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Published on April 8th, 2016 | by Start Cycles

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Season Recap: “My goal is to finish as close to the podium as possible!”

Sit back, relax and read a blog from Start Cycles staff member, Brad Illingworth, as he takes us through his pulsating season and see how he got on!

The racing season is well under way and it’s been a decent start to the year. I haven’t done nearly as many miles over the winter as I did last year, but I’ve been doing a bit of running on the treadmill and some basic exercises at home to try get into shape.

For 2016, my goal is to finish inside the top five and as close to the podium as possible, with the main focus of the Scottish Enduro Series. I raced in this last year and the general atmosphere was fantastic as well as the tracks too, at the event, where I finished in eighth place. I’ll also be entering all the Northern Downhill (NDH) races, Tweedlove International and the King and Queen of the Hill.

The season started well, with a win at the NDH Funduro at Chopwell on a frosty January morning. Just short of a month later, we were at Hamsterley Forest for the first round of ND(H)uros and things didn’t go well! I caught a slower rider on the first stage and managed to lose the front end on icy berms on the following two stages. Fifth place was my final placing after three stages.

A fortnight later, I found myself at Ae Forest for the NDH TT to race down the well-known ‘Shredder Trail’. The sun was out and it was fairly mild for February in Scotland. The track wasn’t too technical, but it was fast and fun! I managed to unclip on both runs to lose a small amount of time on each run, which were both otherwise, pretty clean. Bruce McCleary took the win, 0.09 seconds ahead of me, I was happy enough with second to Bruce – he’s rapid!

1-27 (1)Next up was round one of the POC Scottish Enduro Series at Dunkeld, a venue totally new to me and I was keen to get stuck into some proper racing! A dry week leading up to the race was spoiled by a very wet Thursday/Friday that soaked the area just in time for the race weekend. The organisers did a great job of cutting some fresh new tracks for us to race on, not a foot of trail centre in sight on any of the five stages – this was good! I took it really easy during Saturday’s practise to make sure that I was fresh for race day. My riding buddy, Davey Mac and I started at 08:18 on Sunday to get an early start and to try and avoid the inevitable queuing and trail carnage that was sure to follow.

Stage 1 did not go well, I stalled a few times on the top section and then seemed to roll out the rest of the stage with no real rhythm, flow or speed to speak of. I did however, feel fairly relieved to not bin it on what was a very tricky stage. It would be later that day, when I saw the results, that I learned how much time I lost on the stage – 30 seconds, 13th on the stage!

Stages two and three both offered more mud, rocks and roots and I can’t say I felt really pinned. I did however, finish both of the stages without major incident – a result in itself when taking the conditions into consideration. I ended up 4th and 5th consecutively for these stages.

The last two stages, four and five were my favourite. These were classic DH style tracks cut into a steep, open hillside. More grip was on offer and the lack of trees helped make the trail ahead more visible. I was placed fourth on stage four and first on the final stage – I was so chuffed to finish on a high note and to have salvaged the day to finish a satisfactory 5th overall in the masters category.

A couple of weeks ago, I took part in the Scottish Downhill Association’s round 1 at Ae Forest, my first DH race in nearly three years! Without a big rig, the ‘run what you brung’ idea was only option. After some setup tweaking, my Santa Cruz Nomad  would be the bike for the weekend. I softened up the back to go from 30 to 35% sag, and stiffened up the front 20% sag from the usual 30. This was to have the front end sitting a bit higher for better descending geometry and because the track was dry and fast so a firmer fork would do the trick. The bike worked well and coped with track, with the only concession being harder tyres than I’d usually ride on normal trails.

I ran my Magic Mary up front at 22psi (usually 18 or 19) and my rear Hans Dampf at 25psi (usually 20), I didn’t have DH casing tyres so I need the extra pressure to avoid puncturing through the rock garden and rocky sections of the track. At just 56kgs, these pressures are quite hard (for tubeless) and I did struggle for grip on the off camber sections and over the damp roots. After losing the front end on my second run, it was my steady run one that would count as my best time – placing me 8th in masters for the day. A fair result at the end of today, the main plan was to enjoy two days of uplifts to get some fast riding in as preparation for the remainder of the enduros that I’ll be taking part in.

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