EWS Tweedlove: A Privateer Racer’s Experience
After a real last-minute entry, our UK Editor Jim Buchanan got confirmation of an un-expected EWS race. This was only a few weeks prior to the third round to be held at the Tweedlove festival in Scotland. Although Jim had ‘kind-of’ raced it the previous year (but only in E2) this was to be his first proper EWS race. Was he up for the challenge at such short notice, would he enjoy it and could he be competitive? Read here as Jim brings you this very frank ‘no holds barred’ diary-entry styled account of his first proper EWS race, telling the real story with the highs and lows of racing as an amateur in such a pro series.
I’m in, entry confirmed, bloody hell, wasn’t expecting that, shit this is happening, I’m already worried about whether I’ll be fit enough to get round the whole thing, oh well sod it, only one way to find out!
Wednesday 27th May
8:30am. I’m trying to get sorted for the rest of the week away racing. It’s half term, so Cassy and the kids are along for a little holiday too, we’re camping (a real last minute booking) and we also have a spot planned in the expo area for the Enduro Mag EZ-up. Holy shit there’s just so much stuff to pack into the small van with a family of four. We need to get there, get the camping set up then I need to do the first bit of practice, already stressing about time.
2:30pm. We’ve arrived at the Rosetta Holiday Park and it’s pissing down, we set up camp in the rain, this really doesn’t look inviting and the weather has predicted shite conditions till Saturday; bummer. We seem to be doing a lot of faffing around getting nothing done quickly, but I know I gotta ride, as today is practice of Inners and Golfy side, with tomorrow being practice of the Glentress hill.
5:00pm. I’m finally riding off from the campsite towards the hill, after having to locate my race number and eat lunch with the family, it’s still raining and I’m waterproofed up.
6:30pm. Stage 1 done, nothing special, a bit flat trail centre-ish at the top, but cool at the bottom, where it’s steep and slick fresh-cut, especially in the wet with a Rock Razor on the rear! I’m near the top of the second transition to stage 2, there’s literally no one around now and they’ve all obviously done their practice this morning. I know there’s no medical cover now too and I have to admit it’s in the back of my mind, if I have a big-un here, they might not find me for days! Jesus, stage 2’s pretty mental, I mean this is proper DH stuff, sticky tyres needed and everything; so many steep lines and wet evil roots everywhere….BANG! I’m upside-down and picking my bike up. Shit man that was a big OTB, it cracked the top of my lid! Oh well carry on.
7:00pm. Well, in the wet with a semi-slick on the back and a mud tyre on the front. That was definitely the scariest stage I’ve done in a while. I’m riding across Innerleithan town to climb up the long transition over on the golf club hill, everyone seems to be packing up and getting sorted for the evening everywhere I ride, just a few stragglers finishing up, only me seeming to be the one carrying on.
7:30pm. This is one hell of a hill up, it seems so much harder when you are all on your own with the rain randomly stop-starting the whole time, I feel tired and every pedal stroke seems a mission, I just want to get it done, far from enjoying myself.
7:45pm. Stage 3, oh my god stage 3, wow fuckin’ wee! If there is to be a Nobel prize for the best trail ever built it must go to the guy who did this, talk about an instant spirit lifter! This is amazing, fast, steep, loamy freshly cut-out radness from radville, wow man all of a sudden I am absolutely buzzing; fuck the weather and fuck the climbs I’m in a state of joy that only the rarest of tracks can bring on!
8:45 pm. I’m now going extremely slow down stage 4. The climb up wasn’t too bad, as I was buzzing from stage 3 and the rain stopped for a bit. The reason I’m going so slow, well at 8:45pm, it tends to get a tad dark in these here thick Scottish forests, I’ve ridden this track before luckily so just bring her in steady and meet Cass with the van at the golf club.
3:30am. Holy shit it’s been pissing down most of the night, I’ve woken several times to the sound of rain on the tent, it’s not exactly five star, but there is something comforting bout being warm and snug even thought the rain is inches from your head; must sleep.
11:00am. We’re in the expo field setting up the Enduro Mag EZ-up, it’s raining again and I so can’t be arsed to ride until the rain stops, so we have an easy morning then lunch in town. Even in the rain this town is great, quite cosmopolitan, with none of that old skool anti-English vibe we used to feel back in the early DH days of old; how mountain biking has changed this area and people’s attitude; just great.
3:30pm. Made it to the top after the long ride from town, up along the foot paths, past Glentress parking and right up to stage 1, that was a bit of a slog, but the legs are ok so far.
