The Jiulong Mountain Enduro took place last week amidst torrential rain and challenging riding conditions
China is getting into enduro. Earlier this month mountain biking Brit David Clark took part in China’s first ever enduro race – the 2016 Jiulong Mountain Enduro.
On a borrowed bike and under stair rods of torrential rain, Clark survived the ordeal and even found himself on a podium. Here’s his report.
David Clark writes…
The organisers of this race were thoroughly accommodating. But colluding with the weather gods to import some UK-style weather just for me? A nice thought, but really they shouldn’t have.
Although the local weather forecast was saying it would be cloudy with mid-20’s temperature, the reality was an authentic UK springtime 14 degrees and chucking in down. All weekend.
If you wondered what that low pitched noise was that you could hear while you were enjoying your mini-heatwave it was the chattering of 1.3 billion sets of gnashers.
Anyway, to rewind a few weeks… I’m currently living and working in China and I’d got to hear through the local cycling cyber-grapevine that a new MTB park had opened in a scenic spot overlooking the south China sea, about 100km south of Shanghai.
China’s first ever enduro
A forward looking promoter had decided that it would be a good launch pad for China’s first ever enduro. I duly signed up and for just under £40 I got race entry, some riding gloves, a trucker cap, a camping spot with a supplied tent and a BBQ. Not bad.
Next problem was my bike. Or lack of one. To cut a long story short, Specialized’s China office came up trumps with the loan of a 2016 Enduro. Nice!
It was interesting to see that my fellow racers really knew their bikes – the Öhlins shock on the Enduro was spotted immediately and became the subject of a lot of geeky bike chat.
Also interesting were the other riders’ bikes; no Flying Pigeon clunkers here. These riders were the new generation of well educated, affluent upwardly mobile young chaps riding a good collection of top-end kit: Santa Cruz, Scott, Mondraker, Cannondale, Cube and so on.
The bike park race venue itself was actually a small part of a much larger “leisure zone” comprising a golf course, horse-riding, sailing and go-karting. MTBing is being promoted along with all these other sports here as an aspirational life style option for the well-heeled.
I trucked the couple of hours down from Shanghai on the Saturday morning in time for practice in the afternoon. The rain started right on cue as we entered the gates of the park, settling in for a nice steady drizzle that would last 20 hours of the next 24.
With a weather forecast showing only the possibility of a shower on Sunday afternoon, I’d left all my Goretex back at the ranch. Ah well, we were only going to get wet the once. And it could have been raining twice as hard.
For most of the first lap, the trails held up pretty well. The surface was a clay, sandy mix with numerous random pointy rocks and a bit of moisture had firmed it up nicely for some fast grippy fun.
The course designers had done a good job of putting a lot of twistyness into a relatively compact area. I practiced until dusk and then headed back to base only to be told that the organisers had canned the camping option and had put everyone up in a local hotel for the night. For free. This was not entirely unwelcome news.
Race day dawned. Still chucking it down.
Queuing and bantering with the lads for the first stage of the day. Some would say that this is the best bit of enduro. Then it was my turn into the start tent to be counted down: Wu, Si, San, Er, YI!
Go go go!
Immediately into a steep fast switchbacky section through the trees that yesterday was FAST. Now it was topped with slithery slurry on the straights and sucky plasticene in the corners.
I got down in good shape and with a good time. Quite a few didn’t. Two more similar stages, with short transitions in between and it was time for lunch back at race HQ. A proper good Chinese takeaway (what else) all included in the race package price. I could get used to this!
The afternoon dawned (or whatever it is that they do). It stopped raining. Then started again. And didn’t stop. Proper stair rods. But it didn’t matter, I was in the zone and feeling good.
Two stages in the afternoon. The first a barely survivable slip ‘n’ slidefest (“stay on yer bike Danny!“) and the last an undulating lung burster. Praise be for dropper seatposts – the best invention ever.
On the podium
In an impressively short time, results were collated and announced. And somehow I’d got 3rd in the non-elite category. I didn’t see that coming. I had to rehearse my rusty podium etiquette in my head a few times before getting called up there.
A great weekend. Considering it was a first effort, the event organisation was impeccable, as was the resources they put in to make sure that the whole experience was a success.
Chapeau China! Here’s to many more.