The weather forecast was looking primo! As I made the journey north to Graythwaite Hall in the south Lakes for Round 4 of the PMBA Series I was excited at the prospect of riding new, dry dusty trails!
Off out with Si and Mike, Saturday afternoon's practice was soon on its way, with a short ride out along the road we were soon into the woods hiking up to the first stage.
Stage 1 was tight! Trees everywhere, trying not to shoulder barge them I made my way down. Stopping at most of the caution arrow signs to scope out the line.
It was hot, so hot! With sweat dripping down our faces we made our way after a short push to Stage 2. This was where the flow was at. Loved it, super flowy with fast chutes in places, over cooked one corner and went straight on! That's the best thing about practice, to hopefully get the silly mistakes over and done with before racing!
Stage 3 started with awesome views across Lake Windermere and the surrounding peaks, a stunning location. After a couple of fast bermed corners it was into the steep stuff: one corner, two corners, third corner and off! It was a little steep section with soooo much powdery dust! You'd think I'd be used to it after racing in Chile but I got caught out, picking up more and more speed but not wanting to commit to the turn, I blew straight through the berm into the undergrowth!! Back on track I continued on, luckily Si waited at the top of the next feature, a rock drop with a wooden roll out, I approached to hear 'it's rollable, it's rollable' so smashed on through! Had I'd not heard that I think I would have freaked out at top of it and not done it! That's the second best thing about practice, doing things you might normally not do but having the right people with you push you on.
Stage 4, the other steep one, very enjoyable! Lots of tight turns, steep techy sections and a dusty fast off camber chute to finish.
By this point in the afternoon I think we'd sweated out our body weight in water! Onwards to the last stage, stage 5, with a fast start it was onto some awkward pedally sections, in the wrong gear to tackle it of course! Scooting myself up the course gravity took over again but was shortly stopped by the impending short steep climb, an off the bike climb! As we stopped at the top to gasp some dry humid air into the lungs we realised this stage was going to be a bit of a killer come tomorrow's race day. Fast and flowy tracks continued to the finish arena, but first was to decide which drop to tackle. Left or right? I walked down to take a look, right it was for me. Rollable if wanted or just push off the top clearing the down ramp.
With practice done it was time to get the BBQ fired up and cool down with a cool beverage.
With a start time of 12.35pm we were keen to get out and practice some of the tracks again, and to just go ride them again because they were so much fun!
I opted to ride 1, 3 and 5 again leaving enough time to have a bite to eat and relax before setting out on the race lap.
The PMBA format of races is great because you can head out whenever you want, with whoever you want at a pace to suit you! A super relaxed way of racing!
Taking it steady on the climbs as it was probably the hottest and most humid day of the year, we arrived at Stage 1. The nerves were a little high, I was struggling to remember the sections I needed to go round and which sections I was jumping over! All went well though; steady away, staying on the bike was key!
After a bit of trackside repairs to Si's front brake lever that was dangling down by his front axle we were soon on our way down Stage 2. It felt fast! With trackside whoops and cheers from the enduro family that is Ready, Nikki and Glenda we popped out at the bottom of the stage absolutely buzzing!
With a brief rest at the top of Stage 3 due to a red flag, talk of the 'corner' started! How blown out was it going to be? Was I going to make it? Or go straight in again?!
I made it. Just! With a foot out dabbing away at the right hand side of the track desperately trying not to fall too low of the side of the track I kept momentum to keep going. Happy days.
We didn't hang about at the top of Stage 4. In amongst the trees the midges soon found us and started to feed! Off down the stage chasing Mike I went, catching up dust clouds as I went but I never saw him! Spurred me on though! Out the bottom of the stage with a huge grin on my face.
Onwards to last the last stage. Feeling pumped and happy with how I'd rode all day I was keen to get the last done without mistakes. The pedally section came and with it the leg burn. A short roll down to the off bike climb, pushing as fast as I could to the brow of the slope I was soon back on the bike lungs heaving after air! Onto the finish field drops and a sprint for the finish line.
That has to be the toughest, shortest race I've ever done! I think the heat added to that too! Definitely the most amount of pushing my bike I've done on a race but that didn't matter. The standard of trail building was amazing. 5 really enjoyable, testing tracks and a fab mix of flow, steep, technical, flat out fast, jumps and drops. Great work PMBA team and trail builders!
What a great weekend riding bikes with mates in the sun and to top it off I managed finish on the top step!