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This is the view that greeted us in N.Ireland

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A stark contrast to the weather that we had experienced the last few days. What awaited us was 3 days of beautifully organized championships, good times with lovely people and the best Guinness I have ever tasted (and we double checked that a few times)

There was a music festival type atmosphere in the camping ground

There was a music festival type atmosphere in the camping ground

Just one year ago there were no established trails in Castlewellan. But thanks to a bunch of funding and some inspiration from the very paths we had been riding the last few days we were now greeted by some exquisite riding. This was added to by the addition of some ‘natural’ trails, made just for race day, giving a taste of not so ‘established’ single track.

Trying to make the best culinary choice down at the local grill shop

Trying to make the best culinary choice down at the local grill shop (Photo Pieter)

Single speed championships are filled with fun events, both for anyone who wants to try their hand at it, like the bike toss

Alexander Dunlop going for a more traditional style of throw

Alexander Dunlop going for a more traditional style of throw

And also events for the countries competing for the next championships. In this case Slovenia and Italy (Sicily). This started with pickled egg eating…

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Here you can see that Sebastiano is clearly enjoying the experience more than Ursula, bringing home an easy victory for Sicily.

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Photos Pieter d’Haens

At the pub in the evening we were treated to Irish hospitality

'Would you like a beer?'

‘Would you like a beer?’

Race day was 4 laps of an 8km course, no beer was drunken during the race, but I can assure you that loads was drunken after.

Avoiding pre-race nerves with James

Avoiding pre-race nerves with James (Photo Alexandre: Malteni)

The start says it all, the first two people off the front were the first two over the line...

The start says it all, the first two people off the front were the first two over the line… (Photo Alexander Dunlop)

I loved the race track! It has set a new standard for me for what I expect from championship courses!

I loved the race track! It has set a new standard for me for what I expect from championship courses! (Photo Bruno)

The first Guinness of the day...

The first Guinness of the day… (Photo Pascal Cazaux)

After dueling a bit for Corti Umberto (The new European Champion) for the first 1.5 laps he slowly pulled away from me. At one point in time I noticed that he was sitting down peddling while I stood up. This led me to the conclusion that he had chosen a lighter gear than me. This would result in just a little less top speed but fresher legs at the top of the climbs. Fuck. Once he disappeared from sight I just settled down to having as much fun as I could while still keeping my 2nd place. Once the race was finished and I was handed a Guinness, I asked him what gear he had chosen, 34×17. Fuck fuck. I had 32×18, oh well, I really was out-done, no shame there. Now where is the next beer?

The Slovenian team plus a couple of gypsies...

Some of the Slovenian team plus a couple of gypsies…

More competitions between the SSEC '15 hosts to be

More competitions between the SSEC ’15 hosts to be (Photo Pieter)

I was just trying to help!

I was just trying to help! (Photo Pieter)

After an evening of eating, drinking…

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…prizes, more drinking and a lot of dancing, Pieter and I got up for our usual fat filled breakfast fry up and then headed into town for coffee and internet access while the others did the group ride. We had chosen to save our energy for a trip to Rostrevor, the Irish bike-park flagship, in the afternoon. After a short 35min drive over there we piled out of the car and I lay on the grass for a while just trying to get my shit together for what was to be the most epic ride of our trip. After a very long, and often rather steep climb, we were greeted by this…

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Words failed us. We could not have wished for a better end to our journey than the stunning 30km long single track loop that we found in Rostrevor.

Stunning exposed trails

Stunning exposed trails

Finishing in beautiful technical trails through the forest

Finishing in beautiful technical trails through the forest

Our road trip through Wales, Scotland and finishing in N.Ireland was one of the best I have ever been on, the riding was breathtaking, the facilities amazing, and the companionship without compare. Thanks to the Irish crew that put such a wonderful and well organized event on, and thanks of course to the companies that have helped me in just getting there, Malteni, 29er Bike Shop, GripGrab, and especially Travers Bikes for providing me with such an amazing ride!

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Exhausted and hungover selfie

Exhausted and hungover selfie