Day one at the Scottish leg of the Enduro World Series couldn’t have been more perfect – fantastic weather, amazing trails and one of the best days I’d had on the bike for a long time. On a personal level I was pleased to be in fourth place in my category, but I was determined to get on the podium.
Sunday’s weather forecast was significantly more Scottish, however, with rain and high winds on the agenda. The organisers made the tough call to cull two of Sunday’s stages as a result. And while the dangerous weather never really materialised, the decision was a good one, as it removed one of the longest, flattest, most painful race stages I could ever imagine.
Controversial from the start, it barely pointed downhill at all and would have handed the whole race to the fittest rider. Who wants to risk your neck for a few seconds on a technical stage when it’s all going to come down to strength and stamina in the end?
As it was we faced a tricky first challenge in stage five. Freshly cut and obscenely loamy, the overnight rain had turned it into an ice rink. And, as it turns out, I’m no figure skater. With three stupid crashes within the space of 100m, I lost nearly half a minute, and basically threw away any chance of the podium.
The conditions only got worse though, as hundreds of wheels churned up the soft earth. Mudguards clogged, wheels wouldn’t go round, dummies were spat. We were the lucky ones.
Back up to the wild summit of Glentress for stage six, which dropped almost five kilometres back down to Peebles. This one hurt, big style. Really pedally at the top, there was a climb into the open where a fierce crosswind killed our speed on a normally fast stretch of trail.
Then there was a tricky, and physical, sequence of tight corners that tested your upper body strength. Get through this, and a snappy little climb drained your legs before a long fireroad pedal. With arms wilting and lungs searing, the final descent was fast, greasy, and littered with little roots just itching to trip you up.
It was coming into this section I mis-timed dropping my saddle, and veered off down the grass bank like a total muppet.
It took a while for the pain to die way before I could beat myself up for making all those stupid mistakes. In the end I finished fourth, 15 seconds off Dan Greenwood in third and Crawford and Woody in first and second.
But, podium or no podium, I’d had a great time, ridden some truly testing world class trails, and measured myself against the best in the world. It was a memorable and humbling experience, and I recommend it to any of you.