Alpine sponsored rider Stuart Nicholson gives us the lowdown on his first two enduro races of the season: the Scottish Enduro Series at Dunkeld and Tweedlove's famous Vallelujah.
The race season finally arrived after a pretty wet and wild winter. Spring was here and the sun made a worthwhile appearance in the weeks leading up to my first races. After a frantic few weeks getting kit together with my new team – Alpine Bikes – my new race bike arrived the weekend before. I had one ride on some dry, dusty trails and then I was straight into racing with my new Trek Remedy.
My first race was the Scottish Enduro Series Rd1 at Dunkeld (March 12-13). Friday night’s rain made for some extremely difficult sections at practice. I knew this would be the toughest race I’d ever done: 35 km, 1200m climbing and some of the most tech, slippy and sticky stages… my upper body muscles would get hammered by this one!
Although I struggled to ride down a few of the sections (top of S1!) I had a pretty decent race day. I wanted a solid result on the new bike, so I kept it slow and steady. A few silly crashes came with tiredness towards the end of the day, but for the most part I maintained a solid race loop. I came out happy with fourth in the Masters and thirteenth overall.
I had a week’s respite and was then into the Tweedlove Vallelujah Enduro (March 26-27). The run-up to this race was almost like summer: glorious sunshine and dusty, dry trails all week… and I was stuck inside renovating my kitchen. Then came Saturday practice and everything changed.
The dry dust became super slippy as the on-off heavy rain and hail showers battered the trail. Although the main lines had grip, you were going sideways before you knew it if you dared to stray off them. At 24km and 1300m climbing, this was a tough race for the mind.
Throughout Vallelujah, we were battered by ice cold winds, hailstorms and soaking conditions, only momentarily lifted by sunny spells and plenty of rainbows! I struggled for most of the race after misjudging the conditions and not wrapping up warm enough. My freezing hands meant that I struggled to use my dropper post or change gears during stages… and then I had a comic over-the-bars moment, ending up in the sloppy bog at the bottom of S4. All I wanted to do was finish and go lie in a hot bath!
Turns out not only did I survive, but I put in a few decent times too. I won all stages but S4 in Masters and set the fastest overall time on S1, meaning I left with first place in Masters and fourth overall. My first podium of the year – long may it continue!
Overall, I felt it was a good start to my season. After a few weeks’ riding, I’m getting on better and better with the Trek Remedy. But I won’t lie – I’m looking forward to some dry races sometime soon.