The Tweedlove Festival is an annual celebration of cycling, taking place in the hub of Scotland's mountain biking scene; the Tweed Valley. For two weeks, this picturesque riverside town becomes the home of the festival which has run for over a decade, and features both road and MTB events as well as multiple kids races, exhibitions and movie nights, all of which revolving around cycling and the local community. In all, if there was to be a place that represented the strength and atmosphere of the cycling community in the UK, the Tweed Valley would be it.
One of the main aims of the Tweedlove event is to get the next generation of cyclists out into the mountain biking community. In the short time I was in Peebles there was a kids road race, an enduro race and mountain biking skills sessions where over 150 kids participated with the majority coming from the multiple cycling clubs within Peebles itself.
The Tweedlove International Enduro saw a mix of both professional and amateur racers with local hero Katy Winton and the previous EWS winners Greg Callaghan and Tracy Moseley getting their fair share of the attention. This was going to be a tight one between the local racers due to the fact that they all regularly rode the tracks together, and this was certainly true with less than five seconds between Gregg Callaghan and Ruaridh Cunningham and just a mere three seconds between first and second in the junior men's category. The weather, as always, was also a big worry on the racers minds, with the forecast flip flopping between rain and sunshine...
Thursday and Friday were practice days and filled the whole Tweed Valley with a constant flow of riders over every stage. Stages 4-7 provided the riders with steep climbs, as well as a 2-mile transition between each side of Innerleithen, where many took this as an opportunity to stock up on some well-needed caffeine and food at the 'unofficial feed station' on Peebles Road.
With racing setting off late on Saturday, the elite riders headed over to Glentress for the kids Enduro event where they helped out in a number of kids skills sessions, as well as doing a little showing off when it came to the wheelie competition, although I think even some of the pros were outdone in the skid session, as we all know, skids are for kids.
The lead up to any race is filled with a variety of scenes; bike mechanics giving the race bikes the final check over ready for their voyage, racers warming up and of course some silly jokes to keep everyone smiling.
No race event is complete without the showcasing new and shiny products, and the Tweedlove Enduro was certainly no exception. Tweed Green was transformed into a brand show. Not only great for presenting new technology, the pits are a great place for spectators and riders to get involved with the community. Being surrounded by hundreds of like-minded people, no question goes unasked and the brand reps are always more than happy to talk shop.
On Saturday morning, racers were greeted with rain at their windows and fog on the mountains, however, by the time the first rider had set off, the sun had decided that it too, wanted to come out and watch the Enduro. Setting off from the main stage in the pits, the riders followed the walking path along the side of the Tweed River, where kids waited eagerly to get a hi-five from their favourite riders and inspiration.
Stages 1 and 2, situated in Glentress, were trail centre smooth and easy to get some flow out of, provided that you were able to pedal after all the climbing. Stage 3, however, added something different to the mix and gave a taster for the following day's tracks with loose rocks and tight turns. However, unlike Sunday, most riders managed to stay rubber side down and get down with a smile on their face and some relief, with only the final day of racing now to prepare for...
Stage 3 presented a whole different ball game compared to the previous stages and gave the riders a taste for the following days antics. Thankfully, the weather had held out throughout Saturday so what could have been dreaded greasy roots were instead safe to cross. Although, despite the extra grip, a number of riders struggled to stay on their chosen lines, and ended up taking the bottom corner wide, losing them crucial seconds when there's everything to play for.
By the end of day 1, it was Irish EWS winner Greg Callaghan who was in the lead by 9 seconds over Ruaridh Cunningham after winning stages 1 and 2. However, it was Ruaridh Cunningham that triumphed in stage 3. Given the similarities in the terrain of stage 3 and Sunday's stages, there was everything to play for between the two elites, it was down to whoever could keep rubber side down once the rain had rolled in.
Sunday's race saw riders tackle two of the most technical stages along with the smoothest trail of the event. Starting the day early at 8:30am with a 45-minute ride from the pits in Peebles over to Innerleithen, riders had enough time to prepare for the variety of descents in front of them. Stage 4 was the talk of the weekend as riders could not believe that it had been completely hand built only recently, was so smooth, and that someone had allowed 550 riders to race down it to test whether it could withstand the pressure.
Stage 4 eased the riders into the day and ensuring their 'stoke' level was set to maximum. Fast, flowing and smooth, with plenty of opportunities for jumping, some riders couldn't resist but to just send and style any bump they could find.
This was where the smooth trails ended and the endless struggle to avoid becoming a tree hugger began. Similar to the terrain seen on the previous day's stage 3, stage 5 got steeper, gnarlier and slicker, along with yet more trees to avoid.
Even though there was a forecast of showers in the afternoon, the riders still hoped that the clouds would hold back just enough to get down to the end of Stage 7. However, come 1pm, the clouds couldn't keep it in anymore, and along came a downpour of hailstones and rain just in time for the elites to make their way down the most root riddled track of the weekend. This turned racers into 'fight or flight' mode where some battled with the slippery turns, smashing their rear wheels into corners to keep on track, whereas others took the approach to slide to the finish line. Some rider's kept their eye on the ball and prepared for where the greasy track would like to take them and used it to their advantage by hucking.
Stage 7 caught a lot of riders out, not only for being the greasiest track of the weekend but because after two full days of racing, fatigue was a major issue. The last few metres of the stage probably had the most number of crashes as some people dropped concentration once seeing the finish line, and in doing so, did not notice the awkward roots in the turn they had to pass over in order to get to the finish line.
It was Ruaridh Cunningham who battled with the treacherous conditions of stage 7 the best to beat Greg Callaghan by over 3 seconds. However, it was not enough to take the overall win as Greg had won both stage 4 and 6. Between the 2 stage wins on Sunday and the 2 wins on Saturday, Greg had set himself over 5 seconds ahead of the nearest competition. The women's field was dominated by Tracy Moseley who won each stage by at least 7 seconds, giving her an overall lead of an astounding 2:34.68.
The feeling of relief in the pits after the race was strong, with most riders prioritising a well deserved cold beverage or stone baked pizza before heading off to give themselves a wipe down.
The podiums at the Tweedlove festival are certainly different from any others I've seen, with swarms of kids with their autograph books ready flocked around to cheer on their favourite riders. Elite Women
1 // Tracey Moseley
2 // Katy Winton
3 // Becky CookElite Men
1 // Greg Callaghan
2 // Ruaridh Cunningham
3 // Mark Scott
Full results here