After the wet Soggy Bottom races over the winter, I was looking forward to entering the South West XC Series throughout the summer, in hopefully drier and faster conditions. Having been unable to enter Round 1 due to work commitments, Round 2 at Grogley was my next opportunity to get back between the tape.
This was my first time riding at Grogley Woods near Bodmin in Cornwall, and in the knowledge it was a popular location for enduro and downhill riders, I was anticipating a technical and challenging course.
Arriving early, I met up with Tom and Ben for a decent practice lap before the race started. The course was very rooty, and required 100% concentration to maintain lines and stay on the bike, as I discovered on my first practice lap almost going over the bars! There were also multiple line choices through the woods on most parts of the course, giving plenty of overtaking opportunities (or opportunities to be overtaken!).
Thankfully there were a few fire road climbs where I could make some ground, but I immediately knew the rooty course wouldn’t fully play to my strengths and I would likely lose a lot of time on the descents.
Having completed one practice lap with an hour left to kill before the race started, we headed around for one more lap, when we found ourselves on part of the course we somehow managed to miss on the first run. This part of the course included several log jump A-line options, although the B lines seemed to flow much better.
The start of the race was delayed slightly whilst the number of laps were debated, and it was finally decided that all Senior categories (Sport, Elite and Expert) would complete 5 laps, plus the initial start loop. Unlike the mass-start Soggy Bottom races, the start grid was ordered by category, although it was difficult to gague exactly how many other riders were racing in the Sport category.
The whistle finally sounded at around 11:50, and the race was underway. I managed to make some ground on the first fire road climb, although this gap was soon closed once the course entered the woods and things started to get rootier!
Following a battle with Ed Welsh and Sam Whittlesea during the start loop, I managed to regain some ground on a fire road climb before heading back into singletrack. The remainder of the race then became a game of cat and mouse, with Ed catching me on the descents, whilst I caught him up on the climbs.
Unfortunately my concentration started to lack mid-race, resulting in a minor crash with a tree stump hitting my knee, and then several incidents where I tried to ride into the tape mistaking it as an alternative line.
The battle with Ed continued until the fourth lap when I began to flag, and he managed to gain a significant lead on the descent. My attempt to catch him up again on the climb failed however, as Dexter Hurlock lapped me and therefore cut my race a lap short.
I was pleased to complete the race in 6th place out of 15 Sport riders, although I’m determined to make it a top-5 finish for the next round!
A big thank you to Kernow Riders for putting on a great event, as well as Mark Moss and Lee Berseford for the great photos.