Orange Bike’s Admiral of Facebook (and Wideopenmag story-writer) Pete Scullion takes on the first enduro of the year. Photos kindly supplied by Ian Linton.
The first race of the year is always a worry for me. I was pretty confident I would suffer at the opening round of the Innerduro series at Innerleithen, and that I did. My winter training had been going well, but I had a sinking feeling that it wouldn’t be enough.
Practice was a fairly leisurely affair, with sign-on not opening until 11am. Initial inspection of the course map showed that we’d be doing a fair amount of riding and an awful lot of height loss/gain. All 3 stages started from the very top of the hill with two finishing back at the tarmac road that leads to Walkerburn.
Race day was a slightly less leisurely affair despite us setting off last up the hill. Stage 1 was a familiar affair from the ‘Day and Night’ race by the same organizers this time last year. A stupid crash before the uphill fireroad sprint had me cursing my fitness early. The fireroad climb I’d rather forget, as an eye witness said ‘you looked like you were out for a Sunday morning stroll’. The descent that followed was just as tricky and I took another detour into the undergrowth early on. Hard work and a wild ride from top to bottom.
Stage 2 was a beast, a full 12 minutes of attack linking some of the best natural and man-made trails the forest has to offer. This one was a lung buster. Not following the main line here paid dividends as the mud again was a major obstacle to speed and flow. The final ‘Classic’ part of the stage was an amazing addition and was very difficult to ride at race pace as arms and legs were white hot. A short, sharp uphill sprint to the dibber twisted the knife. This one was the best of the day and might just be the best course I’ve ever raced on. It really did have everything.
Stage 3’s use of the trail centre sections was soon eclipsed by ‘Pistol Pete’s’. Steep, rooty, muddy, tight and twisty don’t get anywhere near doing this trail justice. Deploying both safety legs was common, riding it clean was a feat in itself and had more in common with Hamburger Hill than a bicycle race. A long, flat fireroad sprint to Caddon Bank was made more difficult by pedals fully clogged with mud combined with roasting hot lungs. The final blast down the drops and jumps took any energy I had left. 13 minutes of 100% commitment and stage 3 was done.
Don’t get me wrong here, the words above may sound like I hated every minute of it but that isn’t what I intended. Innerleithen MTB Racing have well and truly hit the nail on the head with this race. Amazing stages, relaxed atmosphere, cheap entries, food and drink at the top…… The only thing that faltered at the weekend was my ability to make my body work as hard as I wanted it to. That I can change with a bit of training though. This was definitely a race to enjoy with mates. Almost every rider had a gaggle of familiar faces to hurl abuse/encouragement at the bottom of each stage, and swarms of people with their stage time slips surrounded the timing tent in the car park once the mud had settled.