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Leah Maunsell

XC/Enduro Racer

Polygon Grassroots Enduro Series Rnd.2

This weekend’s racing was round two of the Polygon Grassroots Enduro Series. It is a series run by local clubs and having the craic is a priority. The one day blind race format is unique in that riders do not get to practice in advance, but can attempt the three stages as many times as they like before the cut-off time (usually a maximum of two attempts per stage). The technical standard of the trails and venues is on a par with national Enduro competitions so it is a great pre season warm up! It was the driest Irish race of the year so far!

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PC: Adrian Van Der Lee 

http://www.adrianvanderlee.com/

You can also run the stages in which ever order you like. So judging by track freshness and conditions I decided to do Stage 3 first as I thought it would cut up as the day went on. I didn’t have to best start to the day as I had a bit of undergrowth lodge itself in my jockey wheel which jammed up solid so when I tried to put the power down to pedal hard it sent the chain into the spokes behind the cassette. It wasn’t a quick fix causing me to stop and remove it taking a few minutes. After losing so much time I decided to just cruise down the rest of the stage to check it out for my next run. Back up for a re-run straight away and I was happy out.

Next was Stage 2, the shortest of the three stages but not without a few kicker climbs. I was happy with how the stage was going until near the end when I heard a really loud hissing from the rear tyre. . Dammit a puncture, a small slit on the sidewall so time to pop a tube in! Back up again to repeat this stage again. It wasn’t the best start to day but luckily things got better from here.

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PC: Patrick Holmes

Last stage, Stage 1. This was a longer, more pedally stage. I was happy with how this stage went for me but I decided to repeat it anyway because I had lots of time before the stages closed and hoped I could go faster on the second run.

So all in all, even after a few mishaps early on, I was still able to keep it together in my second runs to take the win! Thanks to everyone for their encouragement all day keeping the spirits high. You can’t beat local races for the craic! Cheers Kona Bikes for the awesome Process 153DL!

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PC: Cieran Maunsell
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C-Bear Ceramic Bearings Review

Team Maunsell have been using a variety of C-Bear Ceramic Bearings for over a year now.

We have been using the C-Bear frame bearings, jockey wheels, bottom bracket and wheel bearings.

Our mechanic who fitted the bearings said: “I was really impressed with the reliability of the product. The guys have ridden those bikes through a variety of terrain and weather conditions. They really are a Fit and Forget bearing.”

Leah: The first thing I noticed after fitting the bearings was that my suspension instantly felt plusher. I guess this is because the bearings are so smooth and allowed the pivots on the bike to move more smoothly.

Jonathan: In comparison to previous years where we have needed to change standard bearings twice a year, we have been using C- Bear Bearings maintenance free for 12 months now. It’s just one less thing to have to think about and you know you can rely on them.

Smoother, plusher, more reliable, maintenance free bearing – whats not to like!gsobild_3729

 

Gravity Enduro Final Round

This weekend was the Gravity Enduro Finale at Carrick, Wicklow. It was very exciting to return to Carrick for the first time since the Enduro World Series fairytale back in May.

Coming into this weekend I had set a target for myself to have five clean crash free stages. Every race is a learning curve for me and it’s important to me to improve and learn something from each race.

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In the week leading up to the race I had heard that Scottish rider Katy Winton who races the EWS Series for Bergamot Factory Racing Team would be coming to race this weekend. I was delighted to get the challenge of racing against an EWS racer.

The weekend arrived and practice day was time to try out lots of different line choices on each stage, some good some really bad!!  Feeling on pace on Saturday I was excited for a good weekends racing ahead.

With speed however can come hard crashes if everything doesn’t work to plan. I suffered from a pretty bad crash on Saturday trying to gap a fireroad which didn’t leave me in the best possible shape for race day with a badly bruised leg, stiff shoulder and sore ribs. Note to self, don’t try that tomorrow Leah!!

Come race morning I decided to remove any negative thoughts and focus on all positive notes. I decided to ride around with some of the junior riders for the day for a bit of craic along the way!

The track conditions were surprising dusty and dry which meant it was going to be one fast days racing………

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Some more fun and games!

With my aim of clean and consistent stages I think I rode with a very slight reserve all day. Pleased with how my first four stages had gone all day I decided to ride a little harder on the final stage. Disaster though when I washed out on a flat corner leaving me with no choice only to disembark from my bike and swap a few pedal strokes with running strides to get my momentum back up to speed.  Probably losing only a matter of seconds but feeling like I had thrown away buckets I refocused and finished out the race strong.

