From Ryan Gardner – After a completely awesome time racing the surprisingly radical trails in Ireland I hopped a flight over to the beautiful city of Edinburgh, Scotland en-route to the third round of the Enduro World Series. Taking a quick drive into Edinburgh turned into a six hour walking tour of the ancient city. The centerpiece of the city has to be Edinburgh castle, with a commanding location on the rocky remains of an extinct volcano. Surrounding the castle was a really cool mix of old and new with cathedrals, stonework, modern art, hidden music venues, and great café’s and restaurants. After taking in some of the sites and culture I started the short drive south toward Peebles, the base for the Tweedlove bike festival.
Peebles and the Tweed Valley should be on every mountain bikers bucket list for riding destinations. The trails are steep, loamy, root strewn and seem to be endless. Throughout the first two days of practice a sinewy network of single track was unveiled surrounding the race stages. What’s more, the slogan for the area “the valley of the bike people” seemed to hold true. There was definitely a high level of stoke going on throughout the weekend. With Tweed Green, the towns central square and location of the race village, inundated with shredders young and old and plenty of fans cheering on racers as they headed out to the race stages.
After a few days of heavy rain, wind, and hail, a long day of beautiful sunshine was a pleasant surprise on day one of racing. Each day of racing was to have four stages, and day one focused on the steeper more downhill oriented trails of Innerleithen. Stages three and four really stood out as some of the best tracks of my whole trip. They started high up in the mountains with wide open heather turns (like a grass turn, but better!) before dipping into the dark Scottish woods on trails which resembled tight tree lined, off-camber, pump tracks. I felt pretty good all day and didn’t have any major mistakes and was happy to cross the line in the hot seat! However, as the top guys came in my times just didn’t hold up and I dropped all the way to 89th out of 240 or so pro men.
Day two saw the weather we enjoyed in day one replaced by more rain and howling winds. With promoters facing weather forecasts of 60mph winds for the afternoon, our second four stage day was shortened to two stages. We were now to run the fresh cut stage five and the super long and physically demanding stage eight. Stage five ended up being one of the muddiest trails I have ever raced in my life. Even the best racers in the world were sliding sideways down the steeps, feet out, hoping to catch the ruts that formed in each steep switchback. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard during a race run. I passed at least 6 riders ahead of me with and couldn’t help but smile as UK racers yelled “yea California!” as I slid by sideways just barely hanging on. Stage eight was filled with much less laughter as several steep and long climbs had me turning myself inside out trying to get back some of the time I lost on day one. I kept it together, pedaled hard, and it seems all the off season road riding has paid off as I finished stage 8 in the 40’s. Although I didn’t make an improvement over my Ireland result I moved up 9 spaces from day one and finished in 80th out of 240 pro men in a stacked field of international and local rippers. I made a few strikes into the top 50 and I think that with the experience I gained racing at this high level, I’ll be able to come back next time and get the top 50 overall I’m gunning for.
I can’t overstate how stoked I am that my bike and parts were able to hold up to a month of hard riding with no mechanical issues. I mean zero flat tires, zero blown bits of suspension, no mechanicals at all over 13 stages of racing. As a privateer with a limited amount of luggage, no mechanic, no spare bikes, not even spare wheels, having a bombproof bike like the Process 153 is critical to even finishing two back to back world class events! Decked out with Fox, Ethirteen, and WTB components my Process took a beating as I sent big hucks to flat, raced out of my comfort zone, and made a heap of not so smooth mistakes along the way. This trip has been an awesome experience but it’s time to head home and back to work. The desk job is calling, but luckily the US enduro scene is going off so there will be plenty of great weekends of racing to come! See you out there.