Tweedlove Bike Festival
“TweedLove Bike Festival is a celebration of all things bike, and is 100% organised by bike riders. We think we’ve got the UK’s best concentration of mountain and road biking options right on our doorstep, so we have a lot of riders living here, keen to invite you to share our back yard”
It’s really rather awesome, so many events, not just for the elite, but for the whole family, for the roadies and the mountain bikers, the young and the old. It’s bringing the biking community from far and wide, creating opportunities to explore this stunning area on 2 wheels, well and a run was chucked in there too!
The festival runs throughout May and June, growing from strength to strength. All the events are listed here: Tweedlove Bike Festival. I may have only been up for a short snippet of this whole thing, but I can already say it has gone down a storm and set to continue. A great festival and celebration, run by passionate people is always going to be filled with fun and won’t disappoint. I hope that I can get a bit more involved next year, support the event and volunteer as much as possible. That would be a good excuse to spend an extended time up there in such a beautiful part of the country.
What did I get up to?
Travelling up for a weekend from South Wales isn’t the shortest of journeys, but it was totally worth it, heading up on the Thursday, gave me time to play. After 6 hours plus in the scorching heat (not used to that!) I was passing through some gorgeous scenery and remembering the beauty that I was entering where I used to live and work. It was straight to the trails to stretch the legs around Innerleithen 7Stanes, taking it nice and steady on my Orange P7 because of the heat as well as the looming 7 hour race on the other bike!
I had to make the most of the area, so went for a spin around the Glentress red trail on the Friday morning in the beautiful sun, again very steady, but still good fun. It was then time to chill out, grab some food. If you’re in Inners, head to ‘Cafe No.1′ on the high street, simply tasty good food, chilled out and very welcoming, then get a refreshing homemade ice cream from Caldwells, so good! After a mooch along by the river in Peebles, it was time to get psyched for the 11km trail run that evening.
Odlo Glentress 11km Trail Run
Running, what?!? I don’t run, I’m a biker. They were cunning those organisers up in Tweedlove HQ. ‘I know, why don’t we do a deal on the run if you book it at the same time as the Glentress 7 hour bike race’. Little did I know that this caught my attention and I was doing the occasional run now and then back in the winter, so why not eh, I’d be up there anyway so a positive way to spend the evening!
It’s amazing how the months disappear and all the ‘training’ you may have had planned just simply slips away. Before you know it the weekend where you’re meant to be on your game rocks up and you really haven’t done anything significant to help get through this event. Ah well, what will happen, will happen! This was the first of it’s kind at the ‘bike festival’ and with up to 150 runners out, I would say they might do it again!. This was massively helped by it being a gloriously sunny day, though we aren’t used to it, so it got a bit much for some! We are never happy, whatever the weather. I was pretty content, no pressure on me, this was all just for fun or something like that!
The Odlo Glentress 11, is set conveniently on the same course that the bike race was on the following day, so if all else failed and I was absolute poop at least I was gaining the benefit of a track walk! As you can tell, I had no race time in mind, just to get round the course was enough for me! It’s the taking part that happens, right!
Running is simple, all you need is a good set of trainers, shorts and t-shirt and your away. I rocked some green biking shorts, blue top and my blue Salomon X-Scream trainers. In the end I was nicely colour co-ordinated, not planned at all! After sign on, there was all the time in the world to faff and forget key things.
I was chilling in the event arena, thankfully they did the runners briefing, where the first thing they mentioned was to make sure we had the timing chip or you’ll just be out for a run, not actually in the event. I casually wandered out of the briefing, down the the van to pick up said timing chip and discreetly blended back in for the final words of the briefing…I’m sure it was all very useful stuff, but I wouldn’t know. At least I was in the race!!!
It was go time, a steady pace, I wasn’t going to sprint off stupidly and bonk half way in, so it was steady as she goes, especially when it was up, up, up! The pack very quickly began to string out as the running machines set off at a blistering pace and the rest of us found our own pace and settle into it. All the climbs up the fire tracks were nice and steady. There was a few steeper kicks up the single track sections, which even at a steady pace were getting the heart rate high. It seemed to be on the technical descents where I gathered momentum and just went with it! I was managing to gradually catch people on the climbs, but hopping over the roots and finding the inside line on the descents and I was gaining on people pretty quickly. I was definitely on the edge of my control and I could have on several occasions fallen flat on my arse, but thankfully I remained upright! It must have been that 2 day orienteering course I went on way back when at uni, where it was all about ‘fairy feet’ when descending, totally paid off!