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I was happy to finish my season with a pretty clean race and although it wasn’t quite quick enough to bag me a win it was only a mere 0.9 of a second off Katy Winton! I am pleased with that result and motivated to train hard this winter and come back next year stronger!

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I also managed a second overall in the Irish Enduro series after missing two rounds because of school exams and a trip to the Alps.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me out this season:

Will Whelan –  Ash Hill Injuries Clinic, Kilmallock

Tom Thornhill – Thornhill Opticians
The Kona Bicycle Co.

Dare2b – Welcome to Our Mountain clothing

MBW Bike Shop

G – Form protection

Crankbrothers

Irish National Enduro Champs 2015

‘The National Champs is undoubtably the most important race of the year on the home calendar. The winner gets the pleasure of being crowned Irish National Champion and gets the pride of wearing the Irish shamrocks.’

This weekend was my first race of the season on home ground [Ballyhoura] where I would hopefully defend my title from last year. I quite like racing on home ground getting to see the buzz around the local area and fellow racers enjoying our trails.

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Practice day was quite relaxed just enjoying riding with some friends and sharing some line choices.

Come race day I was feeling refreshed and ready for a hard days racing. I knew I was going to have to push hard all day. It is always a really close race in Ballyhoura and every pedal stroke counts.

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I was putting in consistent stage times all day and knew I needed to continue this for all five stages. On stage 4 I was carrying lots of flow and had good lines around the more boggy sections. But with a split second loss of balance I was thrown into a big muddy hole. I got going as fast as I could but my hands and grips were covered with an inch of mud and for the whole of stage 4 I had no grip to hold on properly. My hands just kept on slipping on the handlebars which made braking quite sketchy. Disaster!

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I knew that I had to put that behind me now and just open up on stage 5 and give it everything I had. I was feeling strong on the rougher top sections but I began to tire towards the end of the stage. I pushed as hard as I could to the finish.

Earlier this summer I have had to sit school exams and my lack of training has had a knock on effect. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get my fitness to where I would like to be at. But hey, there are still a few races left that I hope to improve for.

That was it day over, five stages done! Now it was time to wait for some of the other women to finish.

I was delighted to find that I had successfully retained my National Title from last year and to become Irish National Champion for the second time at just 16 years of age!

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Now it is on to the final round of the Irish Enduro series at Carrick Mountain. I can’t wait to get back to Carrick after the EWS back in May!

The Kona Bicycle Co.

Dare2b Clothing

MBW Bike Shop

Crankbrothers

G- Form Protection

XC National Championships

“XC with a dropper seat post….. not sure if its a thing…. but I sure do like it a lot!”

This weekend was the Irish XC National Champs in Bike Park Ireland. I had come here last weekend for a preview of the lap. Being the middle of July didn’t seem to matter too much to Mother Nature as she handed out the rain in the week leading up to the event. The track had been pretty greasy the week before and there was more rain being forecast for the days in the lead up to the race.

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Thanks to Crankbrothers for the new pedals

The race lap was running some of the park’s Black runs so I thought it would be much more fun to run a dropper seat post on my Kona Big Kahuna 29er. XC with a dropper seat post…. not sure if its a thing…. but I sure do like it a lot! Riding enduro a lot lately has influenced my riding style and I like to have fun with the bike on the downhill bits.

Even though the race was the National Champs, I wasn’t really that nervous. I think it was because I was confident with the track. The course was technical and had its challenges. There were two main tough climbs and two descents. I was able to use the descents to my advantage and have some fun while recovering for the upcoming climbs. The climbs were tough, one grassy climb and one switchback climb.

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Come 12 o’ clock it was go time for me. I was racing in U16 Girls. I started just 1 minute behind the elite ladies so I had a target to catch! I got a good start off the line and led up the first climb. About half way up the climb I took a quick glimpse back to see the others, I had pulled a gap so it was head down to the top.

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Funny how you forget about the hard climb the minute you start to descend! Now it was time to enjoy the descent before the next climb. On the next switchback climb I could see some of the elite women but its deceiving as they aren’t as close as you think! There was some really slippy short descents on the switchback section to get your breath back. The next descent was a flat out hard pack single track which also had some slippy natural sections thrown in, before coming back into the field area to the finish.

