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Rachael Gurney: Round 2 Report

Last weekend was round 2 of the UK Gravity Enduro held in Innerleithen, Scotland. If you've been following On-One this far you'll have noticed that "Team Codeine" has been created to coincide with the launch of On-One's first full susser - The Codeine. With 29er wheels, slack head angle and some up market kit, this bike has been created to eat enduro trails for breakfast. In order took fully cement this bike into the enduro world, the team (four guys and one girl) have been training hard and railing it round the UK Gravity Enduro Series this year. The female part of the team, Rachael Gurney, is also an avid blogger so here's her report from last weekends racing:

We (boyfriend and I) set off Thursday lunchtime, travelling to Inners in an absolute beast of a V-dub camper, leant to us to test by a local camper conversion company (Three Counties Motorhomes, Poole). This was travelling in style, with all of our kit in and bikes on the back it looked amazing! We got to the campsite late but at least we were there and ready for Friday practice. We planned to get a whole loop taking in all five stages so we could have an easier day on Saturday, keeping our legs fresh for Sunday - well that was the plan anyway.

We had already had the warning email from race organiser Steve Parr - he told us it was going to be a tough race, with long, difficult descents. He wasn't wrong!

Pedalling out from the car park at Inners on Friday morning we started the long haul up nearly 500m of fire road climbing, something we would then do four more times in practice alone. I'll let you in on a secret though, we actually opted to push up the track instead. Although this saved my quads it did nothing for my calves or general energy levels.

At the top of the hill, without a clear idea of where the stages were and seeing the signs for stage 2 we figured starting there was as good a place as any. This stage started in sloppy mud (we are of course in Scotland, what else would there be?), It continued to traverse the hill, with wide open tracks, encouraging you to use the grass and get creative with the line choice. The lower half of this trail was an old downhill trail, winding through the trees, roots aplenty to keep you on your toes with a bike park pedal to conclude.

Onto stage 3, this stage was the furthest away from the group of DH trails on the Innerleithen hillside. It started with pretty much the same theme as 2, but the ground quickly morphed into a techy rock garden with multiple lines depending on your skill set and well, balls! It finished with a tight weave through close knit trees, pumping over rocks, round roots and over rollers.

From here we carried on to stage 4, my most favourite stage of the day. This began in the loose rock of an off camber descent, crossing the fire road and plunging you down a much used natural style DH track. The first part was wide, with 4 jumps to ride as the mood took you. It soon turned into a typical Innerleithen trail, lined with tight trees, multiple lines from other trails crossing your path making you pick your eyes up and really look for the tape. This trail again had plenty of roots and loose rock to test bike skills and nerves.

We then headed back up the hill to stage 1, this was very similar in nature to stage 4. In fact starting in near identical places. This stage showed us all types of Scottish trails - mud slop, to rock riverbed style to worn in DH track. It was fun bouncing from rock to rock, my bike just taking it all in its stride! The lower half of this trail was an old downhill trail, winding through the trees, roots aplenty to keep you on your toes with a bike park pedal to conclude.

So last to do was stage 5, also doubling up as our seeding run on Saturday afternoon. I really should have walked this stage before I rode it... but then I may not have wanted to ride it! The tops section was hands down the steepest, most technical piece of track I have ever ridden! One of those that after getting down it, I felt that I didn't want to push my luck by riding it again. I did, of course, but I did this on Saturday morning rather than when tired on the Friday. After the sheer, tight corners of the top of the track it mellowed slightly to a still techy track but also loads of fun, including cheeky bus stops and a few jumps. Getting down this stage in practice without needing to take a foot off the pedals in the steep section was a major achievement.

Saturdays seeding run was a mixed bag, beginning with the ladies through to about the masters managed to get it done in the dry, from then on though the heavens opened and the track became a greasy, root infested nightmare for the rest of the field. Times got slower and those that felt confident in the wet really shone. We were set off in race number order, with no deviation from this allowed, I got held up in seeding, catching 4 other riders. Still, I seeded second, not all bad but I knew my time could have been so much better. Tiny bit frustrating as this counts to your overall time too.

Race day dawned dry but with the mist definite ominous threat of showers and thunder! Yes, thunder! Ladies categories always set off first at UKGE, I started at 09:07 in the dry, quickly becoming caked in mud and wet through. Stage 1 was greasy and I felt worryingly slow. Talking to the girls at the top I realised I wasn't the only one struggling to remember all of these long stages! Waiting for Stage two we were met with a downpour of rain and hail, with little to no cover I got soaked! On the plus side though, this stage with the river running down it, turned out to be the grippiest all day! After seeding in second place on Saturday I was battling it out with Nicole Mallet from Twelve50 bikes all day, managing to catch her in stage 1 and 2.

It was a tight transition to get to stage three on time, with only five of us ladies making it on time, even a rider from the elite category was late! This stage was my worst, Nicole beating me by 8 seconds here. Stage 4 went past in a blur, I was starting to feel tired by now. After a mammoth push up it was time to start stage five. On any other day, just riding with mates, there is no way I would have even attempted stage 5 feeling as tired as I did, knowing the steep technical track that lay ahead. After all that though I had a blast down five, only taking a foot off the pedals once and putting nearly 40 seconds into Nicole and being faster than four of the elite ladies! In the end stage five was discounted after a bad crash stopped play there for the rest of the field. I still took the win by 28 seconds over the four stages, Nicole took second and Rachael McDougal third place.

It was an amazingly physically and mentally draining day and definitely the toughest of the series yet. I am pleased to report my bike performed perfectly and turned lots of heads. Maybe it's just the vibrant blue and orange colour way or maybe not, but people seem very keen to find out how it rides. Steve Parr was right, it was a hard day, one of the most demanding I have had on a bike. The tracks very well thought out and were truly there to test us, at some point though it felt less like an enduro ride with timed downhills and more like a push up and ride down scenario - maybe with less riding time the day felt harder. An epic weekend though, I had fun with the enduro girls and always feel supported by the people I race against. Spirit of enduro is definitely here!

2 June 2014

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