Getting into Enduro Racing by Helen Mather
My first ever long ride, and by long ride I mean more than 5 miles, was taking part in the London to Brighton charity ride. 75miles off road, something I’d never done before but was naïve to think I could just hop on a bike and ride it. After completing the distance in under 10 hours, I took up the sport more seriously. New bike, gear and accessories. Riding the trails gave me freedom, was distressing and challenging. The adrenaline rush down hill is my drive for the sport, so what better way than to push my boundaries with Enduro racing.
Race day. I arrived early. I can already feel the excitement. it was a cold morning yet sunny. The ground crisp. After unloading the bike and checking it over I took a walk into the race village. The smell of coffee and nattering of ‘bike talk’ builds my excitement. At registration I queue amongst fellow riders. Everyone is so friendly. I get my number and timing chip, which I attach to my bike. As a local I have ridden in the area, however not the particular trails that will be used in the race, so along with others I walk some of the trials.
Looking up and the steep incline, tight corners and loose soil, nerves start to take over. ‘How will I get round that corner?’, ‘How will I stay on over those roots?’ The trails seemed daunting. ‘What have I set myself up for?’ Taking mental notes for an attempt to help improve my run I walk the other trails.
Riders are called to the start line, as we set off across the timing matt to start our first transition, my heart is pounding, palms sweating………..And we are off. 100’s of riders, mostly men, mount there bikes, the sound of cleats echo’s through the trees. As we are climbing we start to disperse, each rider at there own pace, I may not the be quickest but hey, why tire yourself out now?
At the top my heart is racing. The queue in front of me is moving quick, not helping my nerves, but everyone around me is supportive and talkative. Everyone talks to everyone. There’s no judgement just pure encouragement. I tell the marshal I’m worried and he smiles and says ‘you’ll be fine’ and starts counting down for my first run.
I go, pedalling hard, trying to remember what I saw on the trail walk. I’m round the 1st corner, speeding up, round the second corner, speeding up, then bang…..I’m off. On my hands and knees and off the bike , I’m annoyed, 30 seconds in and I’m off, thiscant be right (luckily my partner behind forgot to turn the go pro on for this stage). I reach for the bike, and with encouragement from a marshal and my partner I’m back on, confidence knocked as I attempt to navigate down the steepest part of the trail, not the part I was looking forward too but adrenaline pumping I’m back into the swing of it and fly down the remainder of the stage cheered on by my family watching. My pride is overwhelming.
3 stages, 2 runs each, I manage to complete 5 more runs without any major mishaps. Waiting in anticipation for the results, I talk over my runs with friends and my other half, who followed me down each run. The feel good factor swarms the race village, all with their own stories to tell. Good and bad. No one passes judgment, its all a laugh.
Once every rider has complete, the results are in. With 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes for each category a crowd forms round the podium. Cheers and applause for each rider called out. Then my name….. 3rd, in Womens fun! Who would have known?! I went from a bag of nerves to 3rd place. What an achievement. My biggest achievement. But everyone is a winner. To be part of the experience, to be accepted in an male dominated sport, to gain self belief, I would recommend it to anyone.
My top tips would be:
Practice techniques, repetition is key to perfection
Set your bike up correctly, the small things can make a big difference
Walk/ride the trails before racing so you know what to expect
Look ahead, where you look is where you go
Stay relaxed, keep the ‘ready position’, let the momentum take you