Raiders Gravel – 3 days of gravel racing on the stunning Galloway Forest roads, where I competed in a mixed pairs team category, with my partner Richard Tarling. Having never ridden in this area before, I was unsure what type of gravel to expect.
On arrival, the event village was extremely well organised, as was the on-site camping. Everything was there that you needed, from coffee, showers to catering and even great bike washing facilities, courtesy of Fenwicks. Other than racing, I didn’t need to leave the event village all weekend!
Stage 1 ‘The Grannoch’ 73.9km 980m
With a sociable 2pm start time, the racing was far from it. It was fast and furious from the off. The gravel was very ‘chunky’ and you had to keep focus to avoid hitting big loose rocks. Plenty of long steady climbs and super fast swooping descents. With all categories starting together, it proved tricky to work who you were actually racing or if they were in front or behind.
A good start though, with 2nd place after day 1.
Stage 2 The Clatteringshaws. 84.5km 1143m
My favourite stage of the weekend. A different format today, with 3 timed stages of 14km, 18km and 24 km within the total distance. The extra climbing and segmented format suited us well. Although I was mostly staring at Richard’s back wheel, I did get a wee glimpse of the stunning views – wow!
Another 2nd place but this time only by seconds. Especially good, considering we completely messed up our start for the 1st timed stage after a misunderstanding with the race officials.
Stage 3 The Skerrow 74.5km 1001m
We planned to push on at a good pace from the start but careful enough as not to blow my legs off. We started well and my legs felt good. I only looked at my Garmin 40km into the ride, feeling good I aimed to keep pushing on at a meaningful pace then give it everything I could in the last 10km. Before I knew it the km’s had flown by, we were only a few KM’s from the finish line and I still had plenty of gas in my legs! Whoops. By not looking at my Garmin enough, for time and distance, I felt like I didn’t push on as hard as you know I can. My bad. More gravel racing experience needed on my part!
Over the 3 days, we past many people with punctures from the sharp rocks. Richard and I were both lucky to escape unscathed, after quite a few tense moments! You really have to keep your line on these forest roads, to avoid the nasty rocks, but I think that this makes the riding even more exciting! I was genuinely impressed with the event and the superb gravel riding, 100% recommend.