Round 3 of the Biking Blitz was on Sunday just gone. It was in Derroura, Co. Galway. I'd never been to Derroura and I'd heard some very mixed things about the track. But myself and Hannah had committed to ourselves that we would do every round, so Saturday we headed for Galway and stayed the night in a lovely Air BnB just the far side of the mountain to the trails. Two of our frineds, Mark and Willy were both staying in the same air bnb and had done a practice lap earlier on Saturday. They warned that the trails were mostly washed out and full of standing water. Later that night, lying in bed we listened to the rain pour down and knew we weren't in for a dry race, whatever the sky did.
As we waited for the race to start Hannah turned to me and suggested we race the loop together. Neither of us knew it, but we knew it would be a challenge, so figured it was a good plan. Rather than pushing and jostling for position, we held back and took our time up the opening fire road climb. We turned into the first section of single track and picked our way through the trees and out towards an open fire road climb around to the far side of the mountain. While navigating some switchback climbs we were able to pass two other riders and continue on up the hill. At this early stage the trails were not well maintained, but I was looking forward to the rest of the loop expecting it to be good.
Around the back side of the hill the lack of trail maintenance and weather proofing became even more evident. The trail quickly became very technical having had all the gravel washed out thanks to the many streams that ran down the center. The water was murky and a number of times your front wheel would drop into a puddle of water with no idea what was underneath. This level of challenge was not what I was expecting from a trail center. Soon we found ourselves at one of the first segments of boardwalk across the bog.The wooden boardwalk was completely covered in a hard rubber which meant grip was not an issue. While the sections were narrow, the consistent grip was confidence inspiring and I thoroughly enjoyed navigating any of these sections that cropped up.
Further around the mountain we were on more sheltered trail. Again, it was rocky and challenging, but the amount of puddles had decreased. There were some very fast sections of trail here with even more stunning views. Sweeping berms, long rocky chutes, and technical climbs. We turned a corner and immediately found ourselves in the wrong gear for a short sharp climb followed by another descent. As we dropped out onto a fire road Hannah turned to me and said "That was really technical." I was about to agree and suggest these trails weren't all that good when she immediately followed it up with "I really liked that!". I smiled, or was it grimaced, and we continued climbing up the road.
As we had descended through the rocky trails we had passed a couple of people fixing punctures. On our road climb we met our friend Willy, who'd punctured both his tires and had to drop out. Seems we'd been right to not push our pace, this mountain took no prisoners. This was all the more evident when we passed another man who jokingly asked if we happened to have a spare crank arm we could lend him. But by this point we were on the homeward stretch. The trails became a lot more flowy. Even the woodwork had banked corners. Some sections of woodwork were very long and narrow. Nothing around you but bog holes to provide some very soft landings if you judge a corner wrong and go off.
We started to get into a proper flow, but all too quickly heard the loud speakers of the finish line approaching. We exited the last sweeping bit of trail into the fire road climb to the finish. Hannah shot passed me on the climb pipping me at the finish line. I'll have to remember to push harder for the finish in round 4. We were both very happy with our performance on the trails. It was, in spite of the conditions, a very enjoyable day out on the bike for me. My "no walking, no breaks" goal remains in reach. Round 4 will be it's biggest challenge.
I'd like to thank Colm O'Sullivan of EightyNine Media for the photos from this round. Some beautiful pics snapped, both on some of the rocky single track and the stretch of fire road into the last trail. There are a lot of great photos in his gallery that show the variety of terrain tackled on the day.
Trail Length: 15km
Finish Time: 01:23:12
Finish Position: 32 out of 34 finishers