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
The Alps are famous for their snowy pistes that keep keen skiers and snowboarders returning year after year. What you may not know is that the Alps have plenty to offer all sports-lover’s all year round. The mountain range is also home to many exciting cycling routes! Here are some top mountain bike destinations in the Alps
As the weather gets warmer, those visiting the Alps swap their skis for wheels.
So, if you’re tempted to do the same, here are the best biking routes in the Alps.
Le Tour, Chamonix, France
Le Tour is a legendary biking route located in Chamonix.
Famed for its breath-taking views that cyclists can admire en route, Le Tour is a trail you don’t want to miss.
If you haven’t been mountain biking in the Alps before, this is a great place to start. While there’s some tough terrain that will put you through your paces, most of the trail is gentle. This makes it the ideal starting place for those just getting to grips with cycling through the Alps.
One piece of advice: make sure you’re armed with a map!
Super Sauze, Sauze D’Oulx, Italy
Sauze D’Oulx isn’t home to a huge biking area, but, keen pedal-pushers should give it a visit at least once.
What the bike park lacks in size it certainly makes up for in terrain! The terrain suits every kind of biker, from amateurs to experts.
Not sure which trail to choose? The Super Sauze is one of the best routes in the area!
Some more good news? The Super Sauze has a thrilling, rather than scary, nature. So, it’s one adrenaline-junkies don’t want to miss.
If that wasn’t enough, the views of the French-Italian Alps are unparalleled.
Balcony Trail, Saint-Luc, Switzerland
Against a backdrop of some stunning views, the Balcony Trail is a cycling gem located in the Swiss Alps. For those who haven’t heard of it, it’s located near the famous ski resort Zermatt.
Saint-Luc is home to many exciting biking trails, from wooded areas to bike parks, but the Balcony Trail is by far one of the best routes.
Complete with mixed terrain, staggering sights and dizzying heights, the Balcony Trail is one of most thrilling trails the Alps has to offer.
Keep your eyes peeled for the sights! There are glaciers and rocky areas for you to spot and admire at your leisure along the way.
Col du Glandon, Bourg d’Oisans, France
Bourg d’Oisans is a small French town that has been transformed by its love for mountain biking. In fact, the area has been made up for cyclists, home to a number of famous routes.
Col du Glandon is just one of these. At first glance, the trail may look simple, as the gradient isn’t particularly steep. But, looks can be deceiving! Col du Glandon boasts several difficult downhill sections that would present any cyclist with a challenge.
The scenery might not be the best in the Alps, but cycling along one of the most famous biking trails is a reward in itself. It’s one you don’t want to miss!
Flaine to Samoëns, Samoëns and the Grand Massif, France
Boasting a varied and huge range of biking trails, Samoëns and the Grand Massif are must-visit destinations for keen cyclists.
Flaine to Samoëns is one of the best routes in this area, highly recommended by those who have given it a try. If you fancy taking in views of the stunning French Alps, including spectacular views of Mont Blanc and the Grand Massif, you’re in luck. It’s the perfect chance to admire the Alpine backcountry on two wheels!
But, the views aren’t all this route has to offer. Flaine to Samoëns is home to huge descents, which provide a challenge as well as a thrill. So, it’s easy to see why this route is one of the most popular in France.
Tempted to head to the Alps and put your cycling abilities to the test? Book your transfer from the airport in advance to secure the best deals!
Solden a destination to get outdoors all year round.
Nestled within the Ötztal Valley, in the Austrian state of Tyrol lyes the valley town of Solden. A great base for active people looking for fun and adventure all year round.
Solden is leading the way in environmentally friendly trail building using small diggers to remove the top soil and then hand crews to shape the lines then re applying the top soil so natural habitats are not lost. Over boggy and marshy ground bridges and tunnels are created to ensure good drainage and also to keep those habitats safe for the wildlife that lives there. Whilst on the trail we saw loads of wildlife including deer which added to the adventure.
Read about my adventure to Solden with Grip Grab here
Guest post from Roxy Bike Mallorca:
Evening guys and girls I thought I’d give you a little inspiration for a summer adventure. How about grabbing your mountain bike and heading to Mallorca? Interested? read on….
Mallorca is a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea, a 2 hour 10 minute flight from London.
It has stunning beaches, beautiful hinterland charm and amazing hiking and mountain biking trails, with a mild and biking-friendly climate all year round.
Although the entire island is great for mountain biking, you can find the largest variety of rideable terrain is in the Eastern part of Mallorca, which is near Artá, Cala Millor and Son Servera. There are many single tracks, a nature reserve with a great selection of rideable trails and gorgeous coastal tracks in this region.
Mountain Biking in Mallorca is legal, however there are no legally built single tracks with berms or jumps, as 90% of the island is in private hands.
Mallorca’s hidden single tracks are best found by hiring a local guide who can show you the best spots without too much road riding and getting lost.
CaMi-Bike, where you may rent super high-quality bikes and book guided rides in different levels.
