Covering South Limerick and West Cork, the Ballyhoura Mountains are home to Limerick Mountain Bike Club and Trailriders Bike Park. The Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Park is the largest trail network of its kind in Ireland. With over 50km of Coillte trail loops and plenty of natural handbuilt trails, this mountain has so much to offer riders of all levels and has something from top level enduro riders right down to the total beginner. Its always fun to head off in the van for a weekend away racing, and this is one I was really looking forward to as I hadn't been to the ‘Houra’s’ in over 9 months! And being the second round of the Irish Gravity Enduro Series, I was especially excited as these are my favourite events to race.
My preparation leading up to the weekend was good but could have been better! A few spins, some interval training to get myself back on track and a few sea swims was how my week went but I was tired leading into the weekend due to a busy week at work on top of it all. I had a lot to prove to myself after taking the win in Round 1 at Ticknock and I knew that I had it up against me, with my biggest rival, Leah Maunsell being on her home turf as well as riding awesomely well at the moment. I was hoping that, if anything, I would have the power in my legs for the pedally stages that would give me some advantage, with the ‘gains’ from days spent power-lifting over the winter hopefully paying off.
I set off early on Saturday morning for he two and a half hour journey down to West Cork. The roadtrip was made a lot more fun as I had Pro-rider Dan Wolfe with me to keep me entertained! As you can imagine, the conversation was mostly about bikes, racing, racing and bikes! Was cool to get some racing tips from Dan who came a savage 8th in Elite Men in the Enduro World Series recently. Dan was going down to win at the weekend and that’s just what he did, what a legend!
We arrived at the race village at about 10am and did the usual rounds with everyone. Some riders were already setting off on their bikes, ready for their day of practice, others, like myself, were happy to take their time, in no rush as the day was long. With my Vitus SommetPRO all set to go, registration complete and all the hello’s said, I headed off to Stage 1 with Dan and biking.ie rider Garreth Davis. The weather was good at this point with no sign of rain and a humidity level that meant no jacket was needed. This meant however, that the midges were out in force, and I mean these lads were having a party on every single rider that weekend! If you didn't finish the day looking like you had come down with the measles, you were doing well. Even the repellent spray didn't deter the little feckers!
We spent the day scoping lines and taking our time on each stage. This is something I don't normally do on practice day, but it was really good and something I really must implement in to my practice days from now on rather than just ploughing through the stages, without too much ‘sessioning’. I guess this is where my OLFI Action Camera comes in really handy as I video practice day so that I can watch the footage later in the evening when I get home.
I had planned to stay in my van for the weekend, but when the offer of dinner, bed and breakfast from the Maunsells came up, I couldn't say no! This was my chance to have a look into the lives of the Maunsells and try find out what their secret is for being absolute pinners! Hmm, I didn't seem to find anything different, other than being fed like a queen, have an awesome garage to clean up and see to the the bike, a top nights sleep, a fortifying breakfast and great chats and laughs! The best race preparation anyone could have!
Sunday was race day and the women were off at 9.30am. We arrived at the race village at 9am ready to go. The atmosphere around the race village was chilled with DJ Paul on the decks, banging out some really great tunes to get us in ‘racemode’.
Stage 1 was mostly trail-centre single track with a really nice new natural section through the woods. Stage 2 was all trail-centre that demanded a high level of fitness and an ability to maintain speed through the many berms and jumps. I powered into first place in this stage on race day, chasing down rider Barry Travers working hard to keep him in my sights throughout and attacking the entire stage in standing up position, peddling at every opportunity.
The transition up to Stage 3 involved a long steady climb and a really nice section of forestry single track which led us to magnificent views of Limerick and Cork, where we could see for miles and miles. There are moments when I stop during these racing, which can be so intense and full-on, and just pause to take in the amazing views around me and reflect on how lucky I am to be out on the mountain, doing what I love with the people that I love. Every time I say how lucky I am to have found this sport, that has become a massive part of the person I am today.
After a really fun stage 3 that had lots of brand new natural sections, we headed up to Stage 4 where we were treated to a nice, steep section right at the start, that had beautiful berms that just caught you at the end of each drop in. It dropped us into the woods where it was hell-for-leather pedal like feck type of stuff : ) With the rain Saturday night, it was much wetter on race day but with the WTB Vigilante tyre on my rear wheel, it made it feel really nice and grippy and it was just such a fun stage to race.
I caught up with Liv Dublin rider, Sophie Bagnall and we headed up the dreaded ‘See-fin’ climb to Stage 5, the final stage. There had been a lot of talk and excitement about this stage ‘PeaceProcess’ as it had been newly built by local rider Jonathan Maunsell. There was a lot to be excited about! This stage was the real deal! With the rain and conditions, it turned into an absolute beast of a stage. It reminded me of one of the EWS stages in Innerleithin, Scotland, called ‘Golfie’, but just a shorter version of it. This stage had so many technical parts to it but it was the rain on Saturday night that completely changed it into a mudfest! Not one person had a good run on this, even the pro riders struggled to stay on the bike on race day. For me, well, I had a mare half way down. I came down the top of stage 5 well through the rocky fast section at speed, and entered the first bit of technical trail into the woods really well, carrying speed through the ruts and over the roots. Then I lost a bit of my nerve or focus on the next bit where it was really sloppy and steep. It was hard not to jam on the brakes to control my speed down the steep muddy parts, but this just caused the bike to slid and forced me to unclip my pedals. I lost momentum on another steep section and couldn't get clipped back in so had to run the bike down for a bit. Knowing I had lost a lot of time on this, I stepped on the gas once I was out of that section and pushed as hard as I could all the way to the finish.
