Here is our second blog from Becky Parker…
For most people Easter weekend is a time for relaxing, eating excessive amounts of chocolate, leisurely family strolls, perhaps a cheeky afternoon beverage in a country pub beer garden. For me and around 300 other mountain bikers, our Easter weekend looked a whole lot different…
Enduro mountain biking in its race form consists of six different timed downhill stages spaced out around an area which you must ride or push between. Your times over the six stages are added together at the end of the day and the fastest rider overall wins.
Southern Enduro is an events company which organises Enduro events across all of Southern England. They run a series of four events from June to September, with the champs and a night enduro in May as extra stand-alone races.
The Southern Enduro championship took place just outside Minehead as a two-day race with practice on the Saturday and racing on the Sunday. Many riders camped overnight in the race village where sponsors had set up shops, local bike shops were on hand to fix bikes and food vans stayed open into the evening when there was music and a beer tent.
With near perfect weather conditions, there was immense excitement amongst riders about to be let loose on trails normally closed to the public. I took part in the race myself and I can safely say I did not see one rider not grinning from ear to end by the end of practice.
Event organiser Scott and his team did a fantastic job utilising existing trails and building a few extra to put together a great mix that would test rider’s technical skills, bravery and fitness, whilst still delivering a fun factor of 100%. All of the transitions were rideable (depending on your fitness level as there were some long old hills), sticking to fire roads that took you through beautiful forests. Occasionally you would come to a sudden opening with stunning views across the valley that would lift the spirits and distract you from aching legs. From the top of three to four they had included a great little traverse and descent on singletrack. Then the transition back over from four to five took you along the ridgeline with views over moorland right out to the sea where you could just about spot Wales in the distance.
Race day dawned to more blue skies and stoke level was high as we set out for the first climb. The schedule for the day was set up so that riders were set off in groups of 12 with a five-minute gap between. When you registered at the start of the day you could write your name on the board and choose your own group, the idea being that slower riders started first and elites had to go at the end of the day.
In the past I have suffered with nerves whilst racing, putting so much pressure on myself to do well that it has ruined the fun of the experience. So my main aim for this weekend was to stay calm, smile and enjoy the sociable side of Enduro that allows you to ride round all day with your friends. I tried to concentrate on enjoying just riding my bike somewhere new and embracing the excitement and energy that gives me. Other than a few nerves before stage two which was the steepest and most difficult of the day that literally EVERYONE was having issues with, I managed to stick to my plan.
There is a great camaraderie to mountain biking that transcends all ages, sex or ability barriers. You can almost forget your racing as you pedal around bumping into friends heading the other way, chattering to total randomers at the bottom of each stage when you’re all buzzing off the adrenaline telling stories of your various successes and mishaps so far that day.
Southern Enduro events include a ‘Fun’ category for men and women that is designed to encourage newcomers to the sport where they will be less intimidated by being ranked against more experienced and serious racers. This is such a fantastic idea and within the women I believe all of the fun category was made up of ladies new to enduro. It was fab to see 24 women racing altogether, an usually high number at a race this far south.
My own race went really well, with very few mistakes to leave me fourth out of ten in my senior category; a result I was very pleased with in such a competitive field. However, the greatest success of the weekend was the ultimate fun I had shredding new trails, learning lots and having a great laugh with friends old and new. Bikes are the best!
Event organisers homepage – southernenduro.co.uk
Results and pictures from the event – www.rootsandrain.com/race5394/2017-apr-16-southern-enduro-southern-enduro-champs-minehead/results/
Link to enter Round 1 of the Southern Enduro series (entries opened on Saturday 22 April) – www.moredirt.com/event/1996
PHOTOS Courtesy Big Mac Photography