The owner is a young lady named Roxy, who has been living in Mallorca for 9 years and has specialised in Mountain Bike Events, private coaching and group skills courses and also offers private guiding for groups. You may contact her via Instagram: Roxybike_mallorca or on Facebook.
Mallorca is a hidden gem for mountain biking with absolutely amazing single tracks, gorgeous views and mostly great weather. If you are looking for the perfect family bike & beach combo holiday destination, Mallorca is a the choice!
As the nights get lighter and the days a little brighter the opportunities for us to get out on adventures increases! Have you been on a micro adventure in the UK?
You only get one life, you get to choose how you spend your time, but sometimes ‘adventure’ can seem financially out of reach however there is no need to reside yourself to the dull and mundane just yet. There are endless micro adventures you can get up to here in the UK without spending a fortune or needing a month off work, here is my top 10:
1. Head for your local trail center! I am a little biased as mountain biking is my passion so of course biking micro adventures are top of my list, but in the UK we have some great trail centers where there are routes for all abilities from green which is beginner level and good for children to black and orange for those for who their wheel to leave the ground and like it to be steep and technical. In the south head for Queen Elizabeth Country Park or Swinley Forest further afield Cannock Chase and the Chiltern Hills are super fun! If you need a little confidence boost book yourself a morning with a coach to help improve your cycling ability. Mountain bike trail guide coming soon subscribe to keep up to date.
2. The UK capital of adventure personally would be Wales. Head for Snowdonia for a micro adventure, where you will find great camping spots, pretty b&bs plenty of sheep along with loads of outdoor activities from white water rafting to climbing. At Plas Y Brenin you can get great coaching in kayaking and climbing.
3. Surf’s up! Jutting straight out into the Atlantic Ocean, Cornwall is a magnet for swell, creating perfect waves for surfing! Also having some of the best beaches in the UK ideal for rock pooling and beach combing adventures. Why not take on a litter pick for surfers against sewage at the same time. A micro adventure with purpose!
4. Go for a wild swim – whether it’s a lake, river or the sea find some friends and go for a dip! Remember to check the tide times if you pick the sea and a wet suit could be a good shout!
5. Sleep outside without a tent – you can pick up a bivvy bag from Go Outdoors armed with this and perhaps a friend or two and a camping stove and your local woods could become your first micro adventure.
6. See how far you can run/walk/cycle in a weekend/day/morning/evening…
7. Take a new route to work – Micro adventures can happen at any time, why not have one five days a week, I am fortunate enough to live on the South Downs a beautiful area. I first discovered just how beautiful when I mixed up my commute routes for a couple of weeks not only did this give me a real sense of achievement in finding new ways to work but I could use these cycling routes as new training rides as well.
8. Use this great site called Fancy Free Walks to find a walk from a new place. Martyn and I have been using this site to explore our local area finding walk with good pub stops and making an adventure of it.
9. Scotland – The most beautiful and wildest part of our great Island. Okay it can take a while to get there but the sleeper train from London is a great option or why not drive and stop off at different places along the way to make a real road trip of the UK. Read about biking in Scotland.
10. Enter a race! Not to win (unless you want too) but for the adventure. Racing gives you a reason to exercise and motivation to get outside and maybe try something new. There are loads of sites which have these types of challenges like Rat Race, Tough Mudder and Cycling Events UK the bonus is your likely to get a badly fitting t-shirt and a medal as well! Read about my Mum and I racing in the New forest.
Share your micro adventures with me on Facebook.
I started riding in 2012, socially completing the Purbeck hill-a-sarus sportive which I really enjoyed. One day bored, at work I started looking for other events and came across 24 Hours of Exposure, a 24 hour solo event, so I entered, this was to be my first ever race.
Since then I have tried many different mountain bike race formats, including Solo Endurance races, Team Endurance races, XC racing, Marathon Racing and Multi Day Stage racing.
I prefer the challenge of multi-day events and the endurance events. This year along with some Stage Racing I am also doing a 24 hour solo race and a 12 hour solo race and maybe even some XC races!
Club La Santa International 4 Day Stage Race
This was my 3rd time doing the 4 day stage race at Club La Santa in Lanzarote, 2015, 2017 and now 2018, why do I keep coming back? It’s a great event, great value for money and something to aim for when its cold wet and miserable in the UK.
This year I had the best preparation I have ever had, at the beginning of October I started with a new coach, Sally Bigham, one of the best and most successful stage racers in the world. Sally has been working me hard and I have been putting a lot of hours training in mainly using my Wahoo KickR which is great tool for training especially when training on power and doing quite complicated intervals as it sets everything for you and all you need to do is turn your legs at the right cadence, drink and sweat, a lot!