That’s one lap down, but still one more to go! “Here comes Leah Maunsell in the lead of the U16 Girls race” the commentator announced. I was still in the lead and ready to get stuck in to the second half of the race. Thanks to everyone for the positive encouragement on the climbs the second lap flew and before I knew it I was back in the field again.

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I had caught up to fourth place in the elite women in front so I was happy with that. The gap to second place had grown on lap two and I was still in the lead entering the field. It was time to stop grinding my teeth and smile as I crossed the line as National Champion! I was delighted to defend my U16 National Title this year.

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So thats it for now. I’m off to the Alps this week for some enduro training and then back for the Enduro National Champs in Ballyhoura.

Thanks to everyone for helping me to make this season so good. Couldn’t do it without all of your help especially my family.

The Kona Bicycle Co.

Dare2b Clothing

MBW Bike Shop

Crankbrothers

Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup

This weekend was round 3 of the Vitus Firsttracks Enduro Cup. It was a long journey for us driving the length of Ireland to get from Cork to Rostrevor, Co. Down.

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We arrived on Saturday morning for practice day. The transitions were tough and it was allowed to do assisted lifts on Saturday. We took this opportunity to do shuttles in the van a few times. Thanks to Ian Callaghan for driving.

Practice day was certainly a lot of fun having the craic with a few friends but there was also a lot of track learning to be done. I always like to practice and bounce line choices off some of the faster lads so thanks to Dan Wolfe for helping me with that on Saturday.

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I was loving stages 2, 4 and 5. There were all fast technical downhill stages with short hard efforts needed, my favourite type of stage. Stages 1 and 3 were full single track stages. These are harder stages to make time on so I spent time finding smooth lines through the rocky sections particularly on the upper half of stage 1 during practice.

Happy with my lines on all of the stages I called it a day and headed out for some recovery food.

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Sunday was race day, a long day on the mountain. Stage 1 started on the top of the mountain taking about one hour to reach. It was probably the longest transition i’ve ever done in an Irish enduro. I made my way up with the Pro Men, chatting to pass some time as we made our way up to the top.

It was a very misty sight up high and it wasn’t very promising for clear conditions for the day. Luckily it began to brighten up as the day went on.

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Stage 2 was a fast rooty downhill stage with just one kicker climb at the very beginning on a fireroad. This was a stage that I really liked.

Stage 3 was a full single track stage but it had good flow apart from a few awkward corners. I tried my best to be smooth over all the rocks and pedal hard whenever I could.

Stage 4 was pedally top and bottom but had a nice natural section in the middle with lot of different line choices to be had.

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Stage 5 was my favourite stage. It was a downhill track with steep off camber sections and really tight corners. Although towards the end I had some serious arm pump!

The stages this weekend had varied terrain on them. It was hard to find suspension set up to suit the different stages. Also it was hard to find the balance with tyre pressures to have enough grip on the damp rooty natural terrain yet not to run high risk of puncturing on the rocky stages, I still have lots to learn here.

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I wasn’t quite feeling on top form all day making some mistakes like over-braking into corners costing me time on the stages. But overall I was happy that I finished with no crashes or mechanicals.

I was delighted to take the win in Pro Women and take every stage win along the way.

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Here is a link to the results: http://www.sportident.co.uk/results/2015/FirstTracksEnduro3/women.html

Cheers to Dermott Sweeney for the cool pics!

Thanks to all my sponsors for their support:

The Kona Bicycle Co.

Dare2b Clothing

MBW Bike Shop

Team Maunsell

A Real Champ!

This weekend was Round 2 of the Irish Gravity Enduro Series. What better way to spend Fathers Day than to race bicycles alongside my Dad. Although Dad is not competing for the top step of his category it is great to see him contesting his own close battles with a few friends. Riding around with him really reminds me how much fun is involved in enduro and that racing is just part of it at the end of the day. He was delighted with his result and even decided to style it up a bit! The real champ!

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I didn’t compete in the first round of the series due to school exams so I wasn’t seeded for this round. So I took the opportunity to start a bit earlier and spend Fathers Day riding with Dad. Saturday was practice day and Garry Davoren of MBW Bike Shop headed out with us to make some set up changes to my Kona Process 111 for the weekend. I did some adjusting to suit the more pedally venue.

