For newbies to this style of racing (and, refreshingly, there's loads out there at the moment!) you are required to race as many laps of a set course you can do within 7 hours. Sounds easy, right?
This was my first attempt at the 7s, but I've done more than a few endurance races in my time, so I was looking forward to getting on my bike and solo-ing my way around the well known and super-popular trails within Glentress Forest. I think the first thing that hit me was how relaxed the atmosphere was and how everyone was taking in the Scottish sun and catching up with friends. I had turned up on my own and within 2 minutes of getting out of my van I was chatting to racers and riders that I hadn't seen in a while. This is what makes this style of event great and I love being at them.
All the usual formalities followed - timing chip placement, riders' briefing, counting water bottles and the like before the big get-go at 10am. Following a Tweedlove van blaring out the "The Ride of The Valkyries" (beats AC/DC!) 368 teams and solo-ists set off on their first lap of the event.
And what a lap.
Lap 1 was a slightly curtailed lap to get everyone settled in and avoid bottle-necking, but the full lap was challenging and down-right fun in equal measures. Starting with a climb out of the arena, the course dragged it's way up to the standard Red/Black/Blue climb before being sent down a wonderful little ribbon of singletrack to rejoin the fireroad at Mushroom Pie. Swooping through the trees, over roots and little kickers (some turnbars were even spotted!) this section was a true smile maker as riders prepared for the biggest climb of the day. Coming out of the trees and onto the fireroad, all riders were sent a sharp right up a sticky, steep straight shot of a climb which did it's hardest to tear your legs apart. Some walked, some spun and others grunted their way up to join the main climb up to the Buzzard's Nest where we were sent on a rough, loose climb through the Freeride Area. Quick blast up a fireroad - making sure to say hello to the marshals on the way - and then into my favourite section of trail.
The Tunnel of Love.
Steep, rooty, loose, slimy - just what you need in a lapped endurance race. Some riders found it to be outside their comfort zone, others couldn't wait to get back to it. This led into some really nice, flowing singletrack which blasted the riders through the trees, skipping roots and getting a drift on wherever they could. Brilliant, brilliant fun. The final section of trail started with The Drop of Doom (it wasn't as scary as it sounds!) and into the greatest concentration of rooty singletrack I think I may have ever raced. Not quite a descent and not quite a climb, my wee carbon hardtail skipped over everything whilst the big-wheeled full suspension bikes blasted clean through. At this point, you can hear the event village in the background which helped brake later, pedal harder and keep on pushing until the finish line.
So, that's the loop - how did my day go? I set out with a "let's see how this goes" until I found out I was sitting in 11th in my category. At that point, I wanted to make sure I got into the Top 10 so it was time to put in some effort! On my 8th lap, I had to push hard to make the cut-off to start Lap 9 which was my undoing. I crossed the line to start Lap 9, but I was so knackered I didn't finish in time to meet the final race cut off. Slightly frustrating, but I snuck into the Top 10 in Male Solo Under 40 so went home a very happy - and tired - boy.
Whether you're a serious racer, a newbie or just curious to see how this style of event works, this needs to be on your calendar. I absolutely loved it and will be back next year. And most likely the year after...
The Tweedlove Team are amazing as well - always chatting, smiling and working hard to put together a showcase of riding in the Tweed Valley. Always say hello to them, the marshals and the amazing First Aid Team because, without them, there's no race.
Full results can be found here: