On the 19th of February enduro riders around the world will be nervously sitting by their computers, fingers poised over keyboards, watches checked and rechecked, all waiting for the clock to strike 17:00 (GMT). For at this moment all 7 rounds of the 2014 Enduro World Series will be put up for sale, and with last years events selling out in hours, demand is going to be high!
For anyone in the UK, one event that really stands out is the Tweedlove World Enduro race, sponsored by Santa Cruz and Sweet Protection. With a start list featuring legends like Jerome Clementz, Brian Lopes, Steve Peat, Dan Atherton, Tracy Moseley, Anne Caro Chausson, Cedric Gracia, Nico Lau and Fabien Barel it is certainly the biggest enduro event in the UK so far, and will finally bring UK trails to a global stage!
We popped down to the Tweed Valley to catch up with Neil Dalgleish, the man behind the Tweedlove World Enduro and find out more about the event. While we were in the valley we thought it would be rude not to check out some of the quality trails, and take the bikes out for a spin. After riding epic single track all day, we can safely say that if you have an appetite for flowing, technical and above all, fun single track, you will not be disappointed with the Tweed Valley, it is just brilliant! We cannot wait to see the worlds best riders racing on these stages and Enduro Mountainbike Magazine will be there to bring you all the news and action as it happens.
What does it mean to Tweedlove and the Tweed Valley to host an event like the EWS?
(Neil Dalgleish) It’s fantastic for us. It should raise the profile of the festival massively and bring our trails to the attention of a lot of new people around the world. Another important thing is that riders will realise what’s going on here and what the riding’s really like – there’s so much more than trail centre loops, the whole place is evolving. More and more riders have moved here so that now there’s a big riding community which is probably unique in the UK. It’s like a mountain or ski town, but it’s just all about riding bikes.
You must be really pleased to get Sweet Protection and Santa Cruz backing the event, any chance of the Santa Cruz crew heading back to the valley again this year (Steve Peat and Josh Bryceland were a hit at last years Tweedlove)?
The registered riders list for this year’s EWS series reads like a who’s who of gravity and awesome MTB talent. Obviously we don’t know for sure yet exactly who’ll be heading to the valley, but I can confirm that some big teams have already booked their space at the expo/pits, and judging by the rider list, it’s going to be bonzer. We’ve had a request to get the whisky ‘tasting’ going again too. Ahh, I can smell those sweet fumes already.
For the first time in an EWS event there will be 2 categories, Enduro 1 and 2, can you tell us more about that?
From discussions with riders and EMBA officials it seemed that at some rounds in 2013, the transition times were maybe a compromise – so they were either too easy for the top riders, or overly testing the ‘weekend’ riders who do these events – people who can ride a bike well, but can’t achieve the fitness of the teams. So E1 will have tighter times, which will still be achievable for good recreational riders, while E2 people will have it a bit easier. There’s still an overall time limit, but you’ll have the chance to ride with your mates, and in a little more relaxed atmosphere. E2 riders still ride more or less the same course as the E1s though, but with maybe a shorter stage, or one less section to complete. It’ll still be the proper EWS course, just a bit more relaxed, so everyone can get the most out of their experience here. All team/reserve riders automatically go into E1 category.
Tweedlove seems to have a lot of support from the local community, is there a big team behind it?
We have fantastic support from the community, and that community is the reason this festival exists at all. There are so many bike fans here who want to make things happen and are proud of the valley. But we don’t have much cash, so the core team is small, and you’d have to say pretty damn committed. When show time comes there’s a huge band of awesome volunteers who roll their sleeves up. We’re going to need lots of help this year though, so if anyone who’s coming wants to get involved and earn themselves a crew shirt, we’d love to hear from them.
Is there a final word on practice time for the event yet?