I even managed a sprint finish from somewhere, just pipping another lass to the finish and almost forgetting to blip the timing chip, thankfully there were people to shout you back! I was sweating buckets, yet feeling good. In a time of 1:03 I was pretty happy with that especially when I really wouldn’t class myself as a runner, more of a head clearer now and then! I was totally unaware of my position, but a check back at the results showed that actually I did alright and came 2nd in the U35 category, only a minute behind the leader, well I wasn’t expecting that…maybe I should try this trail running thing, or quit whilst I’m ahead!
That was it, a few glasses of water downed and chucked over my head, it was done. There wasn’t any podium for this one, it just kind of ended with the satisfaction of being part of it. Though I think this could be improved upon if it’s going to stay in the festival next year
Odlo Glentress Seven – Let’s kick up some dust
The day started the same as other events, a hearty bowl of porridge and brew in hand. Sitting around the breakfast table, unknowingly with the winners of the pairs from last year, Tom Wragg (who I now discovered owns Ruby the trail dog!) & Joe Norledge who were back to keep there crown, but super relaxed as they set about there morning routine, such nice chaps. Alongside there mates yet rival competitors, Jack Luke and Reuben Bakker-Dyos from Bike Radar joining them. They set off whilst I did a bit more faffing, think I was getting too relaxed! Got the kit on, went full XC stylé with full lycra, mainly because of the heat, I did don some sweet Sako7 socks to complement or clash with my shiny new Northwave shoes, it’s good to be bright, right?!?
Headed up to Glentress in good time as I was entering I spotted a van I recognised behind me. To my surprise is was a group from Rock UK Whithaugh Park, up to race as 2 teams, it was really nice to see some familiar faces that I haven’t seen for a while, think they were up for a bit of fun! Collected the timing chip, popped down my box in the solo pitt, full of too much stuff that I probably wouldn’t need. Did the necessary checks to the bike (tyre pressure), got the all important Chamois cream on (don’t know how I never used to use this stuff!), number on the bike and I was ready for the off. Super relaxed and out to have some fun, love riding new events, going into the unknown a little (apart from my run the night before).
We all do it, check the weather several times before an up and coming event. This one was interesting, it was a scorcher of a week in the lead up, the run certainly proved that one! It was no surprise that this was set to continue, but it never lasts. There was a looming thunderstorm set to hit in the afternoon. This was a major talking point, that if it hits the race may have to be cancelled, if it just rained, the course may be tweaked, but would carry on. We were all hoping it would miss us, but the weather does what the weather does and we were definitely going to know about it! The rest was all about making sure you tapped the timing chip each lap, be considerate of other riders and don’t forget to drink, as it was hot, hot, hot!
I was quite far back in the field at the start, but really wasn’t phased as I was in this for the fun rather than the racing as I really have not been putting the training in, totally unsure of where my fitness and endurance was at. I’ve had a bit of a loss of love for the 2 wheels (sorry for those who don’t understand how this happens!), so minimal time on the bikes doesn’t help with pre-booked events. but hey I could do as much or as little as I wanted to, there were no rules! Those who head to the front, I assume they are the super elite or just confused and get caught by the masses on the first climb. I prefer to pass people and settle into my rhythm rather than go off like a bat out of hell and blow up on the first lap!
What’s the course got to offer?
It was certainly an action packed 11km loop, with a great balance of climbing, descending and forest track breathers. It really didn’t disappoint. The first lap was slightly shorter to get the hundreds of riders spread out. Nothing like a long fire track climb to let the hares sprint off and the turtles to just get the wheels rolling. I’m not sure that the turtles were ever going to catch the hares in this story, but hey, they wouldn’t give up, well this one wasn’t going to.
After heading up ‘Rue de Souffrance’ a testing climb that seemed to get steeper each time. We made our way up onto the blue/red trail climb, which was a nice break, still going up, but a lot steadier as it snaked up towards the Buzzard nest car park. The climbing wasn’t over yet, it guided us beside the bike park area on a rocky track heading up over some roots as the gradient got steeper, a couple of big efforts to spit you out onto another fire road. At this point you were wondering if it was ever going to head down! Thankfully this fire road led us up to the highest point of the course, where they put on a little cake and water stand, which I know many riders including myself appreciated greatly especially on a hot day.
