Manchester 17 Mcc at the ISDE France 2022
Manchester 17 Mcc supported a team of veteran riders in this years event in France and I was very fortunate to be part of the team.
It has been an ambition of mine for a very long time to take part in this iconic event and as I got older I thought the chance had slipped me by !
Discussions were held around Christmas 2021 with various riders about the possibility of going to the 2022 ISDE event in France as it is the closest country to the U.K. unfortunately as it is close it was likely that entries would be over subscribed.
We managed to get enough riders interested for two potential teams together but unfortunately the french FM would not give confirmation of entries until late April, unfortunately this meant many riders could not commit to the event due to the very late confirmation date, this then left only three veteran riders willing to take on the ISDE.
The three riders were Steve Hague, Steve Malone and myself Rob Mcleod, the two steve’s both over 60 years old and Myself over 50, we found our entry had been accepted in May and it was then full steam ahead planning for the event.
There is quite a lot planing involved to go to an ISDE even at a clubman level, we decided to go for new bikes for reliability, just 2 sets of tyres each and also decided on where we were staying. I opted for a hotel in the local town “Le Puy en Velay”, which was a great location and about a 15 minute drive from the paddock based at Lourdes airport.
The main driver for myself for the hotel was that it had a bathroom with a Jacuzzi bath and this proved invaluable to me in the latter days of the event.
We started purchasing items for the event including the bikes, I decided for a Yamaha Wr 250f from Manchester xtreme as I believe in Yamaha reliability and also the 250f falls into class C1, which on the 1st days means you set off in class order and further up the field the two steve’s went for a gas gas and Husky 350f which fall into the C2 class, there was only one other class “c3” for bikes over 500cc.
Spares and supplies of every type were purchased as we tried to ensure every angle and eventuality was covered, we even managed to get some sponsorship from Unibox U.K., Kemira chemicals and Manchester xtreme, where all funds would be used to promote the club in the form of bike graphics and team/rider wear for the full on professional team look, the team wear was also offered to all club members as this is something I had wanted to introduce for the club for a while.
I must admit the bikes looked amazing in the red, white and blue liveries and the team really did stand out with the club emblem all over them, we really did look the part in the paddock.
On the 24th August We loaded the vans up and headed over to France on the Eurostar which was easy enough, I had stressed out foe weeks about getting a carnet and having all the paperwork in place to get the bikes over into France. We felt we did not need a carnet as we only carried everything that I myself needed with documents to show the bike was mine and that we were taking part in an event, we fortunately was not checked on either passage through customs, so this seemed a good decision and saved us around £350 for the carnet.
It was a 9 hour drive from Calais to Le Puy and we arrived at Lordes airport on Wednesday afternoon to meet the two steve’s who had already set up camp in the rider paddock, we then went to set up the club gazebo in the main paddock, I was in awe as the event is huge and we were even escorted by an official on a scooter to our paddock spot with the U.K. teams, we quickly got set up and took in the paddock and all the worlds teams set ups, we were directly opposite the Australian and New Zealand teams, the USA came with two huge shipping containers including their own FLT truck, it was all very surreal and very cool to be there !
Admin and tech inspection for U.K. teams was not until Saturday morning, so we decided that we will walk as many special tests as we could, there was 13 separate individual tests to walk, so we started talking to other teams who had been there since the previous weekend of which tests we needed to walk. A lot of the tests were stubble field motocross style so we honed in on the technical or possible dangerous tests, all in all we walked 6 tests on Thursday and Friday which equated to around 30 k of walking, including one mountain test for day 3 & 4 where we walked up 450m in height in 500m, this test was on a mountain and it was thought it was going to be the hardest, walking it looked hard but nothing silly and easily ridable (I was to proven very wrong!)
Saturday was admin, technical inspection and putting bikes in park ferme, everything went well for us as we ensured we had the correct documents and the correct insurance policies in place, the two Steve’s were used to foreign admin, so there was only myself which was a barrel of nerves until I got successfully signed on.
The ISDE really is a mammoth event, Each and every rider has a story to tell and the six days really is a marathon event, it had been made clear by the French that the event would get much harder as the event went on and they held true to their word.
Over the six days and there were three different courses, day 1 and 2 were the same, day 3 and 4 were the same, day 5 to be the hardest course and then the motocross on day 6.
