2013 is set to be a memorable year for mountain biking in Northern Ireland, with a number of purpose-built trail centres opening for business. The first of these to be ready for action was Davagh forest outside Cookstown /Draperstown. To kick start life on the trails Michael Regan organised the Davagh Enduro on 21st April. You can read his report about the organisation of this event here.
The race would consist of five timed stages on the red runs with riders pedaling (and pushing in some cases) between them. Despite an Irish Enduro Series race in Carrick on the same day, which attracted 300 riders, the event still maxed out with 150 riders… this is surely testament to the interest in mountain biking that there is here. The demand is certainly there for facilities like these.
I cleaned up the 29er (can’t be spreading tree diseases!), set up the gears and tyre pressure, and straightened out the rear brake disc. Ready to go. I met with some of the guys from work and we had a bit of banter as we queued for an hour before our turn to set off. It was weird blazing off from cold and the heart was soon racing and the lungs gasping for air. Being a noob, this was all new to me and each corner was an adventure. I went fairly well on the slightly climby first stage and could see the rider in front. I thought I would catch him, but suddenly the stage was over and it was time to spin up the ‘widow-maker’ climb to the start of stage 2.
Stage 2 was longer with a steep first half. I didn’t really find a rhythm and was nearly caught at the end, although I had also caught up with the rider in front of me. Stage 3 was rocky, starting with some step downs, then a gravel section with a tight climb to a big rock roll near the end. Loosing speed and decisiveness at the last step down I stepped off and leaned out of the way as elite Jamie blazed past. Although I pedaled hard on the gravel section, he was already long gone by the time I had started moving again. Then, on a tight uphill switchback I somehow caught my shorts on the front shifter…this broke and I fell off. With yet another rider approaching I ran the bike to the top of the hill and let him past before finishing the stage. Clearly my worst stage!
Back at the top of the hill, Stage 4 was long and berm-y. After hitting each corner too fast (for my skill) and stalling, I finally found a nice rhythm and flicked left and right until finishing nearly dizzy with a massive grin. Everyone was buzzing. Stage 5 was a nice mix of twisty and lumpy terrain. Surprisingly, after doing 1000 corners in the last stage, I messed up the 1st corner and oversteered into soft moss off the trail. Angry at my clumsiness I pedaled flat out to make up for the mistake, powering into the red on the climbs and straights. I caught the rider ahead just before it descended back into twisties. Not my forte, I could hear him catching again and was preparing to let him past when the stage (and race) finish appeared ahead.
I had survived, the bike mostly survived, and I didn’t come last: 110/140. I’ll call that a result! Everyone had a really great time and were enthusiastic for more similar events. A great effort by the organisers and volunteers.
The Causeway Crossing 100K looms, with the WHW even darker on the far horizon, so the next 8 weeks will be all about the running for me. The bikes will have to take a back seat until the summer, but I plan to hit them hard to catch up on some skills.
Note: the trails at Barnett’s Demesne, Rostrevor and Castlewellan have now opened also! I was running very far and working, but you can read Mickey’s account of the bank holiday Mountain Bike festival at Rostrevor here.