Race Report | Muckmedden 6Hour Endurance XC Race
Mountain bikers are a diverse bunch, some are all about the descents, grinding and pushing their way to the top for the adrenaline of the plummet, while others relish the climb, the challenge and achievement of a good crank up the hill. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle, and Scottish event company “Muckmedden” had just the event to kick off the season with a bang, a six hour endurance race. ENDURO Trail Team rider Cat Smith had to go and check it out.
As we drove North to Perthshire, I must confess to feeling a bit nervous, I normally race enduro’s so this endurance event would be a new one for me. Despite the snowdrops on the ground, it still felt chilly in the morning air, however it was the perfect time to attract accomplished Endurance racers for a bit of a warm-up event and also a nice introduction to us newbies to the Endurance game.
The event morning started off promisingly weather-wise, we’ll call it blustery anyway. Muckmedden had organised a mini-festival event over the weekend and it seemed that luck was on our side and Sunday was to be the better day. Less lucky for the kids event the previous day unfortunately as many were almost blown away.
Even when I’m not racing, I find going to mountain bike events a great experience, everyone is so friendly and this event was no different, smiley folks abounded, coffee was available (always important) and everyone was raring to get started. After a quick race briefing the fast lads lined up at the front and us, perhaps less confident riders lurked at the back ready for the mass start and to find out what the organisers had in store. Never having ridden in anything like this event, I was a little apprehensive.
Pitmedden doesn’t have a huge amount of gradient but it mustn’t be underestimated. Short punchy climbs and tricky muddy descents rule this forest. Even the flat bits are “engaging” offering little respite on the 9km lap. Muckmedden had been clear from the start that this was going to be a technically challenging race
The first lap started with a fireroad climb to thin the pack a little before we hit the single track, and hit the singletrack we did. The initial section was straight in with the punches with the first chute already quite slippy with added sideways-root thrown in at the top to keep us interested. Despite the crowd-thinning fireroad climb, this first piece of feisty-ness attracted a bit of a queue with some people show-boating by hitting it upside down and on their bums, just to keep the watchers entertained I’m sure.
After some foot out action there, we were then lulled into a false sense of security with the lovely sinewy turns before being rudely brought back to reality by some serious gnar ejecting us out onto the next section of climb. Being new to this endurance racing, I possibly have some lessons to learn about pacing, I can’t resist the lure of a fire road climb with people stretched out ahead, prime for the catching – something I was less keen on a bit later on in the day. So, spin up the fire road I did onwards to the next section of single.
With not enough height difference to make for any massively long descents, this race used the hill to its full advantage and utilised the character of the forest. Each lap had 250 metres of climbing over the stage so a fair test for early season chancers.
Most of the course was rideable by most of the riders, only 2 sections alluded me. The first, a steep sideways descent to a small stream with a steep rise up the other side, kind of vertical both ways. On my first lap I slowed to contemplate this feature and was overtaken by a gent who proceeded to go over the bars in the stream and spank into the steep rise on the otherside. Hmmm thinks I, I’ll do this bit on my second lap with less people around watching. 50 minutes later on said second lap I slow to contemplate again and I am overtaken by the same rider, again. In a moment of Deja Vu, he then proceeds to once again spank himself into the wall with his bike in the stream and I think “nah not today”.
My second defeating section was “Aarons climb” a wiggly climb through the woods topped off by a very steep, fairly slick little blighter of a climb. Nasty. In acknowledgement of the general nastiness of this climb, the 5 people who cleaned it were awarded a prize at the end, making me feel a little less bad for my minor failure. As a reward for our struggle the descent down the other side was a classic – showcasing this little gem of a forest. A surprise drop (which literally surprised me in the same place every time) and some steep, in the trees muddy awesomeness, dropped us to the fireroad for the climb to the transition area.
One of the best things about racing in smaller events is the camaraderie, not only from the riders but the marshals on the course. The marshals at Muckmedden events are named “MuckMarshals” and wear their high viz and radios with pride. Every one of the marshals asked if I was enjoying myself and was full of encouraging banter. We were there to see how well the winter training was doing but we were mainly there to have a good time and I for one certainly did.
Full results can be downloaded here
I put my heart, soul and every squeeze of leg muscle I had into this event and I came out smiling but in awe of the experienced endurance racers. Those who overtook me on the climbs like it was nothing at all and will be reigning in the longer races the season has in store. Well done lads. Also kudos to the ladies who put in some mammoth performances of stamina and strength, Amy Hickman, Lesley Ingram and Catriona Sutherland, you are fabulous. Thanks Muckmarshals and thank you Aaron, also thanks to Rhoda for the timing and letting me shelter in your van and to all the medics who cleaned the cuts and scrapes won in the forest.
As for me, I competed in a mixed pair (with ENDURO Editor Trev Worsey) for this event and came a respectable second on the masters pairs podium. I was so pleased to be up there it felt like the hours on the turbo trainer were worth the sweat. I’m taking on the next endurance race as a solo rider so the lessons of Muckmedden will hopefully hold me in good stead for the challenges to come.
Muckmedden have a number of exciting events coming up this year, each with it’s own special twist. Every event has its roots grounded firmly in fun and participation, so if you’re looking for a brilliant day out you should give one a go! To find out more check out their webpage.
Words: Catherine Smith
Photos: Trev Worsey