This was just before the ‘Tunnel of love‘ which was a naturally steep, loose, dark and dusty descent that was quite sketchy (interesting choice of name!). This was a hang on and get down kind of track, especially when it turned sharp left and dropped you down. No walking for me, but many others were being cautious down there which is understandable! This then rolled over rough rocks and roots just to beat you up a little each lap. It was more of a pedal section with a couple of dips to keep momentum. Eventually it popped out somewhere else in the maze of forest tracks just for a momement. A chance to get a swig of drink in before we diverted off right onto more natural tracks, the fun was increasing and gravity was playing more of a part now!
It was twisty, rooty with small trees on the edge of the track and little drops just to keep you on your toes. This was where many guys were absolutely flying, some a bit too quick and washing out in the dust, others getting stuck behind slower riders and no where to go, but hey everyone had a right to have time and space on that trail, some were a tad too pushy for my likings, but you always get that at races. The first section was a bit more up and down traversing slightly to get to the fun stuff. A swoop around a fire track and then dropping into another narrow yet rapid section. I mean off the brakes and go as fast as you can, it would have been cool to have a speed camera down there over 30mph was happening easily (nearly by me!).
A quick climb and a roll or sprint to the next section would take us back to the arena. There was a choice here…stupid or sensible, easy or hard, shorter versus longer. Well I didn’t give myself the option, having run down this the night before I knew I could ride it. I wouldn’t be the fastest, but I would make it. There was quite a big drop into a corner then flat out weaving through trees creating a slalom line through before getting a bit tighter, and sketchier. Many opportunities to hit your handlebars or wash out on the roots that were everywhere. This is where having the 29er just got me out of trouble, just rolling over the top whatever poor line choice I picked! A few tight corners at the end to slide it round then it was out into the open and onto a fun slalom track on the grass all the way down to the event arena.
That’s the short lap done and dusted
(literally really dusty!)
Each lap we had to stop and did our timing chip, one lane for the solos, another for the teams. This must have confused me greatly as I slowed down, unclipped one side and then began to roll into the correct lane, but I just washed out finding myself on the ground very quickly. The only crash I had in the whole race and it was at slow speed in front of all the teams and the event crewe. The guy on the mic did say I deserved a spot prize for being the first to crash there, I never saw this prize. All I had was gravel rash on my left leg that felt like I went into stinging nettles, ah well, no time to stop, just ride on.
The solo pits was just around the corner from the timing. It was small and pretty cosy, not really any space to stop, which was a good thing really. This meant that stops were short and sweet. My issue was I couldn’t put my bike anywhere as there was just no room, once a couple of bikes had already parked up the space was gone. I’m used to stopping at my own wee pit stop with space to chill, not feel everyone watching you and feeling like I should just keep going. I wasn’t stopping long and it was only every other lap for switching bottles (I was drinking a lot in the heat), getting a gel or a quick munch of something salty as I saw the salt on my jersey through the sweat (nice, eh!).
The First lap wasn’t counted in the overall timings as it cut out a couple of sections as I discovered when I headed back out. We we led back up the grassy field, which was a bit of a slog, snails pace was the speed I set! This then climbed a little steep bank to reach either a footpath or a bike trail where you could catch your breath and roll down for a moment to either the up and over (pretty steep) or round the side (not so steep, but a little longer). I just went with the flow which was round the side and seemed fine. Then passing under the Go Ape tree top platforms we gradually made our way up the tracks, down some freshly cut track (so glad it was dry). this led us across a couple of fire track roads and up the other side. This may have been the tougher section for me, it was short sharp climbs that you had to put the effort in to get up, you couldn’t go slow and steady or you would just stop! My heart rate spiked at these points , but I recognised where it was leading us to…’Magic Mushroom’ short red descent, which had a nice bit of flow to it. It doesn’t take much to put a smile on your face, this section did and was a nice break up before the climb kicked in again.
Just Keep Pedalling
That was it then, time to settle in. I was happy that I could ride all of the course bar any stupid mistakes or other riders causing chaos (thankfully didn’t happen to me, but to others I knew). It was all about keeping it steady for me as there was a lot of climbing, approx 320m per lap, which adds up by the end. I had in my mind that I would like to do 7 laps, which seemed reasonable with time to stop and allow for silly moments or what have you. I was in my own little world, just keeping it going, steady as she goes. that was it. I thankfully had no dramas, no crashes, just a mild stitch half way through, which I think was down to the random mix of energy products my body was getting fed. I was witness to a few crashes, but thankfully they all got up and carried on, those descents would have been a challenge to many, it was getting to me by the end, mainly because my hands were getting sore and so hanging on was getting more and more tiring.
