Once we decided to brace the rain and walk down to race control to get registered and pick up our timing chips the rain was easing.
Bikes pre check and riding kit on we were soon getting into the swing of things pointing at other bikes and seeing what bikes, set up’s and tyre choices people had decided to use. At this point Nick had realised he still had a Schwalbe Rockrazor PS on the back, which would be fine for the dry but could be very tricky in the wet and muddy conditions we just had, I felt a little smug having fitted a Magic Mary Front SG & Hans Damp TS on the rear perfect for these conditions. We had decided our plan for the day was to finish and not DNF but also to be safe and have fun.
It was time pre ride the course before the race, so a slow ride up the infamous Forest of Dean push up path to get a bit of blood into the legs we found our way to the start of stage one.
A gentle (ish) ride down trying to spot the better line and learn the course Nick was soon sliding about in the mud and I was busy not trying to crash into the back of him!
Another ride back up the push up path, Stage two was a much faster and drier affair but taking in some of the rather rooty & rocky Sheep skull Downhill tracks.
Back up the push up path and on the the E-bike special stage. We would have 20 minutes to ride stage 2, ride back up the hill, ride the E-bike stage then get to the start of stage 3! A small slightly uphill ribbon of single track that runs parallel to the fire road was acting as the transition to stage 3. As with most trails in the FoD it was heaving with slippery roots trying to catch you out on every corner. At the end there was a long sprint to the finish line where you would have to put maximum effort in after the motor cuts out!
Stage 3 had been changed that morning taking out a steep drop due to the weather making it very slippery. The 1st half was very much the same: fast, rocky and fun, a left turn and we were attempting to ride across the side of a hill that was thick in mud, loam and anything else that had been washed down the side of the hill overnight. It was hard to walk it and Fairly impossible to ride it.
We took it slow again looking to see if there was a better route to take. A couple of riders tried riding past us but we’re soon sliding face first down the hill as they found out how little grip was on offer.
After a fabulous over the bars crash by Nick we managed to make it to the end relatively unscathed.
We decided the best thing was to return to the cars and clean the bikes (a clean bike is a fast bike). There we met up with Rich from HAiBiKE and a few other E-bike racers and discussed how practice went and have a look at each other’s bikes.
The E-bikes had been pushed up from last group to the 1st group so it was soon time to gear up and make our way back up the hill.
Stage 1: Nick was 1st to go and his HAiBiKE SDURO Nduro Pro pulled away and he was soon out of sight. My nerves were building (it was my 1st E-bike race) and I went too soon (thankfully there is no penalty for this) and then hesitated once I was told to GoGoGo! I changed power up to tour and pedalled as hard as I could, there were a few mistakes and my thighs were burning and before I knew it I was flying over the finishing line, it had gone so fast!
Nick had a good run with no crashes and was happy with his performance, we waited to see the rest of the E-bikes finish with power set to sport then set off as a group to stage two.
Stage 2: again Nick was 1st. Thankfully I didn’t start too soon, after what felt like a great 100 meters I made a few mistakes and lost my flow taking valuable time trying to get back into it. Once over the fire road I reset myself and pushed harder than I had ever done down the last part putting in a good run with minimal mistakes but ending up rather out of breath!
A few guys asked us about the E-bikes so in our normal style we got off and let them try my HAiBiKE XDURO Nduro RX for themselves. As per normal they came back with grins from ear to ear and comments of “hell yeah” & “I want one”.
E-bike stage: there was no marshal at the beginning of this stage so we were told to go when we were ready. I gave Nick 15 Mississippi’s and was off. Things were going well until I came up behind Nick. He had hit a root and slid out. I managed to get passed and was flying uphill, spotting a rider in the distance I gave it my all determined to catch him. Feeling happy with how that stage had gone it was just a short ride to the dastardly stage 3.
Stage 3: with all the E-bikes having made it this far with no injuries and very high spirits I jumped the queue and went as soon as I could!
I had been nervous about this stage and wanted to get it over, 1st section done and it was going well, 2nd section and so far so good. As I rounded the left turn I spotted my line and to my surprise found that the track was a lot more rideable now 350 people had ridden it in practice that morning. My confidence restored I started pushing making sure I hit the lines I wanted, as I turned into the final drop I sprinted to the finish line to a (small) crowd of cheers where I waited to cheer Nick and the rest of the E-bikers down the last drop!
We had all finished and without any major incident, all buzzing with adrenaline and relief!
We slowly made our way back to race control as a happy E-bike family exchanging battle stories and planning on what event we are going to race next. We both had such a great time at our first race, I ended up with a 6th and Nick just squeezed me to 5th.