This weekend, the Bluegrass Enduro Tour came to Dublin for the fourth round of the 2014 European Series. After a successful event in the Ballyhoura mountains, Co.Limerick last year, the Bluegrass brigade returned once again to the emerald isle. This time round it was to the East coast of Ireland where mountain biking was born and where an abundance of Ireland's best mountain bike trails can be found. Riders were treated to six awesome stages, in three of the best biking areas the Dublin and Wicklow mountains have to offer - Ticknock, Ballinastoe and Djouce woods.
Here's how it all went....
There’s never a dull moment in my life and the last few weeks have been as busy as ever. With the race season in full swing, it’s been pretty full on since returning home from my six week trip racing in Europe. Since being back, I've managed to squeeze in a house move, the Irish Gravity Enduro National Champs, the Bluegrass Enduro, all while been back to work! With a weekend off in between the Champs and the Bluegrass, I was glad to have the time to rest up and sort out my bike, which, after all the racing, both bike and body were in need of some TLC!
With a complete strip down to the bare frame, an evening spent cleaning every single part of my bike, and a full re-build by Garry Davoren at MBW bike shop, my Kona Process 153 DL was in top condition for the weekend. I couldn’t believe the difference the rebuild made as the bike felt instantly more plush, with everything moving freely and smoothly and the suspension working to its full potential once again! With the bike now in perfect nick and me well rested, I was feeling fresh, ready and confident come race day. It's amazing how all these elements of race preparation can make all the difference to your performance.
The format of the race was very different to what I had been used to all summer and it was a refreshing change! Instead of the usual practice day before racing, all six stages were raced blind and all in the one day....tough going! The other big difference was both men and women raced on separate days, with the women on Saturday and the men on Sunday.
Stage One – Ticknock
The first of the six stages kicked off in Ticknock, Dublin. After a 40 minute drive from Powerscourt Waterfall we were straight into a climb up past the mast and on to stage one. This was a technical stage that started on the fast, flowing 'Metro' with a drop into the woods that tested your bike skills from the word go.
I went well on this stage, but was a bit sluggish as it was the first stage so hard to get that explosive power from the legs without a good warm up. Still, had a lot of fun on this stage and came first so really happy with that.
Stage Two - Ticknock
This was a more popular stage with the girls after the technical stage one. A fast, fun singletrack, with a few nice features to catch some air! My second stage win here, I was feeling good!
Stage Three - Ballinastoe
Back on the bus to Ballinastoe, home of Biking.ie, where we were about to be treated to two class stages. With the weather so mild and sunny, we had clear views of the Wicklow mountains during our transition across the mountain to stage three. I loved this stage! So fast, with lots of cool features to pop off and tight turns to really sink into. I was feeling really good here and the Process was in its element. A comfortable 32 second gap on the next rider gave me my third consecutive stage win.
Stage Four - Ballinastoe
Back over to the other side of the mountain and a short push up through the woods, we were ready for S4. This was the longest of all four stages so far and was another great stage. A real mix of woods, fireroad, open mountain tracks with a few cool jumps thrown in. I was 8 seconds off the winner on this stage, coming in second to Orla McClean.
We raced all the way down to the race village where it was time to chill and refuel with a great spread put on for us by LastLapCafe. Back on the bikes for a 5km road spin to Djouce woods.
Stage Five - Djouce
Djouce woods, renowned for its roots, had dried up nicely since the Champs a fortnight ago. S5 had us blast through the woods with some very cool steep sections, a kicker climb and nice flowy singletrack where you could really pick up speed. Back on form, I came away with my fourth stage win and had a great time taking photo's of the girls flying down. Everyone loved this stage!
Stage Six - Djouce
The final round, we were feeling the fatigue setting in at this point but it didn't stop us pinning it down! With a big climb to the top of Djouce, we were rewarded with an epic stage that had been stage 5 for the champs. We got to sample first hand the very cool brand new section of trail that cut out that awful, muddy section in the champs. I was flying through this stage, staying relaxed and powering over the rooty top section. The whole stage felt awesome, but a silly mistake down by a river crossing that had some slippy roots, sent me flying superman-style over the bars landing on my head! Sounding worse than it was, I was back on my bike in no time and flew to the finishline. Second in this stage to Orla McClean who had me by 8 seconds! Tight racing, love it!
Thanks to Bluegrass Enduro Tour and Biking.ie for such a great event. And to all the marshals, photographers and sponsors, thanks to you all!