The organisers had lengthened the course to nearly 170 miles but claimed the course was easy tracks with some technical sections
We set off in number order so I was away at a reasonable time of 09:15 hrs, the two steve’s would be 09:37 and 09:52
I got to check one with a few minutes to spare and took on water, it was clear that I needed to speed up on the checks to ensure I got in with enough time to take on food and water, check two was another easy check but with some rocky narrow long sections, there was one section through a small forest which was all very steep off camber and the course ran along the off camber for a few hundred meters, the organisers had then placed a 10 foot piece of metal walkway against the near vertical banking in which you had to turn 90 degree up onto another rabbit track going in the opposite direction, I fired the bike up and only needed a hand from a marshal at the top, I remember thinking that this will be a problem for those behind as there was still couple of hundred riders to get up it, this area was steep and riders were falling off the single track, I stopped to help a stuck American rider and thought shit were only a couple of hours, what have I got myself into !!!
I got into the next check losing a few minutes, I then got my head down but it was clear it was not easy to keep a higher average speed so I started to speed on the road sections and on the green lanes, this seemed to be acceptable as many riders were coming flying past (usually Mexicans !) and there were many spectators waving their french flags !
The tests on day one where ok, I had already made the decision to roll the tests to save on energy, only on the last couple of the day I started to put a bit of effort into it.
The two middle checks were long at over 1 hour 30 minutes each and this took a fair bit of getting used too.
By the end of the day and 8 hours of riding at a fast (for me) pace I was pretty sick of seeing rock and boulders, varying sizes to ride over from pea to football size, all very challenging riding, there were a few tough climbs but nothing silly, the terrain was more draining of energy than challenging.
It was a great feeling coming back and seeing the airport in the distance, but it took forever to get back as the course kept taking you away from where you could see, the last 25 minutes back would become very familiar over the week as this was used on all of the days riding.
Even though I could see the airport I knew I was losing time and the riding pace became more frantic as seconds ticked by. I eventually made it back to the finish losing around 4 minutes over the day, I did not need to do anything to the bike, so just took on fuel and checked the bike over before taking the bike into park ferme.
I learnt that Steve Malone had caught his boot on one of the steep rocky climbs and injured his ankle, unfortunately he had to go to hospital for a check up and x ray which fortunately showed that nothing was broken, unfortunately the swelling was severe and this would be the end of his ISDE
Steve Hague came in a little late and was over his 30 minute time allowance, this was due to the course with the metal grid becoming back logged with riders, you are allowed one restart at the ISDE so Steve had used up his lifeline due to the course breaking down on day one.
The riding was challenging for all of us and I had to ride at a faster pace than what I was used too at all times, it was also not a great days riding with having to deal with the rocks of all shapes and forms, the tracks did not “flow” at all.
I was very glad at only losing a few minutes on the time card which showed that I could keep up with the pace, although I really did need to find more speed to give me time to chill out as well as take on food and water at the 5 service points
Day 2 course was to be the same as day one except for club riders there was a diversion on the hard section where the metal grid had been, there was also a few more minutes on that check.
On day 2 you leave in position order which meant I was now at the back of the field, the positives was that we knew what we had to ride over and where we could save energy or push harder if needed.
I found the course much easier to ride at the back of the field as by now the smaller boulders had been pushed out of the way and there was now a clearly defined line to follow.
Due to now riding faster I was also making a few silly mistakes and found myself overshooting a few corners and ending up in ditches etc, a few encounters with oncoming cars coming onto road sections but nothing to dangerous, I was also still rolling around the tests to save on energy.
I was actually enjoying the riding on day 2, the course flowed much better and we knew what lay ahead, again I lost some time on a longer tighter technical check and again had to ride like a loon to get in on time losing 10 minutes on the timecard over the day
I then had planned to change a rear tyre in the 15 minute service check, which all thankfully seemed to go to plan, with the heat the tyre mousses can swell making tyre changing extremely difficult !
Steve Hague came in also a little late but well within his 30 minutes
All in all a very good days riding, it was very tiring but enjoyable, you are still very aware that there is another 3 long days and you could feel the difference in tiredness at the end of day 2.
After day 1 we went to a restaurant for food, not after day 2 though as being at the back of the field it would have to be a take away as it was a much later finish after 6pm, I also now needed to eat as soon as I came off the bike to keep hunger at bay and to supply me with the massive amount of energy that was being burnt every day as you go into deficit very quickly.
While out getting supplies that evening we found a shop selling cooked chicken breasts, Gnocci pasta and fresh Arribiatta sauce, this would become my staple food over the coming days, it was the perfect post race meal, 2 large chicken breast and full bag of Gnocci and would tide me over until having another meal around 9pm !
