Three big mountainous stages, a whole lot of challenges and proper winter conditions made up this years Kinlochleven Enduro. This was a whole new area for me and my bike to explore and I was excited to take on the well-known, tough terrain and a new adventure.
And what a stunning location this was for a mountain bike event! We could not help stopping to take in the mountainous views and snapping the obligatory photos on the long steep slog up to the first stage – first time round this took a good hour and a half.
Race day was slightly chillier than practise. Gear cables, brakes, fingers and toes were freezing as we neared the top of the climb. My three layers of FINDRA and my merino wool neck warmer kept my core warm enough to keep my fingers warm and feeling in my toes – exactly what I needed for the descents! It’s a shame my bike wasn’t feeling up to the task but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Stage 1 – what a stage! It threw you straight into steep big rock slab switchbacks with moving boulders that carved down the mountain. This was followed by a few marshy slippery corners and straights then it was into the trees where more movable rocks and switchbacks waited. One brutal stage where keeping a steady speed was key even though there was more grip on race day slowing down when needed proved a challenge.
Stage 2: After next to no transition started with a fast flowy pedal through the trees and over rock drainage ditches. There was a couple uphill pedal sections thrown in for good measure also – one which involved me jumping off my bike and scrambling up rock steps. This stage was a proper lung buster.
Stage 3: Was my favourite by far! It started back up at the top of the hill again and finished almost down in Kinlochleven. After a fast, fun, rock popping start to the stage we were faced with an array of line combinations down through the snow, rocks and mud. Here you had an advantage if you had ridden this trail before. After navigating ruts, holes, mounds and yet more movable rock shoots we ploughed into the trees for some sweet flowing trails down to the finish.
It was a wild but amazing race. The long techy tails and the winter conditions challenged both me and my bike. My forks were rock solid by the top of stage 1. At first I thought they would loosen off as I rode down but instead I had an incredibly rough ride for the whole stage. After a lot of frustration and two chain drops on stage 2 mechanical Sam came to the rescue and I was all set for stage 3. Having refuelled in the Ice Factor café and changed swamped socks and shoes for a dry set our regained high spirits took us up to the final stage. I experienced my first ever arm pump a third of the way down having previously used them in place of my forks in the morning. Stage 3 was a complete mixture of fun and pain as I tried to hold onto my bike and survive to the finish. I’ll be back to take in and explore all these epic trails again!
What a tough but awesome race – so much packed into three amazing, techy, big mountain stages. A big well done to my race buddy/ enduro penguin Janey for 2nd place and to FINDRA teammate Nic for 3rd! I am chuffed with my 4th place and just completing this big mountain adventure – a huge thank you to FINDRA for keeping all the important bits warm and cosy! Now it’s time for my washing machine to do some endurance.