To my sponsors MBW-Kona, Hedcamz, Grrana Energy Europe and Allmountainstyle
Photos by Keith Wallace and www.ActionPicturesIreland.com
Well that was a really muddy weekend of racing in Djouce Woods for the Irish National Champs! After a Summer of beautiful dry and dusty trails, the heaven's decided to open up on Friday night and turned the trails into hardcore, rooty, mudfest! I thought racing in the Alps was tough.....well some parts of the six stages were up there with the most challenging conditions I've raced in to date.
Here's how it went.....
I had a fairly hectic week leading up to the Champs and I didn't have exactly the best race preparation. Arriving home from France the Wednesday evening, after travelling for three days, I was straight back to work the next day and to top it off, began moving house! This gave me two days in Galway before having to drive back to Dublin Friday evening. I'd had such an amazing time racing and travelling in Europe over the past six weeks but both my body and bike needed a good week to rest so I really didn't feel like I was 'match fit' for this important race. My bike, a Kona Process 153 DL, had served me so well over the summer enabling me to race four weekends in a row and a further two weeks biking in Finale Ligure and Sauze D'Oulx. I had a few really minor issues with my gears and rear hub but that was it and considering the amount of riding I did this was impressive. However, in the final week, the front hub bearings had had enough and packed it in. Stuck for a front wheel as I couldn't source the cone and bearings in time, fellow Connemara Mtb club-mate Andrew Taylor lent me his rotor which was kindly put onto a wheel that Jamie from Bespoke Cycles in Bray Co.Wicklow kindly let me borrow, enabling me to race at the weekend. Working out of hours on Friday evening, I can't thank Jamie and the guys at Bespoke Cycles enough for their help. They also gave me a great deal on a set of Renthal carbon fibre handlebars which they swore would help me to go faster at the weekend : )
Saturday was practice day, my bike was ready to go and was looking pretty damn smart with the Renthals on : ) The rain on was relentless all day and heavy. Djouce, a forest full of off-camber exposed roots, was made ten times more technical from the rain, but this didn't turn off the 300 odd riders who got up early on Sunday morning to race. I was riding really well all day, recording all stages on my HEDCamz which I would watch that evening to help me remember them. I was having some trouble shifting gears but as we finished late in the day it was too late to bring it to race mechanics, BikeAddiction.ie. So after a long day on the bike with my teammates Joseph Clancy and Cillian Thomas, it was an evening of washing and drying my seriously soggy muddy clothes and then some footage geeking!
Overall Result: 5th
With a 2nd place on stage four and a 3rd on stage two this was some consolation for my disastrous stage 5! . It really showed me how much I need to be riding the Dublin and Wicklow mountains more often to get a feel for the trails and those nasty roots! Onwards and upwards : )
Well done to my teamates Shona D'Arcy, Joseph Clancy, Cillian Thomas on their results especially to Leah Maunsell who took the win! And to Connemara mtb clubmates Colin Keegan, Eoghan O'Donahoe and young newcomer Danny Birchard who did so well in his first race.
A big thanks to Niall Davis and the Biking.ie crew for another fantastic event, these guys really know how to run a professional race and have the respect of every biker in Ireland. Everyone is looking forward to the final round in Carrick on the 6th and 7th of September.
Let's not forget the photographers who work so hard to take our photo's in these conditions, Bart & Magda from CycleActionPhotography, Keith Wallace, Adrian Van Der Lee and many others.
A huge thank you to Jamie Popham at Bespokecycles.ie. Unbelievable customer service and such friendly guys, a great bike shop in Bray, Co. Wicklow.
I also can't thank Dave O'Toole from BikeAddiction.ie enough for spending his valuable time on Sunday morning getting my bike sorted for me. I really couldn't have raced without him. Top professional and friendly service as always : )
And of course, thank you to all my sponsors for their support: Konabikes, MBW, HEDcamz, GRranna, Allmountainstyle
And of course, thank you to all my sponsors for their support: Konabikes, MBW, HEDcamz, GRranna, Allmountainstyle
Next race.......Bluegrass International Tour, Dublin 16th August
After the hype of La Thuile, it was time to travel solo and head to the coast for some downtime between the sea and the mountains. What better place to do this than Finale Ligure. A town made for mountain bikers and beachlovers, it has an abundance of awesome singletrack to be explored with trails that lead you right down to the beautiful blue Meditteranean sea and it's sandy beaches, it has something for everyone. Mountain biking really took off here in the late 90's when three Canadian freeriders came to visit to film for the Kranked film series in 1999 inspiring locals to start building trails and riding all mountain style. This is where the SuperEnduro was born and where the final round of the Enduro World Series will be held once again in Finale Ligure, on the 5th and 6th of October. After its huge success last year, over 600 riders will be descending upon the town in October. I'm hoping that I'll be celebrating not only my birthday that weekend but also a good result!