Day three was a new course and new tests of which I had only walked one, the organisers description was for easy trails with some challenging terrain which would get harder through the day, the first two checks were the same as the last two forming a lollipop shape course, the 1st two checks were nice and flowing with some long flat out sections along really big green lanes, test one was very technical but rode very well with a massive 30m step up jump which I obviously rolled over. You could keep a decent speed going through check two, the going was much tighter and in more loamy wooded areas proper enjoyable enduro stuff, check three was the 1st of the long 1.45 hour checks and the riding was just stunning, high speed Forrest roads leading to technical climbs and descents, I was really enjoying the riding and concentrating hard, however I was getting a bit over confident and by the end of check three I was burning a lot of energy and starting to feel the effort, this check contained the test we had walked called Mont Lozere (mountain in French) and what I thought was going to be a easy test was just horrendous.
The start was a climb of 450m and every stone or boulder had been pulled out of the ground by the previous riders, we are talking bowling ball sized boulders, I literally got up by just bouncing off the sides of the track overtaking 3 or 4 stuck riders on the way (usually Mexican), unfortunately this burned a awful lot of energy, I slowly rolled the rest of the test until we had to take a 90 degree turn off a path onto a very steep hill which was by now just 3 foot deep dust, by the end of this test my energy had dropped significantly
Check 4 was another long check and the pain just kept coming from the technical terrain, I had convinced myself that I was going to hour out and was now struggling mentally, I spurred myself on by imaging everybody back at the pits and I also kept thinking about Julian Crimp, I have ridden many Enduros with Julian and he had attended virtually every ISDE up until he succumbed to illness last year, he often told me tales of the ISDE.
My speed had now completely dropped off and I started to get caught up by other riders (even the Mexicans), again this spurred me on, I entered a section of forest following power lines for at least 3 miles and I could see in the distance the riders ahead so I knew where we where going, this section must get used a lot as it was very bumpy and whooped out and I was now aware of pain in the soles of my feet from all the standing, I had no choice but to ride fast as this was easier on the body than dropping into the whoops, fortunately I had hydrated and eaten well and I think if I had not I would have been in very real trouble, I had to dig very deep and i got to this seemingly never ending check only 6 minutes late, I was very pleased with that !
The last two checks flowed back to park ferme but I had very little energy at the end of this day.
On returning to the paddock I was in very good spirit, what was despair earlier had now turned into very real joy as I had now made it this far into the event, even if I did not make day 4 for any reason I still had a restart in the bag which would carry me to the last day, this was the first time I had plain sight of finishing a ISDE.
The plan was to change my front tyre which should be a straight forward task, unfortunately the mousse had swelled in the heat and I struggled to get the new tyre and mousse to stay on the rim, with a bit of swearing and elbow grease and encouragement from the team saw the tyre change sorted and I put the bike into parc ferme for another day.
It was very tense waiting for Steve Hague coming in and I was very pleased to see him get back in on time, while he was changing his front trye he manged to snap three spokes and was now working hard with the team to get new spokes and the wheel back on the bike, he impressively and very cooly sorted this and also got his bike into parc ferme.
We had a quick beer at the campsite with the team and headed back to the hotel, it was now where the hotel and the jaquzzi bath were coming into there own, Glynis and Callum would head out to a restaurant for food and I would get in the bath for a very long soak, if I lay in the right position I could get the jets onto my wrists and biceps which was absolute bliss, I would get out of the bath and Glynis would then bring me some more food in before heading to bed around 10pm.
I knew exactly what day 4 was bringing and I was extremely tired but knew what was being thrown at us and that I also had to conserve energy for the two long checks.
I backed off a little on checks 1 and 2, check/service 2 was also check/service 4 and when I arrived in all the championship riders were also in on their way back, I only needed fuel and water so I was just chilling out ready for the 2 long checks, it was here where I had a amazing piece of luck, I was just looking at my bike on the stand and someone offered me a can of chain lube to oil the chain (which I would not normally do), I took the can and oiled my chain when someone shouted that my back wheel was loose !!!!
I checked and my back wheel nut had indeed come loose, Jamie Mccanney had seen my wheel move when I spun it, this more than likely saved my ISDE and many thanks to Jamie for spotting this, I owe him a beer !!!
I lost a couple of minutes on check 3, mont Lozere test was easier this time as the boulders had shifted but the dust on the hill was horrendous, the dust was deep all the way to the top, I have since seen you tube clips where there was grass on the special tests, I never saw any grass just dust ??
