles but I manage to retrieve everything and I jump back on raring to go. I don’t actually go anywhere as my chain is off so I run the next bit and sort myself out properly on the wide bit of trail to avoid being run over. To my dismay I’ve got a flat front tyre, but knowing I’m running tubeless I keep going and make it down the rest of the section hoping the slime inside is doing its job. I’m a bit all over the shop as it’s hard to steer with a flat tyre – but I make it down and cross the finish line in a true un-ladylike fashion.
The Infamous chute!
I decide to do Stage 1 (Bike Park red run) next, changing my race plan to settle myself after my crash and bike maintenance. This is a weird stage, it’s short and sweet but although it looks easy it is very sketchy in places. My first run seemed to be all over the shop, I was on the wrong bit of each berm, braking in places I shouldn’t have been and narrowly missing the trees – more by luck than judgement. I was a bit disappointed so I did this run again. As it turned out my first run was my fastest run ever on this stage, so in hindsight I’m really pleased.
Stage 1 Start
Stage 2 (Zig Zags) is one of my favourite bits of the Y Wall trail, but it’s also been my enemy lately, as I’m desperately trying to beat my PR from July 2013 – and I’m constantly failing!! I start off well, and after watching a You Tube video last night, I’m taking slightly different lines in the hope it will make me faster. Its working, I feel faster, Superwoman is back and I’m flying down the trail popping off little things and taking a straighter line through the bendy bits. Then all of a sudden I get it wrong and BAM, I’m the bug again… I hit the banking on the side of the trail and stop dead. Hmm, this gets my heart racing even more, but I get back on and I complete the stage – although using the lines I know best, and probably braking too much on bits I don’t need to.
Disappointed with my crash and knowing I wouldn’t have had a good time I decide to do zig zags again, but this time on the way down I get a rear puncture, and most of my liquid sealant is now on the bike instead of doing what it does best inside the tyre. I make it down the best I can but I know I’m slower than last time. I fix my puncture (again all by myself – I’m getting good at this bike maintenance thing) and I head back to the top. It’s here I borrow a track pump to properly pump up both tyres, unfortunately as I take off the dust cap I also remove the valve core and watch all the air and fluid blow out, in what seems like slow motion before I can quickly plug the valve with my finger. Luckily I manage to sort it out (go me – it’s not easy trying to undo two things with one hand while the other hand is being used as a plug!!), luckily the lovely man on the display stand tightens up my valve cores.
Stage 3 coming out of the woods before the 4X
I do stage 3 again to try and improve my time, In all honesty although I don’t mind crashing on the chute I don’t’ want to as I know it wastes time. I’m thinking about this all the way down the trail and as I hit the chute I’m still undecided whether I should ride it or not to try and improve my time. As I start to go down it I know I’m going to crash again so in total madness I jump off half way down. Looking back this wasn’t my cleverest idea of all time! Luckily my feet hit the floor and I avoid meeting my old friend ‘the tree’. The rest of the run isn’t the best, I’ve gone into confusion mode and I keep pushing my dropper seat post instead of pulling the brake or changing gear – yes this does happen sometimes – hopefully I’m not the only person who does this! I’m pleased I make it down in one piece though and as I’m totally shattered I do two more runs of stage 1 and call it a day.
Looking back I probably should have given stage 2 (Zig Zags) another go to try and get a clean run, but I was so tired I think I probably would have just crashed or been really slow – who knows! I didn’t get a podium place today and my runs didn’t go as planned, but I’ve got some lovely bruises, I’ve improved my bike skills and more importantly I’ve really increased my confidence in my ability.
If I’m honest today was my favourite Enduro round as its taught me a few things about racing; plan your day so you keep enough energy for each stage, try the scary things – as they’re not as scary as they seem, don’t try new lines (practice them before race day) and go for it no matter what. It doesn’t matter if there are really good hard core people in your class, you can still push yourself to the limit and try to get your times as close to theirs as you can.
Master Women’s podium
Roll on round 5, which is in a place I’ve never heard of. Yep, there’s going to be a few sleepless nights between now and then, but also a few smiles (and probably crashes) on the day, which makes it all worthwhile. Come on ladies (and gents), sign up and give it a go…
If you are tempted to give it a go then enter online HERE
See you at a race soon