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Happy with my line choices and how my bike was running we headed out for dinner. It was nearly the longest day of the year so what better way to spend the evening than on the beach. I can tell you for sure it was just as good as any ice bath!

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Race morning arrived and with a start time of 10.50 it was a relaxed start. There was plenty of time for chatting and cheering on some others. The first few stages had some extra obstacles for me having to pass out slower riders in front. It wasn’t exactly the ideal situation but luckily I met some nice people who moved over quickly. Thanks guys.

I think the day could be described as one with highs and lows. I felt I was riding well on the first three stages and feeling confident for the last 2 fast stages. Disaster struck on stage 4 when my chain snapped sprinting out of the start gate on stage 4 leaving me with no choice but to do the whole stage chainless! I knew I was going to lose time but I tried my best to just pump and run when there was an incline.

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Luckily with the help of bikeaddiction.ie I got my bike running smooth again and was able to finish the race. With just one stage left I knew I had time to make up. I tried to have a smooth run and make every pedal stroke count. Then all I could do was wait for the other female riders to finish. After taking four out of five stage wins, had I done enough to take the win? Just about! Winning by just 4 seconds!

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I was delighted to hold onto the win in the Pro Women after riding one whole stage chainless! Thanks to everyone who helped me out this weekend. Here is a link to the results: http://www.sportident.co.uk/results/2015/GravityEnduro.ie-R2-Ballinasto/women.html

The Kona Bicycle Co.

Dare2b Clothing

MBW Bike Shop

Team Maunsell

Emerald Enduro

With the crowds on your side, it’s easier to play up to your potential. – Julius Erving

A common question asked this weekend was “Do you feel the pressure of racing on home ground?” My reply was inspired by Greg Callaghan “No. Pressure is for tires!”

If there is one photo that sums up why today was so much fun - the fans were mental, and never more mental than when Greg Callaghan.

For me, I only saw one way to perceive this so called ‘pressure’ of racing on home ground. That was to use the insane support of Ireland behind me and imagine they were with me every pedal stroke of the day.

Of course I had my own expectations of how I would like to do this weekend. Firstly it was to just finish the event as the youngest competitor and secondly to set a time within the Top 15 in the Pro Womens category. Whatever else would happen would be a bonus!

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After a track walk on Thursday taking in as many stages as possible, I was super stoked for the weekend. The tracks were in prime condition and they had a great variety of terrain to really show off what Ireland had to offer.

Friday and Saturday absolutely flew and I was feeling confident with my riding and line choice. Saturday evening was busy after practice getting my bike race ready for Sundays race.

A huge thank you to Garry Davoren of MBW Bike Shop for his outstanding support this weekend. Without him I doubt very much the weekend would have gone so smoothly. He had my Kona Process 111 running in tip top condition.

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Sunday morning came and the atmosphere in the pit area was insane. As expected the Irish came out in force to support. There were chainsaws, cowbells, old bike parts, blow horns and loud screams to be heard for miles. The support was insane!

It was a bit of a wait until 11.22am for my start time but it was so worth it! As the day went on the crowds got bigger and bigger and the noise was crazy! I really began to feel the home crowd support as I could hear my name from all directions!

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After 4 stages we returned to the pit area for a quick lunch stop. I was eager to find out how I had been doing so far. The anticipation was building when Enrico began to interview me saying that I was leading but had lost some time on Stage 2. After dropping my chain on Stage 2, I wasn’t sure exactly how much time it had cost me.

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Luckily at the lunch halt it was possible to have Garry look at the bike and give it a quick check over,  finding the rear derailleur had come loose from the rough stages, a quick tighten and the problem was fixed and I was ready for road.

It was onwards and upwards to Stage 5 from here to try and maintain this lead. The crowds were massive and there was even leprechauns on trees on the last few stages.

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It appears I was pushing a bit too hard on Stage 6 when on the bottom third of the stage I burped my tire, loosing most the air. I rode it smooth to the finish where I was able to use my gas can to get enough pressure in it to get me up to the neutral tech zone where I could check the pressure and pump some more air in (phew that was a close one!). Topping up the water beside Jerome Clementz, I turned and said “Keep ‘er lit boii”. He laughed and we rode on up the hill towards stage 7.

