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A Weekend of Fun at Innerleithen - 1st to 3rd March 2013

After a successful weekend racing downhill at Innerleithen, I was only home for 4 days before heading back there again. This time for a 3 day training trip combined with doing the enduro event on the Saturday. I hadn’t taken the preparation for the race too seriously, as I wasn’t going to have any time before the event off the bike. I still wanted to ride really well and get a good result. Racing is racing after all! Enduro isn’t my main priority this year, so the focus of the trip was to do lots of riding, as well as to get against the clock and work on my riding in a competitive environment.
I left home at 7am on Friday morning and made my way up the M6. I reached the Moffat junction and was heading into the Scottish highlands by 10.30am. I wasn’t meeting DH buddy Pete Williams until 1.30pm, so I had time for a little adventure before arriving at Innerleithen. One of the many big hills in the beautiful valley on the way to Innerleithen has a trail up it leading off into the wilderness. I’ve always fancied heading up with the bike to see what’s at the top. When I arrived at the car park it turned out this trail is called the Grey Mare’s Tail, which some of you may have heard of, or been up.
It’s named after the massive waterfall just around the corner from the car park. You can actually see it from the road if you look back on yourself. The weather was bright and sunny and it made for a wicked hike. I really enjoyed walking up the hillside round the back the falls to follow the river up onto the moorland. At the top I found a highland loch which proved to be one of the most beautiful spots I think I’ve ever seen.
After enjoying the scenery for long enough it was time to have some fun and blast back down to the van! An hour and a half of hiking uphill, all for less than 10 minutes of downhill. Well worth it though! The whole experience was topped off perfectly when a fighter jet came smashing through the valley only metres above my head when I got back to the van.
Next I headed on up the road to Innerleithen for an afternoon of XC with Pete. Strava tells me we rode 12 miles of XC on the technical, natural trails in the woods above the village. It was a cracking afternoon to finish a great day and I was absolutely knackered by the end of it. I hadn’t had a day off the bike for over a week and I was starting to feel it getting the better of me. Not great considering I had the enduro to tackle the next day!
Pete couldn’t race the enduro because he was off to do a MTB course, so he dropped me in Innerleithen for 9am. This was a bit earlier than neccessary as the enduro practice didn’t start until 11am. I decided to walk up one of the two enduro tracks and then down the other, before practice started, so that I would know where I was going when practice got underway. This proved to be very helpful as there was a lot of track to learn and not much practice time, especially with no uplift and having to pedal or push your bike to the top.
The event consisted of 2 tracks but 4 timed stages. This was possible because we were to race each stage twice, once in the daylight and then once after the sun went down with the bike lights attached. So all in all with two practice runs in the morning I was going to have to pedal to the top of Innerleithen 6 times that day. Now that’s what I call good training!
My main rival for the event’s top spot was going to be Joe Barnes, who turned his attention from DH to enduro racing at the start of 2012. He used his experience to gain an advantage over me from the very start. This was because the event wasn’t seeded, so riders would just turn up at the top and set off in any random order, but Joe made sure he was there first to get himself a clean run! I on the other hand went down in the middle of the pack and ended up having to pass about 15 people on the way down! I hadn’t thought that one through had I, and consequently lost loads of time. On the other hand the run was great fun having to pass lots of people, most of them being fantastic and allowed passing moves!
My second and fourth stages went well without having to pass anyone, but my third stage was similar to my first having to pass 10 people this time. As far as I was made aware, Joe had pretty clean runs each time. When all the times were presented at the end I’d finished in 2nd place and was really happy with that, considering how tired I was coming into the event and it was my first enduro. Alex Stock was third and he is a great enduro rider so it was awesome to beat him. It turned out that me and Joe had exactly the same combined times from our second and fourth stages, it was just on the first and third stages where I’d got held up by other riders that he’d made the 35 seconds on me for his victory. I think some of this time also came from my tiredness, because this was the more pedally, longer stage of the two. So another podium for me, that’s 3 out of 3 since the 2013 season started, and long may it continue!!
The plan for Sunday was to ride some downhill, hopefully using my van for uplift before heading home. I was going to be riding with Lewis Buchanan, but he had a sore foot and bailed last minute. I therefore headed to the XC trails at Glentress in the morning as I’ve never ridden there. I did a steady but full run of the red route. I was surprised by it because it wasn’t like other trail centers I’ve ridden, which are very up and down the whole way round. This was made up of one very long climb for over an hour, then a descent all the way back to the car. Not as good as Gisburn I’m afraid Glentress! I finished the trip with a couple of hours of push up DH back at Innerleithen before the long slog home in the van.
So that was another great weekend all in all. Some fantastic training done. I feel great on my bikes. Achieved another podium finish. And 2013 is going be a great one, I can feel it!!

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