Our regular columnist and racing whippet Rab Wardell has been a busy boy of late – and with a very full race season with his new team coming up and his aim of qualifying for the 2014 Commonwealth games, so he should be. In the latest instalment of his regular column, Rab takes some time to get used to his new big wheeled Trek race bike before taking part in his first race of the year – the Alpine Bikes Day & Night Enduro at Inners…
“When planning my training last year I decided that a big block of riding would fit in well around the end of February. I’ve done this in the past and it’s a great way to set up for the year ahead. In previous years I travelled overseas, for road riding in a warmer climate. This is all well and good but I decided to formulate a new plan and be not be scared to challenge the convention of pre-season training.
I had a good think about the requirements for the camp were. I’m preparing for mountain biking and as I’ve been able to train on the road for most of the winter I don’t need road miles so much. Good quality mountain biking was a must for a week of sharpening up skills. I wanted to have accommodation which was simple and effective: a hotel isn’t all that much fun with a mountain bike to clean, so somewhere designed for bikers was appealing. The weather wasn’t such a big deal as I would be riding off road and I have good clothing. The final requirement was the less travel the better. It’s all well and good travelling overseas but with a flight each way that’s a training day gone, as well as valuable holiday time. The decision ended up being pretty simple: Scotland it was! I booked up to stay in Innerleithen at The Bike House. This place is ideal for groups of up to 6 riders – check out www.thebikehouse.co.uk for a look at the set up there. Perfect really!
Another factor to consider was riding buddies. I got on the blower to GT Racing superstar Gareth Montgomerie. Monty is a good training buddy – chilled yet hard working and also sympathetic.; if you’re having a bad day he won’t twist the knife, there’s plenty time for him to do that in the bike races. It was also great to have Grant Ferguson back home in Peebles. Grant rides for Boardman Bikes UK and is part of the British Cycling Under 23 Academy programme, as well as being a Junior medallist in the European XC championships and 4th in the World at Champery! Talented to say the least.
Training plans weren’t too specific, just to have a good hit out around the trails and rack some time on the new bike. I needed to get used to the big wheels and tweak suspension settings as well. I also hoped to test the strength in my wrist to see how it would handle long hours of technical riding. Then there was the important stuff like taking it off some sweet jumps (I got like 3 feet of air that time…) and pulling a couple of skids and no-footed endos. Over the week I clocked 28 hours on the bike riding way maked trails, ‘secret’ stuff and – finally – my first competitive outing of the year.
At the end of the weekend I was joined in The Bike House with my flat mate Rob ‘4real’ Friel. We’d decided to enter the Alpine Bikes Winter Series Day and Night Enduro. 4real came equipped with his trusty Santa Cruz Bullet, 10 years old this year! I rocked out on my new Trek Remedy 9 complete with 50/50 flats and Crank Brothers Joplin dropper post so at least I looked the part, well, apart from my chicken legs. We had to brave the snow to check out the courses too.
Stage 1 was pretty nuts. Not very steep but loamy as all hell and really hard to carry an kind of speed, a short uphill fire road blast, and into a rutted downhill with short traverses and uphills to the finish. Really awkward to try and ride fast but good fun. Then pedal back up the hill for Stage 2. This was more downhill and down some of the usual Inners trails like the Gold Run, eventually spitting you out of the bomb hole, over the ski jump and round some big berms to finish. Friel and I practised together and managed one run which helped us slightly. With over 10 minutes of descending it was hard to remember lines! The trails where also all new to me, which didn’t help.
After a short chill in the car park, a scotch egg and a brew, we headed up for the race runs. Up top we waited in line which gradually whittled down. Then before I knew it I was on the start line and it all became very real. ‘Balls! This is actually a race innit!?’ 30 secs later and race face on, I was tripod-ing my way through the mud and rocks, trying to carry speed. I absolutely blasted the fire road and dropped into the rutted trail to the finish, passing four or five riders; a decent ride but time could have been made up in a few sections. Rob followed me and once he joined me at the finish it was time to pedal back on up in the snow. Stage 2 was a full on blast! Great chances to get off the brakes and straight line some of the traverses and rail the turns. Once again I managed to pass a couple of riders and rode fairly smooth and fast down the hill. Job done.
Stages three and four were a repeat of stages one and two, but with the added challenge of being held at night. I was dreading stage three through the loamy mud and rocks; if you messed up one turn or section it could mean ten seconds time loss as it was so difficult to pick up speed. I rode as hard as I could, trying to focus on the light patch between the trees, pedalling the straights as hard as I could and stayed off the brakes as much as possible. I made a few mistakes on the traverses and uphill which lost me a fair chunk of time but I made it down without a crash. I rode a similarly decent stage four too, and was happy to round out the day with no major incidents and to ride what I felt was pretty fast. I managed to set the 17th fastest time overall and finished 8th in the senior category. I was pleased with this, especially having looked at the quality of the field. To only be losing 30 – 50 seconds to Crawford Carrick Anderson and Gary Forrest was a good ride for me; those boys know Inners well and have bags of talent. All in all a top days racing!”
Big thanks to Ian Linton of Ian Linton Photography for the use of the photographs. If you were at the Alpine Bikes Winter Series Night & Day Enduro then he’s probably got a shot or two of you. You can head here to check out his blog from the event or go over to Roots & Rain to view and buy photos…