This year’s Irish Enduro National Championships took place in one of my favourite places to ride in the world and was well timed with a Swiss bank holiday so perfect for a trip back. Djouce woods just outside Dublin, is an absolute singletrack paradise with the occasional stunning view of Powerscourt waterfall, the Wicklow mountains and the sea. Niall and the Biking.ie crew put on a great show with the course taking in all of the best trails that I haven’t ridden for 2 years as well as some brilliant new stuff.
For weeks prior to the race the sun has been beaming in Ireland and on Thursday and Friday I had a great time after escaping wet Switzerland to ride some uncharacteristic dust (too much so, a mad thursday night adventure left my legs still tired on race day!). The dust didn’t last long and two months worth of rain fell on Saturday and Sunday making the tracks unrecognisable with any carefully chosen lines turning into sloppy thick mud. Deadly!
Sunday Race Day – 6 Stages, 30km, 1000m descent
The stages were relatively short (4-6 minutes) and generally less physical than you would get over in Europe but that didn’t make them any easier. Each time there were tons of wet roots, slippery mud, off camber narrow trails, steep drops and switchback corners compacted into the stage so you had to be fully on it to ride well. It took some getting used to the wet trails and the first couple of stages felt slow and static, I kept hitting the wrong lines, had a little wipeout crash and found it hard to judge how much speed you could get away with. It didn’t stop the enjoyment though, racing down Djouce classics like XTC and GC, trails I’ve only raced on an xc hardtail, was amazing!
With on and off rain all day the trails were getting increasingly sloppy and as we headed up the long climb to stage 5, the longest and steepest of the day, we were getting horror stories from guys who’d just come down it – “you’re gonna die up there”, “it’s mental, you just have to slide, the trail has disappeared!”, encouraging stuff. The top section was epic, downhill but slightly pedally trail crossing a section of felled trees, there was a constant mesh of greasy exposed roots mixed in with a thick layer of sloppy mud. My Enduro 29er was the absolute business on this and despite the greasiness I had tons of grip and loved sliding around at high speed. After dropping into the forest the trail got steeper and the disadvantage of not being seeded became apparent with the muddy trail having been totally cut up by a hundred people riding it. Things got pretty sketchy and out of control! at the steepest point I had to let 2 downhillers past only to get stuck behind as they crashed at the bottom when a wooden bridge across a stream had been dislodged from position and disappeared under the mud! after that it was more sloshing around with some leg sapping pedaling through the soft mud to the end. Exhausting but an awesome stage!
I was delighted to finish 3rd with unstoppable junior Leah Maunsell taking the win in style, results here. So you can stick your Alps, Ireland is the place to ride bikes. I wish I could get back to more races, the atmosphere was brilliant, the trails deadly and it was great to catch up with everyone. The mtb scene is booming, with that weather in Switzerland nobody would have turned up but this race was sold out and nobody gave a shite about the rain!
Big thanks to Think Bike in Rathmines for sorting my brakes out at the last minute and Velo Elsener who are gonna have to deal with the mud damage to the bike! Photos robbed from Action Pictures Ireland, Cycle Action Photography, and Adrian Van der Lee.