I was starting to be very happy with the riding and the realisation was now sinking in that I just need to get the bike home clean on time and it would mean I would be a ISDE finisher. Unfortunately unlike day 2, day 4 the course got worse rather than better with having lots of bikes on it and some of the climbs and descents were huge and very physical for less skilled riders. On one decent you literally rode down a windy donkey track from the top of a mountain to the bottom, On the technical climbs the sores on my buttocks from the seat and on the legs from my knee braces were getting really painfull and I really had to concentrate to ride at pace to not lose time, I was starting to make lots of mistakes and I got lost a couple of times by not seeing the course markers, my vision was now also starting to play tricks on me seeing things that weren’t there or following the wrong signs.
The riding and terrain was stunning but it was completely brutal and my energy was virtually spent, I was now extremely tired and only the will to finishing was keeping me going, I could now also afford to go a bit slower on the last checks as I knew the checks back were easy.
The last test was the motocross test 30 minutes from the paddock and what had been a enjoyable stubble field motocross test was now just deep dust and boulders, again I just rolled round and I really did not enjoy it.
I got my head down on the last section back to the paddock as I now knew I was going to finish the ISDE, I was actually getting quite emotional and it was fantastic high fiving the kids through the villages and pulling the odd wheelie as I passed through.
I Came into paddock only 6 minutes late which I was extremely pleased and happy about, it might not have seemed it but I really was absolutely shattered and I still had the last Enduro day to go.
I knew I would now finish the ISDE as I still had not used my one restart and the last day is just a short motocross race, although my own competitiveness wanted me to finish the day clean on time.
Steve Hague got back within the 30 minute allowance but believed he had got lost and missed out the final cross test, there was a time showing in the results, so we thought that tiredness had kicked in and he was incorrect !!!
The description given out the previous evening was that day 5 would be very technical and difficult, which was concerning as they said days3/4 would be easy trails with some technical sections which I felt was very inaccurate, so I had prepared myself for an extremely hard days riding.
I ate well and had hydrated well all week, I think I even got a good nights sleep ready to take on the last long day
we woke up and we could not see Steve Hague’s name in the starting list so Callum got to work to see what was going on, unfortunately though it looked like he had been excluded due to missing the last test and had used his restart on day 1.
Callum and Steve managed to get hold of the ACU team representative and went to the governors jury to try to argue the case that he only lost time on day one due to the course issue, also that some riders had already got their time back from day 1, unfortunately the organisers were adamant that we should of appealed this on the Monday evening and that the exclusion still stood, the team and I were devastated to learn this and that Steve's ISDE was now over.
This then only left myself to carry the Manchester 17 banner, unfortunately as we set off for the long day the rain started to come down which caused a issue with vision especially on the very high speed green liason lanes, I tried my best to keep the goggles clean but it was very difficult
Checks 1 and 5 were the same as were checks 2 and 3 to form a figure of eight on a lollipop stick layout to the course, the day would effectively be one big loop apart from the ride to check one, check one was relatively easy and then things got significantly harder as the day went on, some typical French terrain (rocks) really big climbs etc, nothing silly but all very energy draining, from check two I started to lose time so I was not getting a breather at the checks and I was now struggling keeping up the pace up on the technical terrain, check 3 and 4 was long at nearly 1:45 each and at the end of check 3 I lost a few more minutes, I crashed literally going into check 4 on some whooped out stones and when I got up it felt like my bars had bent or had a twist in my forks, the day was not going well.
It was at this check point I made a massive mistake where I was now getting extremely tired and I mistakenly believed check 4 to be the last one (check 5), so I did not take on any water or food as I thought I only had a hours ride time back to paddock; that I could afford to not to take on water to save a few minutes on the timecard.
I ran dry of water after about 30 minutes into the next liaison section and I could not understand why I was seeing new terrain and not check 1 in reverse, I kept checking my watch and i now believed my watch to be broken as well as it was showing a earlier time from the check time due on my time card.
I was frantically trying to work out what was going on or why the airport was not coming into sight until after about 20 minutes it finally dawned on me that I had mistaken the checks and still had over 3 hours of riding to do, I had run out of water and temperatures were now getting very high as the sun came back out, I was now in real trouble !!!
I was now really concerned about making it back on time as I had already lost 10 minutes and this was another long hard check, I was now making some really silly mistakes and errors, even following the road closed to course markers going in the wrong direction for several miles. I now also did not care for any cars on the road sections, I was literally blowing out of green lanes into oncoming traffic as I could not be bothered looking both ways, I was literally just making sure the bike was moving forward as fast as I could make it go.
