Cream O’ the Croft – 2018

The Scottish summer never fails to keep us on our toes. After three weeks of riding in scorching sunshine it finally broke and torrential rain was on the cards for this years Cream O’ the Croft enduro, not that it seemed to dampen any bodies spirits.

This weekend long mountain bike festival kicked off Friday evening with a pump track and bunny hop competition held by the Angus Cyle Hub. So once the tent was pitched I headed over to check out the action. I am useless at bunny hops but I was willing to give the pump track challenge a shot. Three laps of the pump track in the skills loop without any pedalling was a good way to start the weekend, the only woman and up against some very fast guys I was just happy to put in a good time of 40.1 seconds only 3.3 seconds off the winning time and came 5th.

 

The day of the enduro the weather changed, and the rain was set to stay all day, and was promising to make it a challenging day of racing. Muckmedden had definitely upped the game this year with some much tougher stages, making use of every inch of trail center but with newly cut surprises on every stage.

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Stage One: This started on the red XC route at the top, an absolute lung buster of a stage to warm up on, it was relatively flat with lots of rocky features to keep you on your toes and catch your cranks, half way through turned in to a slog of a climb through the trees and up a rock slab, before descending back through the trees in a tightly taped twisty track, made even trickier when raced blind because you the tape and the obvious track were not always going in the same direction.

Stage Two: Although I had ridden in goggles for the first stage I had to ditch them for the rest of the day as they were steaming up with all the rain. So a lot of the day was spent squinting through the mud and rain flying in to my face (at least that’s my excuse for the terrible expressions in the photos). Making use of the second half of the red XC route, I found this one had a bit more flow to it, with a couple of fun drops and rock slabs to navigate. But with a surprise twist at the end, on to some new off-camber muddy loam which made for a great technical finish.

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Stage Three: A short push back to the top (as we hadn’t lost much elevation on stage one and two) kept us in the forest part of the centre. I loved this trail, as it took us almost to the bottom the trails were starting to get more flow. Although right off the start line sent riders down towards a river crossing. There was a longer option to go over a bridge, but I thought I would take the racing line straight through the river, this was fine, apart from I underestimated how deep the water had gotten. I was already pretty wet from the rain, now I was drenched from the waist down, not that it really made a difference. The rest of this stage used the blue trail center, with a couple of black features as the options. The lower part of the blue is so much fun, open field, big berms and fast pump sections. It was a long stage but with so much flow, I loved it (although in true Comrie fashion the rocky trails were already claiming a lot of flat tires on this stage).

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Stage Four: This was a beast lurking in the undergrowth ready to challenge every rider. What would have been a challenging trail in the dry became a monster in the rain. Another long trail from the top of the trail center to the bottom, the entire top half of this track was brand new, never ridden before. This really challenged even the best ridders, the fresh tracks in the woods were turning to sloppy, speed sapping mud at this point, and when we were in the open it was difficult to have the speed to get up the rock slabs, and the grip to get back down the other side. Once we had battled through the first half, the second half put us back on to the black downhill track. It felt good to get back on to the open single track and get some speed up, with a couple more fun drops and some big grin inducing berms to finish on. Although I don’t think any rider got through this cleanly, this was an amazing trail…which I would love to try again in the dry.

Stage 5: I was lucky enough to preview this stage before the race, but the rain had already changed it. Using the top half of the red downhill trail, lots of tight rocky tracks requiring riders to be nimble on their pedals, opened in to a brand new lower section. A wide-open speed through the fields, with a couple of muddy blown out berms, still made this stage one of the simpler runs of the day.

Stage 6: Riders dropped in to the top section of the black downhill, even tighter and steeper than the red used for stage 5 with a nasty steep climb just after the first corner. After already completing 5 stages this one was really challenging peoples’ ability to just keep their bikes upright. Even when half way down the stage turned in to the bottom half of the trail center red downhill track, it didn’t give much relief, as the big rock slabs and wooden north shore sections had no grip in the rain. Just because there weren’t any new sections of trail up to this point the stage suddenly diverted on to some off-camber grassy slalom to the finish line which really took me by surprise, and was a real challenge to keep the tires on the line.

Stage 7 & 8: How to end a race on a high – Duel Slalom. Riders set off side by side and race each-other down the duel slalom track. Starting in the trail center a set of rollers and table tops, in to fast berms, and then on to the grassy field, with wet slippy off-camber grass meant sticking a foot out on the corners just to catch yourself when you start to slide out. Even though riders had to race both sides of the course to complete the race, and it was still the fastest combined time that wins, there is something about being on track alongside someone else that really gets the adrenaline going as you start to push to try and beat them.

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I have always loved the Comrie Croft trail center, and even though there were new surprises on every stage I was pretty confident I would do well. Some seriously technical stages made even harder with the weather, so I was so happy to finish 1st in my category, but totally over the moon that I came Fastest Female for the day over all.

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Not to forget, finishing the weekend off marshalling the little rippers on the mini-enduro (it’s scary how good some of these kids are, I am going to have to watch my back), and the balance bike competition (which I think was even more competitive than the enduro). Four adults, on tiny bikes with no pedals, elbows out, and no rules, was just the perfect finish to an amazing weekend of riding bikes.

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