Round #1 of the Cube Munster Enduro Series was held in Killaloe, Co.Clare this weekend by Limerick Mountain Bike Club. Like the French do it, it was a one day of blind racing which is a different format from what I'm used to.
I decided to make the two hour drive down to Killaloe the morning of the race as it was a late enough start and it meant I wouldn't have to spend my Saturday packing the van : )
I was the first to arrive at the race village carpark so I took the opportunity to take a little wander down to the stunning Killaloe Lake that was so peaceful and still at this hour of the morning.....the calm before the storm : )
As the rest of the riders started to arrive, I began to get myself and the bike ready. I was now really looking forward to this race after having a chat with organiser Chris O'Callaghan, who described it as 'fast, dry, technical, challenging trails, steep in parts with tight, twisty tracks through the tress.....it sounded like every enduro riders dream! Fast and technical....thats all I needed to hear! I was itching to get going.
After registration and catching up with everyone, I set up off up the hill with the Gravity BC gang to the first stage. There were three stages in total, each could be riden twice, with your best time recorded. We decided to stick to doing them in numerical order as stage 1 was meant to be pedally, 2 and 3 more steep and technical so it would be a good one to get warmed up on.
This was the most pedally of the three, with plenty of technical off camber roots to catch you out. It was physically demanding, fast and made me really push myself hard. I finished it feeling exhilarated and dying to go back and do it again. I knew I could knock a few seconds off my time so we headed up for a second belt of it.
Now THIS was an incredible three minutes of my life! 'On it' from the start, this was the downhill track at Killaloe and was a favourite of everyone's for many reasons. Drops, fast berms, steep decents, it had it all!I came through the finish wondering how I survived the few close calls as I wasn't holding anything back. We all just looked at each other and all decided to leave a second run of it until the end.....we were all happy with our run and werent ready to risk ourselves and our bikes just yet!
A quick stop back at the race village to refill our bellies and sample some of the homemade chocolate brownies on sale : ) We were back up the hill for the fourth time to hit the final stage, stage 3. I was starting to feel tired at this stage as it had been an intense day so far and it made me realise how much more I will need to work on my fitness for the Enduro World Series, which is double the amount of riding. The transition was relatively short but it was steep and the push up was energy sapping. Time to get out on the bike more!
Hearing from everyone that the top section of stage 3 was completely cut up, I knew that I was in for a challenge. They were right, it was a mudfest, but a whole lot of fun. Rock gardens, off-camber roots and mud was the theme here and it was a case of 'foot out, flat out' for this run. I felt like I was sliding down the track more than riding it! I learnt early on that I needed to stay off the brakes to get over these giant slippy roots, but it wasnt enough to get a good run. I finished thinking that I really needed to go and give it a second shot.
Back up the hill again for another go, we were all feeling the fatigue setting in now at this stage. We were down to three as the rest of the gang decided to call it a day and quit while they were ahead. The climb back up was where I really felt it. I was knackered but knowing that I would need to be able to get through this 'wall' at the EWS rounds, I pushed through it and used it as training. It was almost 4pm and we had been riding non-stop since 11am.
Stage 3 was now in even worse shape that before so with that plus the fatigue, I had a pretty crap run, and crashed at the first half. Nothing major but it was enough to disrupt my flow and no matter how hard I told myself to keep going hard, I knew that my first run was to be my fastest.
Finishing in one piece and with mud and a big smile splattered across my face, I returned with the lads to the race village to hand in our timing chips and compare times. I was really chuffed to see I was in 2nd place and 34th overall out of 135 riders. Not a bad day on the bike so! Knowing stage 3 was my weak run, I was delighted to win stage 1 and stage 2. Although over 10 girls had registered, only four competed on the day. It was Leah Maunsell and Rose Griffin who were my main competitor, so well done to these two shredders for a top race!
Massive thank you as always to Vitus Bikes, Chain Reaction Cycles, Sweet Protection, Hedcamz, Ride100% and Revive Active for all their support!
Thanks also to Al Maxwell at www.thebikerack.ie for the last minute tweeks of the race machine : )
Irish Female Enduro Racer Flow MTB Team Rider