Team Wideopenmag’s solo enduro rider Chris Hutchens has been smashing it so far this year. Straight off the back of a solid Emerald Enduro result, he headed straight to more familiar pastures for the Tweedlove International Enduro.
Here’s how Hutch got on in the tight and twisty plantations of Glentress and Innerleithen.
Words: Chris Hutchens/ Photos: Trevor Worsey.
In 2014 and 2015 the Enduro World Series visited Scotland and the green pastures of the Tweed Valley. It brought buzz, excitement, big crowds and big riders to the Peebles and Innerleithen trails.
How was the Tweedlove International, a one off event, going to match up to the success that had been left from the EWS?
The event attracted some great riders with some travelling over to the event after the EWS in Ireland. Greg Callaghan, after his big win last weekend, only had one thing on his mind when signing on for the two days of practice before the weekends two day race format. Local riders Ruaridh Cunningham and Mark Scott were also keen to get a piece of the prize purse on offer too.
Eshiels legend, Gary Forrest would always be a contender for the win as well having honed his skills on the hills surrounding the River Tweed. Robin Wallner, Ed Masters, Rupert Chapman, Iago Garay and a few others made the trip over from lands further a field.
I was stuck in the office on Thursday and Friday and resorted to watching some helmet cams kindly offered to me by a friend. It was a good substitute but not quite the same as putting the tyres down the trail and getting a feel for it. Thanks Emma!
The relaxed start on Saturday led you into a false sense of security before you raced the more leg and lung-busting stages of the weekend.
Wishing you hadn’t skipped leg day.
Stage 1 and 2 both kicked off with steep, wooded sections and teased you before gaining a slap in the face and forcing you to really work for the finish line. Long demanding sections of trail pushed your heart rate to near max levels. I managed to find a new max HR on stage one, it’s a shame the result didn’t quite match this. Greg Callaghan stole these stages put 2 seconds into Robin Wallner and almost 6 seconds into Ruaridh. Stage 2 was the same and Greg dominates taking 5 seconds out of the competition.
Stage 3 reverted back to a more downhill orientated stage, only one fire road sprint in here! Ruaridh clawed back less than a second from Greg who finished day one with a 9 second advantage and has clearly been on a serious training programme coming into 2016. He’s on fire.
Day one finished with Mark Scott, Joe Barnes and Robin Wallner fighting for positions behind Greg and Roy. It was still all to play for coming into Sunday. This was racing at it’s best.
In the women’s it was Trek taking positions one and two on all three stages with Tracey winning all ahead of Katy. Ros Newman, Becky Cook and Americas Kelli Emmett fought for 3rd place all day.
Day two was another sunny start, rain was due and everyone prepared for the worst.
Science in the field.
Napier University was in attendance, not just as a stage sponsor but also in terms of conducting some research. Riders were being fitted with a Catapult system, which measures accelerations and movements in its simplest form. Things have certainly moved on from the days of drinking beer, eating burgers and jumping fires at SDA races. Do kids do that now at races?
During the event Stefan from Morrocco Media was busy filming and analysing riding styles, lines and positions. With some fancy overlay work which I’ve spoken about in the past he looked at various riders. Hopefully this is the last time he puts me and Roy on top of one another but it’s interesting to see how different riders look on the bike.
Monsoons hit Peebles.
With Jackets packed, GPS units on and a busy arena to leave from I headed out for the day with a great group of riders for Innerleithen some 10km along the valley. First up was the Golfy. This place is like gold right now, everyone wants to get their piece of it. Why wouldn’t you when the trails are so good!
First up was Flatwhite of Flat Riot as it was called for the day. With locals sessioning this evening after evening it was going to be interest to see what all the fuss was about. I’d yet had the pleasure to point the wheels down the countless, perfectly sculpted berms. After attacking this blind I’ve rarely finished a race run with such a hit of adrenaline.
Forget hard drugs, this trail could turn any cold turkey around and free addiction from the most addictive of habits. If bets could be made at the bookies this would have been a high risk stage to bet on. So many riders wanted to win this but it was Greg and Tracey who took the male and female stage wins respectively. Making over 6 seconds on Ruaridh Greg extended his lead but the the fight for first was still heating up. Mark Scott nailed it to 3rd and I managed 9th on this stage after a fumble at the top on some roots. Robin Wallner suffered some issued on this stage losing about 20 seconds and dropping him back a few places.
Returning to a stage from the EWS 3 years ago, we headed to Bonewalker, running dry with sections of dust like Flat White Ruaridh pushed hard to take the win. Once again Tracey lead the women over Katy Winton. Consistency was returning for Mark who secured yet another 3rd place in front of Robin Wallner. I started to find my rhythm and slotted into 6th on the stage.
A time check between the four stages showed that Greg only had a 5 second lead over Ruaridh. What could the afternoon hold?
Sadly the clouds didn’t hold their precipitation and the hail fell down at a serious rate of knots. What is wrong with the weather? Most hadn’t wasted the effort in carrying a jacket for the day.
We all sheltered like wet cats under the large canopies at the bottom of Inners before making a long climb back up to stage 6. Proper Cask or Pre and Pro Spacker became saturated ruts which claimed a few including Stu Wilcox who was fighting against me for positions. Sam Flockhart continued a consistent race. Greg and Tracey who both extended their lead again won this stage. For Tracey she had wrapped up yet another win. Retirement must be good for riding! Roy unfortunately had a crash here and at the sharp end even the smallest stall or issue can have a big impact on your race.
With determinations clearly still there Roy put in an incredible run, almost being caught out at the bottom, to win the final stage by a convincing 3 seconds but had to settle for 2nd overall after Greg stayed focused on the job and rode consistently to secure another win for the books. Mark Scott remained in 3rd with a stronger final day. I climbed up the overall to 9th, Gary Forrest winning Masters and finishing 4th overall. Bet you didn’t think he was that old!
Tracey took top honours in front of local Katy Winton who is showing improvements every race and gaining a lot from her winning mentor each race. Becky Cook completed the womens podium in 3rd.
The Tweedlove team put on another great event this year. There was a huge buzz about the place and it’s clear we will be seeing some future superstars coming from the Peebles with the number of kids getting involved in the events.