As the exam period lurks in the shadows waiting to strangle every ounce of social life and cycling life that we have left at this time of year, EUCC set out to the Dudes of Hazzard Enduro in Kinlochleven as a ‘last hoorah’ before hanging up the race plates for the year. A band of ten brothers made the trek up north on Friday night to check into basecamp for the weekend at the Glencoe SYHA. 2 kilos of rice and chilli concarne later we were sorted for the following day of practice.
We woke on Saturday to heavy skies that were about to burst at the seams and headed to race HQ at the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven. The scenery on the road to Kinlochleven did not disappoint. With the surrounding mountains and the dramatic clouds above we felt all the more anxious as to what the landscape will have to throw at us. After many a faff the group were up and running ready to head up to stage one of three.
A short spin along the main road took us to the bottom of a miserably long climb. At this point it began to rain. At this point I also managed to snap my chain. Twice. Not the ideal start and I hoped that this wouldn’t be setting the tone for the rest of the day. (This reminds me, I owe Cameron and Crog a powerlink each…). At the top of the lung buster climb we reached the start of stage one. We didn’t hang around on the exposed hillside for very long. The group dived into the loose and soaking wet rock trail. The top half of the stage was pretty wild and steep. Once we were past the rock field and hit the tree line the stage flattened off and provided the dreaded race run pedal that nobody was looking forward to. Two river crossings and one bog crossing later the trail steepened again. The stings in the tail of stage one were the two tricky rock slab switchbacks. These were tough enough on practice day let alone riding them after racing the rest of the stage. We regrouped at the cars and tried to stay warm before heading up THE SAME climb again to reach the start of stage two.
This time we were required to climb even further up the same road to part of the mountain that really did feel like wilderness. The view from the top was epic. From our vantage point we could see the length of valley in front of us. Unfortunately the weather as far too rotten for us to appreciate anything other than how cold and soaked through we were.
Stage two began much the same as stage one although this time instead of choosing a rut to ride in we had no option but to choose which river. I have never seen such an amount of water on a trail before. It was awesome. The much longer top section was followed up by some really good corners and rock gardens in the woods but the lack of pedaling in the stage was compensated for by the inclusion of a flat, churned up and sloppy bog for 50m to the finish. A brutal end to another physical stage.
Following a much more swift stop at the cars we put our heads down and pressed on up a different climb out of Kinlochleven for the third and final stage. The third stage proved to be a completely different beast to the others. The freshly cut trail that seems to be what was originally taped off was nowhere to be seen. Instead it had been churned up beyond recognition. Huge holes on the course were concealed by half a wheel’s depth of thick mud. This lead to some entertaining stories about people’s off-bike experiences. Once you’d beaten the mud slide you were faced with a long and stressful pedal which seemed to last forever. This left you blowing oot yer arse for the final few corners which were thankfully nothing treacherous.
Three stages were enough and we were all relieved to be done for the day. We then hung around for the race briefing and passed some time on the bucking bronco! Back at the hostel a filthy amount of pasta was consumed (2.5 kilos to be exact) and the mandatory line choice discussion took place whilst reviewing GoPro footage (see screenshots below).
The weather played into our favor for Sunday race day. The rain had held off overnight and skies seemed to be clear for the whole day. This time we knew what to expect on the climb which allowed for plain sailing up to the start of stage one. Stage one didn’t disappoint. From reports when we reached the bottom everyone seemed to have some sort of mixed bag of events! This included over the bars, blowing feet off and bog snorkeling. No matter, we pressed on.
A quick stop for food and we were back up to the top of stage two. Just before the start of the stage my pedal decided to part from its axle. There was no chance of fixing it on the trail so cable ties had to suffice. We were able to bodge it so that it gave me a platform to stand on but this left me unable to pedal with both feet. The bodge job gave in half way down the stage so there was no option but to complete the stage riding on the axle! We all headed off down the stage. This time it was equally as eventful as stage one. The bog at the end provided some good entertainment with many riders falling foul of the treacherous off camber.
The climb to the top of stage three was tough by this point. Close to running out of energy we burned the last of the fuel in the tank and went at it hammer and tongs. Cameron had the biggest nightmare of the day puncturing twice and having a mechanical. The first of his punctures exploding as he went over the bars near the start line. Completely burst, we headed back to the cars to exchange the miseries of the final stage and dry off. Everyone had such a mixed bag of experiences out on track that we couldn’t really tell how we got on. The results came out a couple of days later and are as follows:
Calum Mackie – 7th
Calum McRitchie – 10th
Craig Pointer – 24th
Adam Ramsay – 25th
Rory Swann – 76th
Jacob Essex – 84th
Cameron Taylor – 106th
Andrew Hainsworth – 107th
Fraser Rae – 10th Junior….
Duane Walker – DNS
Yet another top weekend with EUCC.