The laps kept going, getting passed by the uber elite and stupidly quick guys, it was like they were on the first lap each time, it really is impressive. I was happy to just plod at my pace, picking up speed where it was easier and going steady when it got steep and not being stupid on the descents, maybe a little too cautious sometimes, but hey I stayed upright, so that’s a win!
Clapping from the Heavens
It was about 4pm and the atmosphere was literally changing, the clouds had rolled in, there was little spats of rain coming down, but they seemed to amount to nothing. 10 minutes passed and then it got even darker, the skies were looking threatening and then the rumbles began. That thunderstorm that we hoped might move on was right above us. As I passed a guy, he said it was just heavenly encouragement applauding us. I think it was more of a warning and and get a wriggle on as it was going to get interesting very quickly!
My word did it change, I was at the tunnel of love just dropping in and it was so dark. I gave up on my glasses on the climb up, but it was tough to make out anything down there, just going the way I had done before. The rain was beginning to fall, the thunder was rumbling and the lightning was striking…it was close. This was a really exciting event to be involved in, but also pretty darn scary! We got out of that thick tree section into the now very heavy rain.
We were just about to enter the interesting descents when all the marshals got the radio call to ‘SHUT THE COURSE, SEND THEM DOWN THE SAFEST AND QUICKEST ROUTE POSSIBLE TO THE EVENT ARENA’. This meant we were instantly diverted down the fire roads in the rain. It was intense, water spraying everywhere, soaked to the bone and speeding down the roads hoping not to have a high speed crash at this point. I’ve not been caught in a thunderstorm and that was intensely exciting even though it was a nightmare for the organisers. They did an amazingly quick and effective job at making sure everyone got down safely. The final descent in those conditions would have been so sketchy and the fact the lightening was apparently striking the grass field of the final descent, shows how close it was. Here’s some of the photo’s from the event taken by Keith Phunkt who takes some stunning photos check out his gallery, worth a peruse!
What just happened?
It was a little bit of chaos as riders were getting diverted from all over the course, it was just making sure everyone got back. It was only 30 minutes and then the rain subsided, the storm had moved on and all that was left was a soaked through people, quite clean bikes and kit that was left in the sun, now looking sorry in the puddled event arena. The timings were now massively confused as everyones got cut off at various points, but they also had a power cut too, so that made for a tough work out for the timing crewe. It took some time, but eventually they worked out the results minus the last lap, which was the only fair way to play it out. It was a shame it took so long as the podiums were a little underwhelming and to be honest I just wanted to get clean, dry and sort stuff out. To me at this point the fact that I got 2nd place in my category really wasn’t on my mind, but more how epic, fun and exciting that course was.
I had no idea of where I was positioned at any point in the race so that really wasn’t on my mind. It was a pleasant bonus that with hardly any time on the bike for training that I can blag a 2nd, don’t really feel worthy of it, but I guess the slow and steady approach like the turtle can make headway in the end! In total I rode 86km with approximately 2, 800m of climbing. That’s not too shabby at all and good mileage for the looming Mountain Mayhem in a couple of weeks time, but how much more I will do before then may not amount to much, so that’ll be a whole new experience that I may love or loathe, who knows!
All I can say is if you have an inkling that you may want to do this kind of event, DO IT. Get a rabble of mates and have a laugh as a team or be brave/stupid and do it solo. It’s a fantastic setting, great course, lovely bunch of people with the occasional numpty, but that’s life right! It’s really chilled with an emphasis on fun and challenging yourself, so book some deserved time off work and why not make it a nice holiday in the Scottish Borders, it is totally worth an explore!
Results: Glentress 11
Photo’s: Glentress 11
Results: Glentress 7
Photo’s: Glentress 7 (Phunkt)
Glentress 7 (Roots & Rain)
Singletrack was there and posting live videos via there Facebook page to get more of a vibe of the event, so they may still be up to see what’s going on. I’m sure when the festival is all done and dusted there will be a highlights reel of all the action that we were part of or missed out on!