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Skills Holiday with GreatRock

Great Rock and BasqueMTB's fantastic Spanish adventure, read about the details of our skills holiday on the Basque Coast.
Well, our big mountain biking skills adventure with Ed Oxley from Great Rock has just finished. I’m totally exhausted and covered in cuts and bruises but I’ve got that warm happy feeling from a week that worked out well!  From the very start, as Ed and I discussed and planned this week, we had been thinking that the key would be to balance the skills and riding so that everyone felt they had learned lots but still had a great mountain biking holiday. We wanted to ride some of our best trails but with skills input from Ed to make sure people got the most from the riding and hopefully went home better riders. We weren’t entirely sure how we would organise everything, we weren’t sure how it would work out but we were sure that we wanted it to be a fun experience for everyone involved. And all the feedback says that it was!
Having Ed visit us in Spain for 10 days in April really helped us plan the holiday; it meant that we could have a beer each night and run through the trail options to choose the most appropriate for the next day. Each day was packed with biking, with Ed giving impromptu pieces of help and advice along the way. Ed took turns riding at different points in the group, giving people the opportunity to follow his lines as well as making sure he saw everyones riding each day and caught everyone on GoPro. Most days we stopped and looked at a particular skill that was applicable to the trail we were riding; one day we did cornering, another was pumping and drops was another. During these sessions Ed and I gave instant visual feedback using our video cameras and this seemed to really help people improve their technique. Throughout each day Ed (and occasionally me!) threw in some advice and sessions to help deal with specific trail features we came across; looking at manualing, climbing rocks, crossing ditches, cutties, riding through loose rocks and riding narrow contour singletrack amongst other things.
The beauty of the whole week was that it really felt like we were doing plenty of mountain biking; the skills stuff didn’t really intrude into the day, yet by the end of the week everyone was riding noticeably better. For the grand finale we rode a trail called the 7 of Ibardin, starting with a very technical descent on rocky switchbacks… it was amazing to see everyone riding parts that they would have pushed their bikes down before. The guys that were already riding at that standard were noticably faster and smoother. In fact, one of the guys was hitting stuff so fast that he ripped the swingarm off his Scott Ransom!
Of course, it wasn’t all mountain biking and skills training. We were on holiday you know! The beauty of the Basque Country, especially around Hondarribia and San Sebastian, is that the food and drink are up there with the best in the world. So of course we sampled some of that too. I have to hold my hands up (and my head down) and admit that Ed and I sampled a little bit too much on the final night…
If you are interested in the trails we rode then here they are: Day 1: Hondarribia to San Sebastian taking in All Along the Watchtowers. The temperature today was unbelievably warm for the Basque country as we were hit by a Spanish heatwave and the mercury positively sizzled at 44degC. We rode all day, including a massive fall from me when my SRAM X9 mech imploded into my spokes and stopped me as I landed a jump. I picked up a spare bike and managed to ride the rest of the day with my arm in bandages. Day 2: Skiills Session on All Along the Watchtowers. Today the temperature was high again and everyone was tired. We did 100% uplift and focused on skills. Today Ed managed to crash whilst drifting a corner; the Spanish / Basque dust caught him by surprise! Day 3: Finally the temperatures broke and we got a thundery day in the Basque Country. We decided to drive to “The Desert”, near Pamplona, and escape the lightning! The trails here are fantastic with drops and naturally bermed corners so we looked at cornering. Day 4: Ibardin. We rode long descents today, looking at riding rocks and carrying speed. It was all starting to come together now with the slower riders really showing some flow and committing to the more technical sections. Day 5: Stinky Goat. Today was a bit more mellow that the day before, with some tricky contour singletrack which required flow and pumping to clear. Some great descents and an unannounced drop that everyone sailed over! Day 6: The big test at the end of the week! We rode the “7 of Ibardin”, a very physical and technical trail which has technical climbs and descents.

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