Pedal!!!! This is what I was telling myself for 90% of a great day out riding at Newnham Park, Plymouth for the Race face Circus of Dirt Enduro, a proper pedally enduro.
This one day event early in the calendar year meant the excesses of christmas were still on most people’s belly’s and early year ‘haven’t ridden my mountain bike much’ chat was in the air (well for me at least). Last time I was here was for a 24hour solo mission at 24/12 and I came away with heat stroke, it was obvious that this wasn’t going to be a threat this time round with ice in the car park and spots of snow on the ground on arrival.
Spike Sports hosted a great day out with the format kept really simple. Go and do a lap of the three well signed stages in the morning then from 12 go do the lap and you’ll be timed. With all the stages being close to the event hub this was spot on for people who wanted to nip out and do a stage then come back, refuel, keep warm and FAFF. It didn’t take long to get round all three stages though so any fitness worries were lessened with short transitions. The stages themselves were where the pedalling was to be found with some serious grunting being required to kept the bike flowing over some sticky tricky trails.
My 2p on enduro’s is that to be a ‘proper enduro’ there should always be some sort of element of the day/weekend that involves endurance. You know that type of riding that makes you tired so that you start getting pretty ragged and have to hang on for dear life. Whether achieving this outcome through a big long loop, hard pedally stages, timed transitions and/or physically demanding downhills it’s all the same and THE vital ingredient in the ‘spirit of enduro’ in my eyes. I think some of the newer ‘gravity enduro’ events can be a bit too downhill focused where you could push up every climb, have a long breather, hell even a picnic then roll down the hill with a couple of turns of the pedals on the start ramp. Not really a proper enduro in my book. Anyway, sermon over….So the circus of dirt fell in to the enduro category in my reckoning as although there weren’t timed transitions or long linking stages there were some seriously pedally but mega fun sections where you popped out at the bottom with your throat sore from breathing too hard having had a good old fashioned smashing by roots, roots and mud down, along AND up!
I was on my new specialized stumpjumper 29er which due to a disagreement with a patch of ice pre xmas, I had only ridden a couple of times. I was pretty happy with a mud tyre out back and an all rounder specialized butcher out front run at about 22psi for traction. Despite it being pretty loose and slippy on nearly every stage I felt pretty confident all the way through. Bikes these days are mint. I had brought in some tips from the xc world with kit stashed on me and bike rather than slugging a backpack around. Top tip, put a tight xc jersey on under your standard #endurospecific baggy pyjama jersey and fill the pockets, no bouncing around and a neat solution for the weight weenies out there (me).
So the stages themselves…
Stage 1: a quick sprint along the flatish singletrack led in to a couple of nice steep bomb holes before being spat out on to a fireroad for a slight uphill charge. An awesome, fast and narrow singletrack with some rocks followed where you could really let the bike run. This led in to some flat out but rooty straights where keeping the bike from drifting down the camber really helped keep the momentum and your face intact. A massive wide muddy/rocky left hander with multiple line choices led on to the final drifty traverse to the fire road finish. This stage suited my pedalling preferences so I had a good thrash down with no issues and the big wheels swallowing roots and rocks with ease.
Stage 2: A horrid but short slog off the line through the mud led to a couple of loose but flowy corners before a short flat fireroad lung buster sprint. Another couple of now well bedded in corners led to a hard off camber rooty transverse flowing alongside a stream with some short little rises making good gear selection essential to avoid the dreaded uphill stall. A hard pedal to the finish along flat single track rounded things off. A decent start on this one from me but once on the traverse I found myself bum down and scrabbling to get back on the bike wondering where I had lost my wheels, a familiar occurrence for many out there at some point over the day. Not being able to clip back in with the mud clog lost me a bit more time but otherwise no major incidents.
Stage 3: The most technically demanding stage again started with the now standard heart rate attack muddy sprint before dropping in to some awesome fun steep turns. I had necked a Torq Caffeine gel for a cheeky boost so felt raring to go at the top! Keeping the wheels turns and committing was essential to not end up face down. Tight steep inside line or wide easier turn were the choices on most corners but most riders just ended up getting in the rut that their now caked in mud bike had choose for them. A loose and rooty straight led to a flat grassy/muddy sprint to the finish. This was the most fun stage with some real rewards for letting the tyres run round the corners.
Overall a great mix of stages, possibly a bit pedally for some but in the dry the trails would flow a heck of a lot faster. The mud just added to the technical and physical challenge. I managed a cheeky top 10 (9th) which was pretty awesome.
This was a really well organised but relaxed event with solid pre race briefings, regular PA announcements and prizes handed out at random. The winners did get some nice goodies. You could even ask for your race results from the chaps behind the desks straight away with a print out promised 30minutes later.
Great day out
Nice little vid here: http://wideopenmag.co.uk/video-2/25406/video-bite-size-enduro-fun-at-last-weekends-circus-of-dirt-round-2