4:20pm. Stage one was pretty damn cool actually, steep and techy at the top, although I had to stop to avoid a massive hail storm, then the sun came out; this weather’s mental! Big climb up from the other side and I’m at the top of stage 6, apparently this one’s long, how long can it be?
4:30pm. I’m fuming, I don’t like to moan about tracks, but this one takes the piss, I’ve been riding steady for about ten minutes, stopped a couple of times, done god-knows how many big climbs and I’m still nowhere near the bottom, I’m sure this has as many up as downs, am I going to end up back at the top after this complete bastard of a stage?
5:15pm. Near the top of stage 7, still annoyed about the previous stage, surely they won’t run that, people will go mental! Oh well maybe it’s just me being a dummy-spitter, after all this is a world series for the fittest of the fit, but they never had anything like that last year.
5:30pm. I’m on the final climb to stage 8, fair play I’m feeling pretty knackered now, around 30k each day, and like the previous day there’s hardly been any afternoon practicers, feel a bit of a ‘Billy no mates’. Stage 7 was more like it, short and steep, with lots of techy stuff, brought my grin back again, but I still have the worry in the back of my mind of whether I can physically manage to race the full stage 6 without my legs blowing up.
6:00pm. This is one hell of a long stage too, but loads of mint stuff in it, loved the flat-out open wild root section, but getting a fair bit of hand pump now, reckon these Marzzochi forks seriously need a service, they feel rock hard. I’m not looking far enough ahead and stop on an un-rollable drop, shit I’ll have to walk it down, hope no-one saw, oh no that’s a camera set-up right on the drop, hope it’s not turned on!
4:30pm. It’s been nice just chilling today, spending time with the family and soaking in the atmosphere. Got some shit done to the bike today too, Hope fitted a bigger rear rotor, SRAM tweaked the gears and Shwalbe gave me a much more suitable Hans Dampf for the rear to go with their Magic Mary front. The best of all is that Fox have just loaned me a set of their 36 forks for the weekend; tired legs today. The big talk however has been about stage 6, all riders hate it, well at least all the ones I spoke to (at least 20) but they are keeping it in, oh bollox!
10:30am. I’ve raced stages 1 and 2 and stayed on, after the big 10k ride over to the first stage and the first two climbs I’m feeling surprisingly good, it’s so much better for the soul riding in and amongst other racers. The first two stages went ok for me, just pleased to get through stage 2 without nailing myself again, but with the sun out and the tracks drying, it’s so much better.
3:00pm. They’ve given us so much time to reach the stages, it’s nice to not have to stress about start times, stage 3 coming up, my favorite
4:00pm. That was mint, stage 3 was so fast and fun, loved it. I’m amazed, we must be a fair few kilometers in now and I feel fine, looking forward to hitting up stage 4 and actually being able to see where I’m going!
6:00pm. Day one completed, I rode 4 fine and managed the first day ok with no crashes, although that long ride back to the race village was a drag. I’m currently lying 23rd Vet, but want a top twenty finish, must pull finger out tomorrow, big storms forecast, could be interesting!
7:00am. Just about to leave the campsite, it’s been pissing down all night and I’ve had an email off Tweedlove organizers; due to horrific weather forecast stages 6 and 7 to be abolished….YES!!!
10:20am. That first climb up nearly killed me, my legs are gone, exhausted from yesterday’s 59k of riding. But I got stage 5 done at a pretty good pace, enjoyed it in fact, despite the shitty weather. The great attitude of other riders and all the event staff, plus the thought of only two climbs making the whole tiredness more bearable. This is it, no more climbing and my last stage, I just gotta stay on, they have added the top of stage 6 to stage 8, this is gonna be a bitch!
11:00am. I’m in the arena packing up the EZ-up with the family, I cant believe it’s all over so quick, especially as the weather forecast was wrong and it actually turned out quite nice in the end. I rode stage 8 ok, but man did it go on forever, over 14 minutes for me, although it never seemed that long to be fair. The main thing was I had done it and without one crash.
5:00pm. I’m home, unloading the van and cleaning the bike, chuffed to bits with scraping the top 20 with a final place of 19th Vet, I had managed a 13th on stage 3 and 12th on stage 5 and survived to tell the tale.
I want to give a massive thanks to my wife for doing everything for me and all who organized the Tweedlove EWS. They did an amazing job, all smiling and offering encouragement even in the face of adverse weather and moaning racers (me included) Looking back it was a real challenge and full of such great tracks; roll on next year’s now. As for the winner in my category, Crawford Carrick Anderson, you are an absolute legend and in a league of your own! And no, EWS, you didn’t break me!
Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Trev Worsey & Jim Buchanan