About an hour and a half drive from Nice airport, Finale is fairly inexpensive to get to with Ryanair flights usually fairly reasonable. From La Thuile, it took me almost four hours to get to Finale on the toll roads. I stayed at a really nice campsite, tucked away in a quiet area of town, with spacious pits with trees for shade, wifi, clean facilities and a cafe. Just five minutes walk to the beach and not far from the trails, it was hard to leave this place. As it was high season, it cost me 18.50 per night with the van but being the first time to actually stay in a campsite this trip, I was happy to pay for the luxury!
After arriving Monday evening, I settled into my campsite and headed straight to the beach for a long awaited swim. I headed into town on my road bike afterwards to get something to eat and of course wifi! Sitting at a small table at a restaurant on one of the cobble streets, I got chatting to a couple sitting beside me. They were touring Europe on their bikes and were already halfway through their three month trip. It was awesome to swap stories and share our love of the two wheeler. Enjoying Finale so much, they decided to stay an extra day and take some timeout from their bikes to enjoy Finale with it's beautiful beaches, friendly people and amazing gelato!
Tuesday was really hot so I decided to leave it until late evening to go for a ride. I got myself a map and off I went up to San Bernardino to do the Dolmen Trail. With about 300m of ascending, it wasn't long before I was onto the rocky singletrack and having some fun! Being alone, and not knowing the trails, I took it fairly handy and got back to the campsite before it got dark. I decided that because none of the trails were marked, getting a guide was going to be the best option for me.
Wednesday was pretty much a non-riding day as I spent the day sussing out the town, organising a guide and then a trip to Nice that evening to pick up a friend from the Airport. A night in Monaco in the van and some sightseeing was what filled up the day on Thursday. By Friday morning it was time to get back on the mountain bike. Highly recommended by Enrico Guala, I got in contact with mountain bike guide Lorenzo Rebagliati, a native from Finale Ligure who set up his own mountain bike guiding business in Finale and who is also part of the SuperEnduro logistics team. I really couldn't have chosen a better guide as Lorenzo was such a cool guy who knew the place like the back of his hands.
Wednesday was my last day in Finale and was by far the best day on the bike! I met up with Lorenzo again that morning, and I brought along another Aussie rider, Stuart, who was a friend of Micheal's. Before hitting the trails, I had some work needed to be done on my bike so I brought it to the bike shop, Riviera Outdoor Bike Store' in FinalBorgo where mechanic cool guy Luca did some work on it. Then we headed for the hills ascending over 900m for about 12km in the morning heat which took us almost an hour and a half but boy it was worth it! Lorenzo showed us THE most epic trails in Finale Ligure, the 'Madonna Della Guardia' and 'Dins'. Dins was a really fun, flowy track with some technical rocky sections and narrow gullies that might catch you out if you didn't have your wits about you. The natural table tops and fast berms were so awesome, I just wanted to do it all again. The Madonna trail was much more technical with some rocky sections that the Process just flew over. I really felt that I've learned to just trust the bike and my skills and attack everything, whereas in the past I would have hesitated at some of the stuff I did today. I love that feeling of progression as with it comes confidence, flow and speeeeed! A short clip of me doing a rocky section of the trail kind of shows the level of steepness and technicality....apparently this section is where a large majority of riders crashed in last years EWS!
Enrico Guala, legend in the world of mountain biking and founder of the SuperEnduro happened to be in town for meetings one of the evenings so we all ended up going for pizza and having a great chat about all things mountain biking and I learned a lot about the history of biking in Finale L. I will be putting up a link to for those of you interested in how it, and the SuperEnduro was all formed back in the late 90's, its really interesting stuff!
So, its Thursday and my time in Finale Ligure has come to an end. I will be really sad to leave this place and the super friendly people here. But, I have some consolation in the fact that in less than eight weeks time I will be back here to race!
Big thanks to: Lorenzo Rebagliati www.facebook.com/MTBguidefinale.com
And to all the gelato parlours and pizzaria's that fed me in Finale! I will be back!
Next stop: Sauze Dóulx
Irish Female Enduro Racer Flow MTB Team Rider