As the nights are getting longer, and the motivation to get outside seems to dwindle, the Falkirk Funduro is an excellent excuse to remind me to get those lights on charge and get out riding. After all I live in Scotland, if I didn’t ride in the cold, dark, and snow, I would never get out riding for at least 4 months of the year. Muckmeddens’ answer to this is to run a four stage enduro during the day, and then again once it is dark. Although the trails at the Calendar estate are not very long, they pack a lot in to a small place, and it certainly takes a lot of skill to do them at speed, additionally they are only 15min from my door which makes it an easy choice for me.
Despite the bitter cold, and snow on the ground from the day before, there was a good turn out of riders all cuddling cups of tea and jumping on the spot to keep warm. The Falkirk Funduro, with its mixture of trails has something for everyone and suites people who have either never raced before, or enjoy the added challenge of racing in the dark.
Stage one – This 1.5km sprint is a shock to the legs and lungs. There have been some new upgrades to this trail which helps it flow a bit better, but despite this it is a relatively flat smooth trail without anything technical (apart from one muddy chute cutting out one of the corners). This is where the fittest survive, favouring XC and Road cyclist who are used to putting the power out consistently. For me it felt like a brutal spin class, which resulted in me almost coughing up my lungs in the cold air.
Stage two – This was my favourite trail of them all. It made use of the red trail centre descent, with lots of switch backs and berms, and a brilliant diversion which cuts out a nasty horseshoe climb in the middle. Breaking out on to the fire road required riders to drop a few gears ready to climb up a nasty steep section, and join on to the freeride section. Lots of flow, a drop, and a couple of gap jumps (complete with lots of spectators) before diving back in to the trees to the finish line. Those that could handle holding speed on corners, and the jumping skills to clear all the features were at home on this trail.
Stage three – Here is where I start to struggle, with little flow and lots of awkward, muddy, off camber sections and tree roots in all unexpected directions, this stage really kept riders on their toes (or off them, in my case). Riders who love the natural stuff, and enjoy sliding around the place, like a pig in mud, had the advantage on this one. However, in reality this is where I saw most of the overtaking happen, as people seemed to be taken of their bikes by the snipper roots and hidden ditches; much to the amusement of anyone watching.
Stage four – The final stage was a simplified version of the track used last year. The new route cut out some of the tighter uphill corners, but turned to slushy mud with so many riders hitting it at speed. The stage did keep in all the awkward rock gardens, not to mention the very flat cornered sprint to the finish line. There are no advantages to be had here as it combined all the skills needed for the previous three stages, and it really pushed riders to see who still had any energy left in their legs on that final sprint.
Racers had the option to only enter the day stages or wait a couple of hours and do it all again at night. So, a couple of hours later after everyone had warmed up again, and fitted their lights, around 150 competitors got ready to do it all over again. The dark changes the rules. Everything seems to close in on you when riding in the dark and features seem to sneak up quicker than expected which can catch you of guard. On the other hand, when you can’t see all the gnarley rough bits of trail you don’t get freaked out and tend to plough through it at speed instead. On average I was only around 5 seconds slower in the dark than during the day time. Despite my general dislike of pedalling (the pain in my legs reminded me of this the following day) I still managed to take silver in my category, and third fastest female over all, so not a bad finish to the season at all. I am off to relax now, and start planning the race calendar for 2018.