Yep, practice starts Wednesday morning, finishes Friday evening. Course marking is Monday and Tuesday, when course maps will be available, but anyone caught riding the (closed) tracks will be disqualified. I like that the amount of distance and lack of uplift will mean no-one will be able to practice or shuttle the hell out of any of the stages. Basically if they go round the course too many times before the race they won’t have legs left to race on.
The Tweed Valley is notorious for producing very fast junior racers, do you think that the EWS will help inspire the local children?
A lot of local kids want to do what they see the top local riders (and their mums and dads) doing, and a lot of the time that includes racing. But when they see Graves, Lau, Clementz, Moseley and co on their trails it’s going to blow their minds. There are around 150 kids out riding in club rides every weekend here, and there are three kid-specific bike clubs in the space of eight miles, with around 300 members. They’ve all got massive waiting lists too. It’s an impressive stat for a small place so I’m sure we’re going to see more talent here.
How would you describe the perfect enduro stage?For me it would be… fairly long, lots of flow, lots of variety, lots of grip, a bit of grunt and pedalling before some harder sections, some ‘holy sh*t!’ sections and a big smile at the end. I’ve fed that into the computer and it’s come up with about 20 stages to choose from in the valley. We’re testing everything now. Ah well, someone’s got to do it.
Glentress and Innerleithen are well known trail centres, but do you intend to take riders out further into the valley to ride some of the challenging natural trails?Absolutely. It’s going to be a big enduro tour of the valley – we have at least four or five different areas to choose from and I want people to enjoy a journey. It’s always great discovering new places and getting to areas where you haven’t a clue where you are, so we’ll have some of that. We have to work out what will work best for the race, and of course work with landowners etc. The Forestry Commission have largely been responsible for turning the valley into what it is now, and they’re helping a great deal with the EWS event. A lot of people will be surprised by what they find here.
Any chance of some sneak information about the proposed course, what can we expect, steep and technical, or fast and flowy?
Yep, you can expect steep and technical and fast and flowy! An EWS race should showcase the kind of riding that’s unique to the area, so we’ll try to include a good variety. The aim is that, no matter how good someone is, or how difficult someone else might find it, at the bottom, everyone should think ‘I want to ride that again!’
In the Tweed valley you do not have lift access to 2000m descents, how will you challenge the world’s fastest riders?
There’ll be some decent length stages, and some tech parts for sure, and not always any real chances to recover when you’re full on the gas. Some very good riders won’t be used to those tight, steep tracks we have, and even the world’s best will be challenged to ride them smooth and at speed. The days will be fairly long too, and there’s a lot of climbing to do within testing transfer times.
There has been criticism that riders arrive early and over practice stages, how do you intend to maintain fairness in the Tweed Valley?
Maybe we should put out misinformation on the grapevine beforehand so no-one will know the real deal until the last minute. Maybe we have already. At the moment there are a lot of people all thinking different things are being used, but the final stage choice will be made late, deep in the bunker.
Will you be creating stages that allow good spectator viewing?
There will be some areas with very easy access for spectators – which is brilliant. I remember going into the forest here as a kid to watch stages of car rallies – there were big crowds. Now it’s going to happen all over again, but it’s for bike racing. How good is that. For those who want to stretch their legs a bit there will be sections with spectacular big sky views across the valley – it’s really beautiful in an understated, ancient sort of way. They’re old, old hills here.
A lot has been said of big races damaging sensitive trails, what are your thoughts on this?
If the trails are built well it shouldn’t be too bad a problem, but there’s always going to be an impact on some natural trails, especially newer ones if we include any. And if we get weeks of rain before the event, a couple of thousand tyres could maybe have an impact… We’ll be working hard to limit the impact, but most of the trails here have been engineered by folk who know what they’re doing, so it will be as trouble-free as it can be.
Entries for the entire world series go live on the 19th February at 5PM (GMT) on the Enduro World Series website! With events selling out last year, entries are likely to become the enduro equivalent of Willy Wonkas golden tickets, so if you want to join in the fun, get in quick!
Words: Trevor Worsey