So the day was done, and I had done my best! I came away with this race with better knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses. By far, I needed to get more experience riding steep, slompy tracks and learn to just lay off the brakes. I also took from this weekend that I should spend more time scoping the stages during practice day. And finally, that miget spray does not actually work!
It was great to see lots of new girls racing, with Galway MTB newbie Bernadette O'Neill making her debut Enduro race! Super stuff.
Thanks to Niall Davis and the biking.ie crew for another excellent and top class event. So well organised as usual and the introduction of so many new trails and sections made for the best race I've ever done in Ballyhoura.
A massive thanks as always to my sponsors Vitus Bikes and Chain Reaction Cycles who are absolutely top class and always ensure that I have everything I need for racing. I couldn't ask for better sponsors.
Sweet Protection | WTB | Ride 100% | OLFI Action Camera | Thank you all for your support!
Last weekend I was up North racing the second round of the Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup in Bigwood, Newry. This was another excuse to spend a weekend camping in the van, getting away from it all and winding down after a very busy two week at work. Oh and of course, piloting my Vitus SommetPRO as fast as I could through the woods and having the craic with everyone!
Bigwood, set in the grounds of the beautiful Narrow Water Castle estate near Warrenpoint, is always a favourite of mine and many others for its 100% natural stages, that flow nicely through the woods, suppling a healthy portion of jumps and berms that are linked together with easy transitions. The organisation at these events by Glyn and Cato O'Brian are always top notch with six really fun stages, a full evening of entertainment, down to Last Lap Cafe on site and on the hill to keep everyone happy : )
The race consisted of 6 stages, which were cleverly put together so that the local riders (and the snakes :P ) would be totally confused! The new ‘ridgeline’ on Stage 2 was a new section that was like 'kodak corner' for the camera guys to snap the stylers in action.
I arrived at the race village early afternoon and the arrival of the butterfly feeling in my tummy I get when I arrive at a race village was a reminder of what was to come. The open green fields had a scattering of vans, cars, tents and campers, all set with stunning views of the Mourne Mountains. I set myself up down beside the rest of the vans, right beside a gorgeous tree for shelter, this time from the sun and not rain!
With the bike set up and ready to go, I headed up to registration and got my race plate, number ……Myself and a friend of mine, Will Powderly from www.Xtreme.ie, headed on up to ride each stage and do some recording on the OLFI Action Camera. After doing every stage once, Will made his way back to Dublin for the night and I went back to the van for some grub. Feeling fresh and wanting more, I headed up to practice Stage 1 and Stage 6 with young flier, Leah Maunsell. It was about 6 o’clock in the evening at this point but was still warm and sunny out so really felt like summer.
That evening, we headed over to the Castle for the Movie Night Competition that was showcasing local talented riders and their video edits. I found this brilliant as it definitely gave me some inspiration into doing my own edits this summer and what take to put on them. Some of these guys had spent months putting their edits together and so the standard was extremely high. My top choice was Vitus First Tracks team riders Alistair Baron and James Mac Ferrans ‘Where Wood Ye Get It?’ video on Bigwood, kept me laughing and ‘wowing’! After catching up with some of my old Connemara MTB club mates, I headed back to the van for a good nights kip.
Rising early and opening my van door to the gorgeous Mourne Mountains was just magic. I stepped out onto the grass and began my morning barefoot stretching routine to wake up my whole body and loosen out the joints. I'm finding this morning routine that I learned from the Beyond the Current workshop I attended a few weeks back which was run by Barry Murray from OptimumNutrition4Sport and Svein Tuft, has really helped with keeping injury free and my joints mobile as well as developing the all important core muscles.
10.20am was my start time so I had a few hours to organise the van, have a good breakfast and chat to people around the campsite. Everyone was in great form, and excited about racing.
I had a good stage 1 and 2 but I wasn't feeling as fresh and fit as I had two weeks prior for the Emerald Enduro. I had an extremely busy two weeks in work after the EWS and my diet and training definitely slipped. I really felt the effects of this on race day as I wasn't feeling on form and just didn't have that extra power in the legs to drive through the pedally stages of stages 3 and 4. I had a bit of a crash on Stage 3 and hipped a tree, which lost me a few seconds. Stage 5 and 6 were more downhill orientated, which I loved but not feeling on form, I finished both a bit disappointed in my performance.
I finished with a time of 16:38 in 2nd place, 14 seconds off 1st. In the overall, I placed 63rd out of 246 riders which wasn't too bad considering my sluggishness!
It was another brilliant weekend by Glyn and Cato O’Brian and the First Tracks crew whose passion for this sport is clearly exposed in these super events.
Big thanks to Vitus Bikes and the Chain Reaction Cycles for their support this weekend.
OLFI Action Camera
It was great to have Cycling Ireland supporting the recent Emerald Enduro Enduro World Series in Carrick, Co.Wicklow. I was given the opportunity to say a few words, just before I was about to set off on what was to be, by far, the best days racing I've ever experienced.
Irish Female Enduro Racer Flow MTB Team Rider