A great venue with ‘golfie’ on one side of the valley hosting three stages starting on moorland and descending into tight pine forests, and Innerleithen a classic steep rocky downhill spot famous for racing since the 90’s hosting two stages.
Practice Saturday went well feeling confident on the bike and getting in tune with the flow of the trails. Seeding was a big 5-6 minute stage with a fire road sprint in the middle to really test early season fitness. Not a fan of pedalling I was gobsmacked to qualify in 3rd in a stacked masters field. No pressure!!!
Few beers to settle the nerves and an early night ready for Sunday’s 45 km loop and 5 more testing stages.
First stage Sunday didn’t go to plan, a sniper rock in the first hundred meters knocked my chain off the chainring, knowing from practice this stage was a short sharp one I paddled trying to keep momentum until the gradient meant chain or not I was flying again at warp speed through the trees, death grip, carry speed and put everything on the line to keep my chances of finishing in a respectable position.
In years past I would have let that mishap get to my head but today I knew if I pushed on I could make back that lost time.
Although not my fittest at the moment having not pedalled a lot over winter I feel my strength is good from time on my moto trails bike, also benefiting from learning about grip and weight distribution. I ploughed on through 4 more stages gaining 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th fastest times coming home with a very satisfying 4th place overall.
This equals my best U.K. based race result but definitely feels like the most rewarding due to the mental strength required and technicality of the riding at this venue. Onwards and upwards to Macavalanche in Glen Coe next weekend.