The Tweedlove Glentress 7 hour mountain bike race seems to live a charmed life with the weather gods – yet again it was blue skies and dusty trails. All set for a fantastic day on the bikes in one of the UK’s favorite places to MTB. Another year another perfect day in the lush green Borders countryside. The course remained unchanged: a great mix of trail centre, singletrack and rooty walker paths. It has the feeling of more down than up which takes some doing. With a couple of spicy sections to keep you on your toes too!
It might always be sunny but things never quite go to plan for me. Last year I crashed quite fast and landed on my head, bending my wheel into a Pringle shape and seeing stars I stopped early. This year I was feeling faster and fitter than before but things didn’t go quite to plan. Then Marion rides in her first ever solo lapped endurance race and goes on to win it!
The participant numbers were even higher in 2016, setting a new record apparently. With just under 400 solos and teams on the start line it was a busy ride out of the start area. Apparently the total participants were about 800!! That’s a lot of bikers out riding – all making it such a great atmosphere. It’s also great to see such a range of abilities out on their bikes from people attempting a few laps young and old, to some of the fastest endurance riders in the country. I may have had my head down during most of the race but certainly enjoyed the cow bells and cheers of support all around the course. Mr Jamie Birks on the microphone was doing a cracking job keeping the arena entertained, I listened to his introduction each lap as I arrived at the finish, my favourite was “Ed Shoote – he’s ridden all over the world but keeps coming back to Peebles, says something doesn’t it?” That’s a pretty true statement, Peebles is certainly an addictive place.
At the start I hammered up the first hill but Marion had somewhat modestly started way back in the field and was now picking her line through the slower riders. I quickly dropped off the top team riders to find my own pace just behind them. I will make my excuses early here, I had been off the bike all week with a mild chest infection and had tried to rest up best I could, unfortunately it was going to be tough challenge equalling last years’ time and it felt hard work from this first climb. I was running a 36 ring on front and 11:40 cassette on the back, a bit optimistic given how hilly the course is but it actually felt OK.
After a steady paced couple of laps my chest was loosening up and I had a better plan for eating this year too meaning I didn’t plan on bonking half way. I was going to just stomach proper energy bars at the proper advised intervals. It would be gross for 7 hours but I just can’t digest savoury stuff at this intensity. Any more than 7 hours I think you work at a lower intensity so can eat whatever, but that amount of time flat out I can’t eat much but sugary stuff.
On the third lap I was hammering up the first climb and felt my pedal was suddenly at 45 degrees to the crank. It had come loose and wedged into the thread, mangling my XTR cranks. I was gutted. On top of this my lightweight race tool didn’t have a 8mm allen key so I spun one footed back down, secretly a bit glad to have an excuse to call it a day. However the helpful marshals weren’t letting me quit just yet. One of them quickly rode down to get a tool and we managed to rethread the pedal. In the end I only lost about 6 minutes and got back on the track and hammered the big ring to make up all the lost time.
At the next pit stop I bumped into Marion and knew she was going fast – I had expected to see her before this and suspected she would be near the top. This was her last race before a shoulder operation and she was properly going for it with nothing to lose!
Mid race it was disconcerting to see part of the course taped off on a steep climb, with mountain rescue attending someone. I immediately thought it must have been a heart attack and unfortunately it was, but luckily the guy had some fantastic help trackside from the marshals and mountain rescue and was airlifted to Edinburgh rapidly enough to apparently be doing OK. Not every race I’ve been too has such great support so it shows how good the Tweed Valley rescue guys are.
I contemplated what must have happened which reminds you it’s just a race and when you’re not feeling right it’s best to take your foot off the pedal a bit and enjoy yourself more.
Laps 4-8 were done in trance just a steady cadence and manageable speed, I never have any idea of timing during races like this preferring to go on how I feel, but I knew I only had two more laps left in me at what turned out to be lap 8. The final rooty descent to the arena was extremely tough going by now, rattling my back and chest around pretty painfully.
My legs felt good still getting a shout of “look who ate his Weetabix this morning” on the final lap. I also surprised a rider carrying his bike through the woods on a sneaky cheating short cut. On the final lap it seemed fair enough for someone taking it as personal challenge and had had enough, but then I clocked his shaved legs on-board a fancy S-Works carbon Specialized – taking it a bit too serious to be cutting off parts of the course I thought. I glanced his number as I went past.
In the meantime Marion was still riding fast laps and racing neck and neck with the second placed rider Amy. She had no idea of their overall positions but it was just a battle between them, and only a couple of minutes in it – every time she stopped for a quick snack at the transition Amy would ride past to her pit, and they would both scurry to set off again before the other! For Marion I had fitted a new Rockshox Reverb dropper post last week meaning she could descend a bit quicker on her hardtail XC bike and it must have helped to compliment her fast climbing. She finished just ahead of Amy and to her surprise was the first under 40 female back from the 7th lap! A first solo podium and a giant medal, a great way to finish her racing season.
I bettered my last year lap count but realistically rode at the same pace which was not bad going on reflection.
I don’t doubt we will return next year, given the brilliant atmosphere and the fact it’s on our doorstep but I suspect I’ll have another excuse ready and finish 5th again! Marion will hopefully be back fit and fast to retain her title and maybe she’ll get a taste for more events like this now she’s unbeaten…
My commute to work Monday morning was slow going, on top of that I was so tired I forgot to take a pair of trousers to work. Unfortunately the shirt/tie/lycra look is never popular!