To take part in the EWS is a great opportunity to discover new places to ride. This trip to Scotland to race was our first time visiting this country that we have heard so much about. The second round of the EWS this year was in the Tweed Valley, an amazing community of bikers working to the most of bike tourism in their area.

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There was infrastructure in place for every kind of rider. This concept of a “trail centre” doesn’t exist in Italy right now, it is different to the classic bike park, which are suited towards long-travel bikes and ski lift uplifts. These trail centres are more suited to all mountain and enduro riders. It was a real kingdom for MTB, where you can go anywhere, with seemingly endless trails for every level of ability. You use different trails to climb on than you do to descend, and all the trails are marked out like this and well-markerd. It suprised me to see how many people come to ride, but more than anything it was great to see the future on the trails – there were groups with kids as young as 5 years, riding with their parents around the trail centre. It’s even better because the whole trail area is off limits to vehicles too, so it’s a safe environment for those children.

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It ‘s amazing how nature surrounds the town of Peebles, with the vegetation, farmland, rustic house, it was a real blast from the past and it seems that nothing has changed from older times, despite being a country with all the modern amenities and services.

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Each round of the series is important but the Scottish race is part of the Tweedlove festival. The festival is two weeks of events for every type of bike that draws thousands of people into Peebles – you understood how big this festival is when you saw the huge number of fans trackside during the race. Again, it was whole families who were here, to hear them cheer as you passed by and have the kids come to you for autographs at the end of the stages was an amazing experience.

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The format for this race was a little different to what I have raced before with the EWS. To create an epic event the organised set out a course that covered more than 100km in two days, with eight special stages. It certainly was epic. Practice began on Wednesday, when we headed to the stages for day one of the race. We quickly realised that we weren’t going to be racing on trail centre trails, like many people had told us before the race. They dropped the flowy trails and selected the most technical, challenging trails they had. They were steep, full off roots and the so dark because of the dense pine forests. With the rain that fell it became a real test of courage. After a few laps Manuel tried a special line on stage two, but hit a tree with his right ankle, breaking it. He now has six weeks off the bike because of that.

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After spending the day with him in the hospital I had only two days to try out the other seven stages – that would be 50km per day in practice! Fortunately on Thursday I found a group of girls to go riding with, but they decided to skip practice on Friday to save their legs for the race. So on Friday I had to go back to the tracks where Manuel had crashed all on my own. There was nobody in sight! It was scary enough riding those trails, but it was even scarier with nobody else in sight for miles. But I had to practice, so there was no backing out of it! Fortunately I ran into a friends at the end of the day, so I completed the ride with them.

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As with all the EWS races this year, the women were heading off before the men, which I think is a really great step because it means we get more attention from the public and the media, which is great for the sport. Also means we are finished earlier, which is good when you’re starting at 8.30 in the morning and spending 6 hours on the bike!

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I was quite nervous on the first day, especially on the second stage where I couldn’t get a good feeling on the bike. Luckily it wasn’t just me feeling like that. When you’re at the starting gate you can’t catch your breath like you can in practice, and I was quite worried as I headed into the descents. I did quite a lot of paddling that day, and had a couple of crashes, which lost me a lot of time. I finished the day in 24th, which wasn’t what I was hoping for, but in honesty I felt good just knowing I had completed such a challenging course. There was a lot more pedalling on the second day, which suited me a bit better. I didn’t expect to find the trails as dry as they were, they were almost completely different from practice. My goal for the day was to get back inside the top twenty, and I did it! I managed to win back five positions and finished the weekend in 19th, I’d have been happier to be further up the results list, but after such a difficult and challenging race I’m still satisfied with my weekend.

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There was a really high number of girls racing this event, the level was really high, which is amazing to see. I think I have learnt a lot from racing here in Scotland, and I am currently sitting in 11th in the overall series standings which is not so bad!

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A special thanks to our friends Paul and Shirely who made us feel so welcome and made the trip a joy all week. Thanks also to all the warm and friendly people we met – we’ll be coming back to Scotland for sure!

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Words & Pictures: Life Cycle

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