Above image credit: Stephen Hardy
Well.. what a weekend that was. Sunshine, amazing trails and some lovely people made for a fantastic time riding my bicycle. Laggan is the first of 6 Scottish enduro destinations this year and it’s a thumbs up from me. A relatively short course is a nice way to ease into the season and I think someone at no fuss did a sun dance that actually worked.
I’ve been pretty busy recently with work, uni deadlines and all out life just keeping me on my toes. That’s why it felt so good to get away from it all, let my hair down and go race my bike! That’s the joy of racing, just you, your bike, some trails and……… 300 other people. No time to think about much else apart from having fun and some mandatory faffing.
Saturday was a casual start, I rushed about the house to get ready but when I arrived at Laggan just after 9am I realised no one was ready to go. I knew it was going to be a busy weekend with a friends wedding and a bike race but it was one of those things you plan in advance and convince yourself at the time you won’t be that rushed.
Elena Melton, Fiona Berry and Janey Kennedy made up our practice posse and we set off to practice the 5 stages. Riding in the sun felt great and it was a chilled atmosphere. Until Craig Miller met us for stage three and pushed the uphill pace by quite a bit, I’m a big fan of the slow uphills (because I’m lazy) and Miller knows this! No dramas though and it felt good to catch up with all the friendly race faces I’d missed all winter.
Stage 1, 2 and 3 were natural, with stage 3 being my all time favourite trail at Laggan and it almost felt dusty! Stage 4 and 5 were on the trail centre side with 4 being the rocky black and 5 being the pedally lower red into the flowy orange.
“Whilst riding around and practicing bits and bobs I noticed a considerable amount of women riding and going pretty fast too. Definitely more than usual, including Gill Barnes who completed her second ever SES. It’s really positive to see and I’m hoping more women discover the joy of racing. Sure you get nervous but it’s also a huge buzz and can be as chilled as you make it. That’s why I think the numbers are only going to go up.”
Despite the abundance of ladies around some familiar faces were missing, including Mikayla Parton, Kirstin Moynihan and Eilidh Wells but I’m hoping they’ll make the other races. We missed you guys! Kirstin was chief heckler though and stood in all the right places, thank you for the encouragement pal.
Practice finished and I rushed off to Dougie’s (Joe Barnes ex mechanic) wedding where the ceilidh was in full swing and we danced the night away. Everyone looked stunning, and because Dougie is a local bike mechanic it was funny to see all the local bikers dressed up in their kilts and dresses and not splattered with bits of mud and foliage!
Sunday morning brought a slow pedal up to stage 1, I was tired from all the dancing and drinking but Miller kindly gave me a lift to Laggan in the morning. I’d told myself I could sleep in the van en route, but we just ended up chatting and no sleep was had.
Surprising weekend with my first race in senior and managing 1st place. Feels so good to be racing again and seeing all those friendly faces that make races fun SES you were class! #descentworld #dancedallnight #racedallday #dougieswedding #tighttimes #fastladies #dustytrails #scottishenduroseries @fi_berrs @basecampbikes
Differing start times meant that Elena and I rode together and Janey and Fiona were ahead of us. The stages were dry and similar to Saturday bar stage 2. I found that stage just as damp as Saturday but with a lot more roots exposed.
“I wiggled my way down with limbs flying and my back wheel getting wild but managed to stay mostly on the bike; success! It was such a mixed bag in terms of riding and a good test of fitness but as soon as it was finished we had the delightful Honey Monster to race.”
Stage 4 and stage 5 went by really fast. The black, despite being a long stage is a blur of rocks and then a short natural to finish which felt good to ride. The lower red and orange had some tricky flat corners which were a real test to try and carry speed through. Although the trail centre side was less technically hard, it was fast and had its own challenges that I can’t help but like.
On reflection, I think I took the pedalling too lightly but then I never had any big crashes so I was riding within myself and that’s definitely no bad thing. We only bumped into Roz Newman on one of the transitions but she was flying all day and took the Female win by some way! Elena was closest some 43 seconds behind and then me, with us all in different categories. The short course win was taken by Kirsten Thomson with an 11 second gap.
Female racing is getting tight with a total of 26 ladies racing at Laggan.
Christo Gallagher mentioned in his race report that there may be a need for a female elite category and that’s testament to the increase in ladies riding/racing. I think it’s a great idea and something to look forward to for the future.
So my first race in the senior category went well and I managed 1st place for team DWBikeclub but only just. 6 seconds split the top three ladies in senior and it’s got me excited for some close racing this season. I might even make pre-race nights out a “thing” in future…..
I thought I should add a little into this post. When I was looking for riders last year, I had a couple of options of riders who were proven performers , but I felt that I personally wasn’t ready to commit that level of resource that they would have required. Secondly, perhaps more importantly , I really wanted to help riders who maybe haven’t proved themselves yet, but have massive potential. I see DWBikeclub as a chance for riders to experience what it’s like being on a team (I was with Polygon UR team for just under a year and had the pleasure of riding on the Clan with Crawfy, Chris Ball etc…) in a much more relaxed and less structured way. Hopefully this allows them to race stress free, and be happy, while also learning and understanding the transaction that his occurring between sponsor and themselves . I never expected a victory straight away, though I am an eternal optimist. Will there be more? I don’t really know, and it’s not important, but we’ll be keeping you up to date through the year with these race blogs…..It’s all about the journey.