With everything good again it was onto final climb for Stage 7, the final stage! I can’t even explain the crowds that were on this stage, no amount of explaining would do it justice! It was mental!! I picked my way carefully down the top section (very steep rock garden with some nice big rock drops) once clear of this it was full gas to the stage finish, the stage was almost lined with people from top to bottom, it felt like a DH world cup race, awesome!

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The weekend was over! All preparations had payed off! I had done it! I had just won a round of the Enduro World Series in Ireland!

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The feeling rolling down into field after achieving this was incredible! And to top of the day, Greg Callaghan took the win in the Pro Men. 2 wins and 4 podiums for Ireland. Such an achievement for a small island!

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Huge thank you to all of my sponsors:

Team Maunsell

Kona Bicycle Co.

Dare2b – Welcome to Our Mountain

MBW Bike Shop

“Everything had changed in 90 minutes……”

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I’m in an exam year in school doing my Junior Cert so I thought I’d share an I essay I wrote for school about ‘Race Day’………………………… IMG_1233 It was race morning once again – the only difference being today was National Champs Day. The next ninety minutes would be the decider – would I become National Champion or not?  To be or not to be?

Today held the same characteristics as every other race day – the friendship, rivalry and tension between competitors but the added pre – race nerves were evident. The starting field was, what could only be described as, a cauldron of nerves. The usual highly energetic atmosphere surrounding the start had changed, it differed from the norm. People seemed more concentrated and serious about their pre – race routine than usual. However, some things never change like the sudden queues for the portable toilets (funny how everyone suddenly needed to go!) as soon as the sound of the tannoy speaker gives everyone a “Ten minutes to start” announcement.

At this stage I am well into my warm up trying to get into my ‘race zone’ state of mind. Occasionally Dad would join me and give me the earful “Right! You have sixty minutes to show them what your capable of. We both know you can do it!” I am trying to process all of this in my mind but I can’t help but be distracted by the people around. I see fellow competitors throwing shapes, stretching, retying their shoes, pedalling up and down and others are doing their “pretend  I  know what  I  am  stretching” stretches!

There is now just five minutes to go until the start. I get myself ready, take off my jacket, select my take off gear and listened to the final race plan, kind words and wink from my Dad. It’s hard but get caught up in the buzz, surrounded by like – minded individuals here to achieve a common goal. That’s what we call the early morning race feeling. It’s a mixture of nerves and excitement. I remind myself of all the hard work, training and preparation I have put in for this one day that is ‘today’. I feel I have prepared well for this race, after all “Fail to prepare, Prepare to fail” as the old saying goes!

I was confident in my ability to succeed. I cleared my head of any negative thoughts, just in time before “30 seconds to go!…….20…..10…..5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Go!” And we’re off! The crowd is electrified with euphoria, I hear my name from deep within the crowd and I push on even harder. I am trying hard to get out of the field first but some people blast out as if a Pamplona Bull is hot on their heels! I remind myself to keep a steady pace and I will eventually pass them again. I think of the start of a race little like life really, everyone eager to get going, no looking back, forward to the finish. Others maybe not so much as I gradually begin to pass people one by one.

Before long I am at the front leading the race. I cannot even begin to describe how much this means to me. I begin to picture the finish of the race, all I would have to do is maintain this speed without a mistake and I would win. I am dreaming, I need to live the present moment! The whirr of the wheels going downhill instantly replaces the inflamed red headed painful look with a grin on my face. I enjoy every bit of free speed I can get but it’s not long before I am faced with a climb to charge up. All the earlier bravado now seems to have evaporated and it’s just me versus me on the track. Not knowing how close or far away second place is,  I push on to get my best time possible.

I am filled with absolute joy as I approach the entrance to the field. I have made it this far mechanical free and if I could continue this it would be a matter of seconds before the finish. As I am pedalling , switchbacking my way up through the field the crowd is cheering my name. Reality sinks in – I am about to become National Champion! I am grinning from ear to ear. I am closely approaching the finish line, I pull a wheelie to show my happiness. I have done it! All those hours of preparation, listening to believers and non – believers, I have achieved my goal, mission accomplished. I am now National Champion, proud wearer of the Irish Shamrock Jersey! I stood on the starting line alongside my friends and now I get to stand alongside them on the podium. “I had as many doubts as anyone else. Standing on the starting line, we’re all cowards” Wow! Things really can change a lot in ninety minutes!

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