Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Southern enduro champs - Exmoor

Southern Enduro Champs was the first race of the year for me, having just moved house I was not as prepared as I usually like to be, as everyone know moving takes forever, having spent the whole day packing my car I headed off in beautiful sunshine. Driving towards Minehead the view was incredible, being so close to the Bristol channel the National park has a beautiful sea view back drop.

On arrival I set up my car for sleeping in and settled down with some beers to catch up with everyone, that's one of the great things about racing is the chance to catch up with all of your race buddies who you wouldn't normally get to see. Not only that there are always new people to meet.

Posing with the Orbea Rallon in front of the Bristol channel backdrop
Setting off for practice on Saturday we headed out of the race village up a very long and slow climb, we'd been advised by the locals to ride the furthest stages first and work our way back. Our first run was down stage 2, the hardest stage, it was steep, off camber and loamy, every corner gave way as you rode into it so was difficult to gauge speed and how hard to push, then came a super steep loamy corner that was near vertical, we watched several people crash into the tree on the outside line and several crash into the non existent berm at the bottom. Having decide we weren't taking the slow line we had to do it. Having passed that section with relief it didn't get much easier and we all made it down the rest of the stage with a mix of terror and nervous excitement.

Laura Griffiths - Proudly posing post race in my new flare clothing kit with my Orbea Rallon
Following that stages 3 and 4 mellowed out a bit but both were tight with off camber multi line sections, plenty to get caught up on if you ended up on the wrong line, thankfully there was a great singe track transition bringing some relief and smile compared to some of the arduous fire road climbs on other transitions. Headed back towards the race village stages 5 and 6 were both freshly cut super loamy with off camber corners but not so steep, despite not being so steep there was plenty to get caught out by which resulted in me face planting into the loam and having a mouth full. Much to the amusement of my friends. Moving on from that and a couple more brown pow hip slides later practice was done and the only thing on everyone's minds was stage 2. debating if we should practice again we decided against it, other riders had said it was changing every hour so it probably wouldn't be the same by race day. Not only that the climb was mega and we didn't want it to become more of a nemesis if we had a fall on it.

The smile say just how much fun Southern endure champs was
So after another great nights sleep in the car helped along by some rum and good banter the night before I was up and ready to race. Still glorious sunshine we headed out, stage one was a great run but stage 2 caught me out where I didn't expect to have any issues, in fairness I lost it on one of the loose steep corners so it wasn't an underrated crash site. I fell hard on the ground with one cleat still in so wriggled around trying to get detached from my bike. Without any thoughts I jumped up and grabbed my bike but the force from the tree had twisted my handle bars on my steerer so my front wheel faced sideways, with no time to do a proper job on it I straightened it between my legs and jumped on and kept going, my googles also still covered in dust. I still had to face the steepest part of the course tentative on the front of the bike knowing the steerer was loose and peering though my googles trying to see what I could.

Recovered from stage 2 the rest of the day was a lot less eventful and in places I rode well but knew I wasn't riding my best, I tried to keep focused and look up but I didn't have that flow or get that buzz when you know your riding really well. It's taken me years to conquer my race nerves but I'll never be a natural racer. The best I could do was keep a clear mind and enjoy the day for what it was,  great trails with great friends. I always enjoy race weekends despite my inability to put a good time down and I usually finish with a respectable time so I'll turn my attentions to the next event and make the most of that too.

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