The last technical climb of check 4 was horrendous with still plenty of spectators left on the hill, the ruts were now very deep and many lines to choose from, I eventually got up with the help of a young French lad who enthusiastically pointed out the wrong way to go !!!, fortunately he must of felt guilty and then helped me up when I got stuck, I believed it was a much used area of forest but apparently after I was told it was virgin going that just got annihilated by all the other bikes.
I stuck with it and I was pleased to finally see check 5 still only arriving 10 minutes late, i again did not take on water and there was now only a handful of riders behind me and the final check of my ISDE.
I was now very tired and dehydrated as well as starting to feel real emotion and elation, With a tear in my eye I knew I could make it back on time and only a crash would ruin a ISDE finishing medal.
I kept my pace going until I had a real moment involving a ditch and a few trees, I had a proper scare and realised that I was risking finishing the event for potentially a few minutes lateness on the time card, I backed my pace off and only put the last remaining energy into the sections that required it.
The airport came into view and I was completely shot and dehydrated, decision making had gone out of the window and I was now just a passenger on my own bike, it was now getting late in the day and even the kids were not out in the last village, they may have been but I did not see them as I was just concentrating on getting back to the paddock.
I rolled into the paddock 10 minutes late, I was elated to get to the end of the day 5 and not to have used a restart, I rolled into the pit to see everyone’s happy cheering faces, Callum tried to give me a hug but I really could not think straight and just asked for some water which I guzzled down, I was completely spent of energy and it took a minute or two to clear my head before I came back on task to see what the bike needed, I remembered the gear lever felt a bit loose and the bars had twisted in the mounts from the fall, fortunately the little Yamaha did not need much maintenance as I really was not functioning very well, so it took a while to sort the simple job of tightening up the gear lever and then put the bike in park ferme ready for the following days motocross test.
I was very happy to be back with the realisation that I had now finished the ISDE as I now only needed to start the motocross race and get over the finish line, I really was ready for a beer or three !!!
It was a fantastic feeling but I was also very sorry that my team mates did not get to experience the feeling, I even felt a bit guilty for finishing so I tried to keep my celebration low key as we headed off to the hotel and a well deserved meal out in town
On day six the order changes and the day starts in reverse order, as i was at the tail end of the results my race would be the 2nd of the day with 40 other riders so we had to be at the paddock quite early, it felt a bit strange being in the paddock early and it being so quiet.
The Motocross course was grass with bermed corners, whoops and jumps built out of loose stone, not the best motocross track but I was determined to finally put some max effort into at least one test
We had one practice lap and then put onto the start gate by order of finish, I went for a outside gate and it seemed like we were on the line for a age, finally the starter gave us the 10 second board, the starter walked across the gate for a thumbs up and I selected 2nd gear and put the throttle to full.
I got quite a good start and went into 5th or 6th into the 1st corner slowly dropping back into 10th place at the finish.
The ISDE for me was now over and as we came off the motocross track into park ferme for the very last time I collected my finishers plaque, A long held dream was now complete.
The event was an amazing experience for me from start to finish, although if you had asked me on day 5 I would not of wanted to see another enduro bike ever again, I really could have written a lot more about every days riding, the sights that were encountered and the extremes of terrain.
I am extremely proud to say that I have finished an ISDE, it was extra special for me in France as I beieve it to be country which prides itself on having especially hard Enduro events, also for team GB to completely dominate the team event in both the men’s and women’s classes was truly amazing.
I am very thankful to have the people around me to support me in the long months of training pre event and while taking part at the event.
It is only with the love and support of Glynis, Callum and Amber that I have been able to do this and I hope that I get the opportunity to repay them and support them back many times over.
It was a massive learning curve for me competing for 6 long days and there are many things that I may do differently if I am ever fortunate enough to take part again.
A massive thank you to all the people and organisations who have helped the club to send a team to this years ISDE, it has been a lot of hard work which has led to a fantastic and unforgettable experience, I hope everyone involved has enjoyed the event as much as I did.
It really was a massive learning curve for all involved and I hope in the future to be lucky enough to take other Manchester 17 Mcc club riders to experience this awesome event.
It has now taken me several weeks to physically recover from the event and I really cannot stop eating, I am still constantly hungry !!!
I have now also forgotten how painfully hard the event was and this has now been replaced with complete joy of having competed at the biggest event in the world in the sport of Enduro.
I will now have a few months off before driving onwards and upwards to find a new challenge ??????
A Massive thank you to the following people and organisations who without this adventure would of never of happened.
The club Sponsors
Andrew Owen and Manchester Xtreme
James Atkinson and Kemira
Nick Wraith and Unibox
Catch you all soon……..