It’s that time of year again, the clocks have changed. I wake up in the dark, I go home in the dark, and sunlight is reserved for that special 1 hour a day lunch break. So there is nothing for it but to put the lights on charge and remember how to ride in the dark, and go and race the Falkirk Funduro.
Muckemedden pulled out all the stops for the end of year race. The set-up of this race is slightly different to other races. A nice Saturday morning lay in for most racers with waves of racers leaving the start line around lunch time. Apart from me, who was there at 9:30 am to marshal the kids enduro (complete with 4 fully offroad timed stages). The adults set off to ride 4 stages during the daylight, and then come back later to do it all over again at night. Riders have an option to race just the day stages, or stay and race the day and night stages, meaning two complete lots of podiums.
So the countdown is on and I leave the start line with a wave of excitable big children (sorry adults) to head off to stage 1. The transition to this unfortunately passes through the skills area and it take all my concentration to remember I’m in a race and not to go for a quick spin around the pump track. Stage 1 is only a 2 minuet peddle away and the legs haven’t even warmed up before I line up for the start. At nearly 1.5km long Stage 1 is a lung busting, leg burner, non-stop peddling stage which resulted in me reaching the end of the stage without the ability to form words in to sentences.
Luckily the great thing about Falkirk is the climb to the top of all the stages is extremely short. A quick bomb half way up the fire road bought us alongside the section of stage 2 with a hefty drop and two gap jumps. This section is very busy with spectators, photographers, marshals, and more medics in one place then I think I have ever seen on a race. After watching a number of people speeding over the jumps, and quite a few coming up short I was undecided on whether I was going to attempt them or not. I finish the climb to the top of the stage and make a start on the descent. The top of stage 2 was flowing freely, the sneaky climb in the middle of the stage last year was taken out to keep everything flowing smoothly. The bottom part of the stage made use of the brand new downhill stage, nailing the drop I was carrying enough speed through for the jumps. Unfortunately a crash for the rider in front of me meant I was diverted on to the B route. Still legs in full action meant I didn’t lose too much time here.
Back to the fire road climb, and this time on to stage 3, which starts off down what is normally an ascent, but now in reverse. The trail is quickly diverted on to a number of natural sections which just get gnarlier the further along you go. Keeping light and nimble on the bike was key here as you have to simultaneously skip over roots, bog patches, heather, weave in and out of trees, avoiding your handlebars, and head as you go. This stage certainly tested your trail skills.
The final climb up the hill, this time only half way took us to stage 3. The first half of this stage was full of rock gardens, 180o turns, more mud and roots. Every time you thought you were getting some speed you had to change direction, and this definitely tested the whole body. The second half finished in a sprint to the finish on flat meandering corners and slippy bridges. One for reminding yourself not to touch the breaks.
With the day time stages finished I had a couple of hours to kill before my wave would be heading out for the night time stages. This time was spent getting some hot soup and coffee in to me, checking all my lights were working and celebrating those riders who had podiumed on the day time stages only. It was getting colder by the time the night time stages had started, so I kept myself warm cuddling the dog and hanging around the Swedish log fires that were starting to be lit around the place.
Now to do it all again in the dark. It takes a bit of practice getting your eyes used to night riding. I choose to have a flood light on my handlebars, and a more pin point directional light on my helmet, which is very useful on corners when trying to look ahead of where the bike is pointing. Stage 1 proves no problems with me recording a very similar time to the day race. Stage 2 is the same, although not always being able to see the top edge of some of the berms meant some close calls of me almost going over the edge. Stage 3 was going beautifully, as a general rule, if I can’t see the sketchy slippy roots until I’m already on top of them then they don’t bother me. This was up until the point that I had an un-intentional lay down as a fell off my bike and I couldn’t even tell you what I had slid over on. It took me a moment to untangle my legs from the bike, and now I had lost momentum I found it very difficult to get going again. Stage 4 was again riding fine, until I found a rut which had been deepened by all the riders before me, unfortunately I was in it before I realised. A quick hop off and back on the bike fixed this and I was on the sprint home to the finish line.
As always Muckmedden have a fantastic chilled out and fun atmosphere at their events and this was no exception. I managed to finish 3rd in my category, a tough race behind two very fast riders, and 3rd overall female.