Our man in the race, Richard Lane, reports on the weekend’s racing from Peebles.
Arguably the main event of the Tweedlove festival is the Enduro racing. A large, free to visit expo area, world class riders from all over the world and a course set up to challenge their bike racing skills. Over the weekend this racing happened.
With no EWS this year, the organisers of the Tweedlove festival re-badge their premier race in hope of building on the previous two years of official EWS racing – And so the Shimano Tweedlove International was born. Would this year sell out and be as good as it was the previous years, under the EWS umbrella? The long and short answer to that is, ‘Oh, hell yes!’.
The local trail builders, event organisers and volunteers have clearly been busy people planning the event. The expo was as big and busy as previous EWS years and the course was easily as difficult and at points, pretty scary.
The weather forecast couldn’t have been more unpredictable – Rain all weekend, light showers on Saturday with sun on Sunday, light showers all day Sunday with heavy downpours over over night on Saturday. It seemed that every time you checked the forecast it changed. There were reports from locals that it was throwing it down in Innerliethen and yet it was still gloriously sunny in Peebles. It really couldn’t make it’s mind up. With these trails, a slight downpour can make an unbelievable difference to the ground conditions. The few weeks leading up the race the rare dry spell had done wonders for the trails and had dried many up. This would all change within a matter of hours.
With one and a half days of racing, there was a seeded group for those wanting to take life a little more serious, and a unseeded group for those just hoping to ride around safely. Masses of local riders were out in force to show how the valley is producing top riders of all ages. Some local pros and not so local pros littered the start list. Greg Callaghan, Garry Forrest, Joe Barnes and Ruaridh Cunningham, just to name a few. In the womens’ field the star riders getting the crowd excited were Trek Racings’ Tracy Moseley and Katy Winton.
Glentress was the location for the first days racing with stages 1-3. A relatively short day with around 800m of climbing over 23(ish) km of riding. In general day ones stages had larger trail centre style sections, and bigger mid stage climbs, to blow your legs apart and leave a lung behind.
A long climb straight out of town took riders up Janet’s Brae climb to the Buzzards nest car park. From there on, the climb continued up into the forest and into the Spooky Woods area.
A trail centre-esk start settled you in, woke up your corner prowess before turning slippery at the entrance to the Hush Hush trail. Here it quickly got steeper, drier and more serious. Look up, try and stay off the front brake and your away. What a track! There wasn’t a huge climb in stage one, but the Deliverance trail is a long drawn out, trail centre affair that seems to go on forever. The end of the stage was a true test of fitness.
A short steep(ish) transition to the start of stage two followed. There was a feed station and the Shimano tech support crew where on hand to refuel and fix already broken bikes.
Pass through the start of stage two and a quick climb brought you to the start of ‘Broon Troot’ trail. Some locals thought this was a bit of a gamble. In the wet it can be nearly unrideable, with polished roots, with some steepish turns in there providing plenty to catch riders out. Pop out of ‘Troot’ and pedal up a section of ‘Redemption’, lungs hurting, legs crying and feeling pretty rubbish it was a final sprint down ‘Pie Run’.
Hurting and in need of liquid another short transition led riders to stage 3.
The shortest stage of the day, but with plenty of vertical drop, this stage mixed it up the most, switching between natural and trail centre tracks, and back again. More roots, fun turns and switch backs. The key here was to stay relaxed and look up.
The first day delivered a sunny days racing, with Greg and Tracy taking the overnight lead, but the everyone was fired up and looking forward to the steeper, DH style tracks to come on day two.
Sunday morning arrived, with a sunny clear sky. The longer day meant a earlier start for all. 1200 m of climbing over 50 km of riding. The second days racing was to be held at Innerliethen, with a gentle spin along the bike path, before climbing up the Golfie, to the top of the Old School DH track.
Whilst climbing up to the first stage of the day, the trail we were about to race down, ‘Flat White’, was visible. In a younger section of woodland the trail tape was glinting in the sun light. Riders were visible twisting and turning their way down switchback after switchback down the hillside.
Old School DH is relatively gentle in comparison to a number of trails in this area. A quick fire road climb and riders dropped into a new trail called Flat White. It was a complete contrast to the natural tight tracks around here. Although it was very sculpted it was tough on your arms and legs. Hanging on through the fast bermed turns, pumping the bike in an effort to stay in the turns. A strong smell of cooked brakes filled the air at the finish line.
The same climb then took rider to the second stage of the day, and stage five. From here on in things got much steeper. ‘Jawbone’ has a lovely start through the trees. The sun was shining and shadows covered the forest floor. You quickly started to drop steeply down the fall line of the hillside and through a daunting rock garden. Another quick fire road blast and down a treacherous ‘Walk or Burn’.
Waiting at the bottom was chance for a time check and another opportunity to visit Shimano tech again if you needed it.
What followed was a long transition towards the Minch Moor area. Riders were either looking forward to stage six or dreading it. The first section, ‘Pre-Spacer’, was a wet and muddy affair with some very slippy traverses covered in roots and ruts before a short fire road pedal to ‘Pro-Spacer’.
‘Pro-Spacer’ is a steep – steep – very steep trail. The trick is to use rear brake at the top of the turns and release when it’s over. The key to getting down in one piece is to not stall in one of the many steep tight corners. Keeping off the front brake as much as possible was key. Do all that and it’s an amazing trail.
Nearly there with one track to go after a short pedal to one of the most popular trails in the valley, ‘Cresta Run’ – A classic DH track, with great potential for speed and lined with roaring crowds – Adrenalin powered biking at its best.
Senior Women: 1st Tracy Moseley 2nd Katy Winton 3rd Becky Cook