Year on year the course for this course has been progressed in terms of the level of demand it puts on competitors. This year it not only featured the first descent from the Enduro, but also some fresh cut descents off Minch Moor, and a resulting 940m of climbing.
I pre-rode on Saturday with Dave Henderson, and to make the course more difficult, we were treated to snow on the ground and constant rain for the two hours that it took us to go round. The course was great though, and I knew that it was going to be a smasher the next day.
On sunday the weather was much warmer, so warm the jacket got ditched in favour of a gilet. I was off about 50th, and the snow was only on the sides of the trail higher up, so nothing to worry about there.
I started hard, after having a good warmup. I pulled back about 20 seconds on my minute-man, Gary McCrae, within the first few minutes, finding I was quicker on the steeper sections, but wasn’t gaining any ground when it flattened out. On the top section of the pushup track my chain went over the top of the cassette, so I had to fix it then get going again on the 30% slope. Down the first descent I was behind Gary, then lost a bit of time by going off-piste for a while.
Gary was gone, and by the time I got to the quarry section, I couldn’t see him at all, so suspected I may have passed him somehow. Turns out he’d missed some markings and bashed on up a fireroad for five minutes. I kept the hammer down, all the way up Minch Moor. The next section of descent of minch moor was pretty steep in places, and I felt like I was more skiing the bike than riding it down. I kept my feet up the whole time, unlike the day before when I was making some sort of human tripod.
The climb out of the bottom was pretty brutal, with a steep section of the Southern Upland Way. Near the top of this at the crop-circles I got passed by Gareth, who had caught me for almost ten minutes. I tried to hold onto his wheel on the flat muddy section, even following has rather off-piste line to avoid the mud, but could only hold him for about a minute.
After this it was down through Plora Graig rock gardens, then out onto the uplift track. I motored up there, slowed a little bit to chat with Chris Herraghty over the top, then chased Dave as he passed us both. Just the last descent to go, and that was over pretty quickly.
I ended up in third place in 1:32:08, 10 minutes down on Dave, with Gareth in first by 18 seconds. I was pretty pleased with my result considering the time off I had to take in February, though a ten minute gap to the next rider is huge.
Thanks to Helen, Steve, Dan and their team of helpers and marshals for a great event.