At the end of September I went to the Torq Fitness HQ to do a Lactate threshold test and FTP. The Lactate Threshold was all over as I suspect I was coming down with a cold as I woke up the next day full of cold and the FTP numbers were quite low but I had hardly ridden since Alps Epic due to being away with work for a month, my FTP was 198 Watts, about 6 weeks later this went up to 212 Watts and then on Christmas eve I was out riding and everything felt good so I decided to attempt one out on the road, I was amazed, I had jumped up to 266 Watts, a huge improvement and was feeling really strong, then on the 2nd of January I suffered another Asthma Attack which took around a week to get over and my training in January really took a hit, after that I was away with work again and then busy moving house so prior to flying to Lanzarote I had barely ridden.
I had been told not to ride too hard as I hadn’t ridden much in the lead up to the race, I started out nice and steady on the road until we hit the dirt, I felt good so I pushed and pushed and pushed, everything felt so good the bike was great my legs felt strong so off I went, this stage was different to past years so I couldn’t really compare the times but my position amongst the other Brits out told me I had seen quite a lot of improvement so I was very happy. The conditions were tough as well, high winds and cooler than normal made things tough.
On Stage Two I decided to ride with my friend Sarah Hewitt, she was sat in 2nd place after Stage One and I knew there was going to be some tough sections on this stage with the head winds so I rode with her and acted as a wind block for her. I really enjoyed working together, we worked hard in tough conditions and she retained second place. About 5km from the end of the stage I had a mechanical, my gear cable had pulled through and I couldn’t shift out of the hardest gear, after a couple of minutes deciding if I carry on in the hard gear or fix it I decided to fix it, Sarah carried on so as not to lose any time, it only took a couple of minutes to fix and I probably lost 5 places by the end, I got back on and set about chasing down some of those that had passed me, I had passed a couple and had caught a British Army rider so I decided to sit in and recover before passing him as I could see Sarah not too far ahead of me, however I switched off a little bit too much and decided to have a lay down in some soft sand, fortunately no injuries bar some bruising to my hip and thigh and somehow I had missed any of the Lava Rock. Again this stage was different to previous years so no comparison could be made to previous years but I was happy with my performance and position and Sarah was still in second place in her category.
Stage three is the individual Time Trial, you start on the Beach in Famara and finish on the top of the cliff above. My start time was much later than everyone else so they all got the bus down in the morning and I decided to ride down later as this would act as a good warm up prior to the stage. Again I was still feeling strong and this was the one stage where I could have a direct comparison to previous years, last year I had completed the 22km in 1:38 so I set my self a target time of 1:30. I set off and was feeling strong again, I pushed hard all the way except on the descents, the cross winds were that bad I was being blown of the track and had to slow down and lost some time on these sections. The final climb was tough, with a strong headwind and it was cold, I actually felt very cold in the last 1/3 of the climb, but I pushed on and worked at my limit with an average heart rate of 181bpm and a max of 192bpm. I was over the moon when I crossed the line at 1:22, 8 minutes quicker than my target time and 16 minutes quicker than last year.
Stage four is the big one, 84.5km and the route was very similar to last year all be it 2km shorter. I rode with Sarah again which was really good, we jumped between groups in the headwinds, me working on the front as I know I could recover on the descents. My Santa Cruz Tallboy is the perfect bike for Stage racing, I nice position and I have fitted it with a dropper post which was great for the descents. Part way through the stage there is a 10km climb and leading in to it is a drag on a fire track in to a headwind, I knew what was coming but still pushed hard along here, gaining a few places and catching some riders that were up ahead, I knew Sarah would be stronger than me on the climb but I also knew I could catch her on the descent the other side so off she went into the distance and I plugged away, I was suffering with some lower back pain which didn’t help and the winds were still strong as we climbed, but even with all of this I felt stronger than I had before so pushed on. As I thought I caught Sarah on the Technical descent and waited for her at the bottom which gave me a chance to stretch which really helped and maybe something I should have taken time for earlier… We carried on the stage together and continued to gain places.
The last 15km or so were in to a strong headwind so head down and keep pushing, Sarah did say after that she moved to take a turn on the front, pulled out from behind, felt the head win and tucked back in, it was tough and I have never been able to work that hard for that long, as we pushed closer to the finish I spotted two riders ahead and was pretty sure one of them was the lady that was leading the category Sarah was in so I pushed harder, making sure Sarah was still with me but hadn’t told her that I thought her main competition was up ahead, we caught with about 3km to go and passed her and her friend very quickly but she had jumped on the back, the last few Km’s were tight and twisty so I was pushing but trying not to push too hard but also making sure that I hadn’t lost Sarah and was towing the other lady instead, I knew it would be a sprint finish for them so as we came in to Club La Santa I pulled over to the side and let them pass, Sarah took the sprint and the stage and finished second overall. My time for this year was amazing, last year was over 6 hours, this year was 5:12, so a huge improvement for me, would I have pushed so hard if I had been on my own I’m not sure, having someone else to ride for and ride with really pushed me on, now to convince Sarah we need to pair up for a big stage race like the Bike Transalp.
I am very happy with my results this year and have seen huge improvements thanks to my amazing coach Sally Bigham, my next big event is Transpyr in June which I will be doing solo, 800km, 18200m’s climbing in seven days.