UK Super Grassroots rider Thomas Mitchell reports from Tweedlove Vallelujah

Well, that was one of the most up and down weekends I’ve had in a long time. Tweedlove Vallelujah was a race I was really looking forward to. Being a local lad I knew that whatever trails were used would suit me. Although alot of my time had been taken up finishing my dissertation and I hadn’t ridden much, I knew I could still pull a big result. I was confident coming into the weekend.

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Trev Worsey captures Stage 1 – “Zorro”

The stages were very similar to the 2014 Tweedlove King of the Hill event, taking in Glentress and Cademuir. I go really well on these trails as they are on the shorter side and are not very steep compared to the Innerleithen side. The course played to my strengths and I was excited to get going atop of stage 1. Here was go…! I cranked hard out the gate and was on a good run, everything was going well. Calm, composed and calculated. I was riding well. But then, disaster struck. Halfway down stage one my shock blew. It was stuck, compressed 80% through its stroke and wouldn’t move. I was devastated to say the least. My race was over before it had started. However, I refused to accept this fact and pedalled along to stage two regardless.

On the way to winning stage 5

On the way to winning stage 5

I pushed hard on stage 2 despite the blown shock. The main problem was the fact that it was stuck at 80% of full compression. This mean’t the bike was sitting really low and the the bottom bracket was alot closer to the ground (as it would be when you compress your suspension). Every time I pedalled I grazed my CrankBros Mallet pedals on the ground. It was virtually impossible to put power down on the most physical stage of the race. I still managed to catch 3 people before the final fire road. I sprinted along this fire road to catch the last rider in front of me because I didn’t want to be stuck behind him on the single track. I shouted, “rider” and instead of pulling over to the side he swerved right into my direction. There was nothing I could do. I ploughed straight into the back on him. I tried to get going but we were tangled so I lost alot of time trying to get back on track.

 

On the way to 2nd on the Cademuir DH stage

On the way to 2nd on the Cademuir DH stage

It was clear after riding a whole stage on the blown shock that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the race. I was all set for giving up but I was very kindly loaned a spare shock. Swapping shocks would’ve disqualified me but I want to finish the remaining three stages and try and throw down some good stage times.

I swapped out the shocks and headed up to Cademuir. With the unfamiliar shock set up I struggled to get used to the bike. I crashed on stage 3 and ended up sixth. After some small adjustments I slowed the rebound down two clicks. This did the trick as I rode a good stage four despite getting caught in traffic, claiming second.

Things were looking up and for the final stage of the day I set myself the goal of taking the stage win. This stage suited me and I since I knew I was going to be disqualified for swapping shocks I had nothing to loose anyway. I had a good rhythm going in the stage but I could feel my rear tyre getting softer. I had a slow leak which slowed me down a bit. I hit a big compression I heard the tyre ‘burp’ some more air out. I am convinced the only reason the tyre stayed on the rim was thanks to the 35mm width on my WTB wheels.

I ended up winning the stage by five seconds even with the puncture. I was stoked! But my happiness was soon turned to sadness as I had to inform the race director I had had to change my shock to finish the race. The rules state a rider must start and finish on the same equipment. I was rightly disqualified. (For those wondering, I would’ve clawed back enough time to take third.)

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I was obviously disappointed, but I still had an awesome time battling in the mud. The thing I love most about these Tweedlove events is the atmosphere. It was great to see some old friends and make some new ones. Thanks to the marshals who braved the wind, rain and even snow.

With my chances for the overall ‘Tweedlove Triple Crown’ now over you can bet I’ll be charging extra hard at the next two Tweedlove races – although I’ll probably have a coil shock on my bike by then.

You can find my full race report on Singletrack mag here