European Enduro under the Irish sun – the Bluegrass Enduro Tour International brought 150 MTB enthusiasts to Ireland for the 4th stage of its 2013 International series. After Castelbuono in Sicily – Italy, Mollau in Alsace – France and Kinlochleven in the Highlands – Scotland, once again there was a total change of scenery! Read the Race Report from Alan Duffy:
In mid September, a little over six months after the Bluegrass Enduro tours kicked off under a sun kissed easter weekend in Sicily, similar weather blessed the Irish round of the tour which brought the series to a close. Utilising a somewhat similar format to Enduros on mainland Europe, the event was run over two stages on Saturday and Sunday and a new twist for riders who had competed in the vastly successful Irish Gravity Enduro series, the stages were being run blind. Saturday’s racing was based around the picturesque village of Kilfinnane in County Limerick, with two special stages being run on trails developed for the Munster Enduro series by Ballyhoura MTB club with no small effort credited to local man Jonathan Maunsell. As well as contributing to the overall result, Saturday’s stages were also to determine the seeding positions for Sunday’s starting orders with a mini podium after proceedings had finished for the day, purely for bragging rights. Once the dust had settled, and hopefully reserving time to enjoy the local hospitality (and a pint of guinness!) the biking.ie team set about moving the race village to the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails centre for another 30km and 5 timed special stages based around the trail centre.
While it is fair to say that Ballyhoura boasts Ireland’s largest network of man made trails, there is a lot more to the hills round here than your common or garden trail centre. Along with the forestry service – Coillte, local clubs like MBCC, LMBC, Ballyhoura MTB club have been busy developing the trails in this part of the country over the years and without the dedication of the organisations and individuals involved, top class events like these just couldn’t take place.
Sunday morning dawned brightly with partly cloudy weather forecast and with temperatures in the high teens or early twenties expected, conditions were ideal for the five stages ahead.
The days stages were apart from a few minor tweaks, the same as had been run as part of the Irish Gravity Enduro series earlier in the year, and though most of the competitors had experience of them from this event, the long dry summer had the trails riding significantly quicker this time round with most riders recording times tens of seconds better on this event. The good weather did however bring another variable into play in the form of Sunday riders acting as mobile chicanes on the stages. For the most part though they responded promptly to the fast approaching riders from behind and moved aside to let the racers past.
Overall and in the Pro category Greg Callaghan continued his current run of good form and dominated the event from start to finish picking up wins on every single stage. Local man Jonathan Maunsell acquitted himself well also, claiming second place on each stage and finishing only a minute and a half in arrears behind Callaghan. Another young man continuing a run of good form, claiming the third spot overall and winning the Junior category was Scott Wallace. In a similar vein Leah Maunsell scooped the top spot in the Womens category, dominating the category with wins on every stage, an achievement made all the more impressive considering she was the youngest rider on the field.
Full event results – Here
With the series being international in flavour, it was inevitable that the series overall podiums would be a low key affair with Scott Wallace, Donal Rogers, Daragh Smith and Leah Maunsell on hand to step onto the podium for the series acclaim. So then a successful emerging series closes having covered four countries, four very individual types of terrain and four very individual cultures. All coming together in the spirit and soul of Enduro. We’re looking forward already to see what the 2014 series will bring, hoping to get to another event or two overseas and meeting more new friends on the hill.
Words: Alan Duffy | Photos: Alan & Marta Duffy (Action Pictures Ireland), Matt Wragg