Yet again, winter is upon us, and with the cold and wet being all around, we thought it was time again to meet up with UKGE’s main man, Steve Parr, to reflect on the previous season and talk about 2014. It only seemed like five minutes since we were here last year, same Shropshire pub, same weather outside, with hopes and dreams for a great up-coming race season; a year had passed, champions had been made and injuries sustained, it was like Groundhog Day, but with an air of triumph, knowing the previous season had been a success and things can only get better.
So Steve, first of all, what have been the highest and lowest points for you of 2013?
The low point is an easy one, that was at Dyfi forest during round four, when Tegid Humphreys hurt himself. The dozy old bugger, he helps organise the mega successful Dyfi Enduro, he supplies us with so much help for our round and is a super nice guy. The high point is always when I pop the first beer at prize giving during each round.
What was your favourite venue as an overall, last season?
Difficult one this, I really love Inners & Dyfi, but on reflection Eastridge takes it for me in 2014.
Obviously you have a great team behind you, who are the main players you would like to give props to and why?
There are so many of them who we turn to for advice and guidance, but big props goes to Charlie Williams, his knowledge from European Enduro is going to move the UK series further ahead.
Were the top finishing riders, the ones you expected, or were there some real surprises in there last year?
There were a couple of surprises in 2013, the biggest being the Dark Horse himself Lee Kermode, he dominated the Masters like no one before. In the Elites it was great to see Al Stock at all rounds and taking the overall and T-Mo did a proper job on the Elite Women here and in the EWS.
Moving on to this year, any category changes, who goes up to what and any sign of an Expert class yet?
The discipline is so young in the UK, there will be no Expert cat for a good three years, why take away the top 5-10 riders from the other categories for this. In other classes, first Woman & Under 18 (if old enough), top three in Senior, Master move to Elite. First Veteran gets an invite, along with second and third placed Women.
There must be loads of new stuff going on with the title and prize sponsors, tell us about them, and what do you think about Elite riders receiving product, that you know will just hit Ebay the following week!?
All the sponsorship has gone, it’s a sell out!!! There are 5 Gold sponsors – Ritchey trail, Mavic, Marin, Enve and On One. Category sponsors are Troy Lee, One industries, Schwalbe, Continental, El Gallo, Uber, Hope & our good friends Exempt clothing. Spot prizes from Antior Stiniog, Mountain Bike Chalet and Bike Morzine. It’s a difficult one being an Elite racer, you want cash really, because they are normally tied up with sponsorship, so can’t really be seen to use the product. This is why we introduced the rolling category sponsors in 2013, I think it worked rather well. Another exciting development for 2014 is top three fastest times of the day will receive prize money.
Venues, which, where and why, are we in for any real corkers?
Rd 1 Ae forest, the first round ever in 2011
Rd 2 Innerleithen, this is the week before EWS, so be warned, we expect a few Euro Boys
Rd 3 Afan, Lots of new trails and some off piste.
Rd 4 Dyfi, What can I say, the Beast of the series, expect more off piste and a slight dose of SPEED
Rd 5 Grizedale, Super helpful Forestry Commission and Local bike shop, this could be a real treat, expect the unexpected here. As always we never sit back and expect others to do the work, myself, Liz and Charlie will be there, mattocks in hand, putting in new exciting stuff. Look out for the extension to stage one at Dyfi, mental as Ken!
Talking to you here, I can see your other half Liz, seems like a real calming influence, does she play a big part in UKGE?
Calming influence??? let me tell you a few things about Liz, she’s off her trolley, especially in the Audi Quattro! She actually plays a massive part in the series, anyone who has made the podium has had a snog with Liz. Pretty amazing Lady I have to say.
This thing, Enduro, certainly is growing at a rate of knots, there are other organisers jumping on board doing races here and there, what are your thoughts on that, can you still retain the UK’s no. 1 series?
There are so many people jumping on the bandwagon, which we have no issue with, it will just make us up our game even more! Charlie or myself will gladly advise people if they need any help with their series or race, what we have to remember is the discipline is so young and needs steering in the right direction, some people will listen some won’t, that’s their choice. UKGE was the first five round series to move around the UK, In 2014 the series is stepping up another gear! 2015 will see UCI and BC fully adopt the format, what we need to do NOW is get the structure in place like XC & DH, with regionals filtering into a National series, think we are in good shape Jim
As for your series, what’s happening about BC affiliation, would you ever be prepared to let it go onto them as a more officially run outfit, would you want to remain at the helm or do you have other ventures in life, like your distribution business?
When BC fully adopt the discipline in 2015, the series will become the official National one, I’m pretty sure about that. The UKGE races thus far have always had BC backing, insurance, commissionaires and rules. The BC will always put the National series out for tender, like the BDS, you have to tender for the series, if any other organiser feels they can do a series better they can apply for this tender. UKGE has slightly taken over my life, the distribution business is a very nice addition and we offer some top quality products from Italy and Czech Republic.
Can your distribution ever feel like a conflict of interests, maybe like certain BDS people?!
At race weekends there is so much going on, I have very little time to set up the bikes and chain devices and feel it is a real conflict of interest. I’m there to organise a race and give the 380 racers my undivided attention, plus a great time. Hahaha That use to really piss me off, I would come down off the hill at an NPS and find Si Paton under his awning selling gear, it’s the main reason I pulled away from the DH.
What other rules will be changed for this season, and tell us about teams, who will be getting involved this year with the series?
There are a few rule changes, here are a few –
No vests, wife beaters, all riders must were a top or tee shirt.
Checkout on Sunday will be exactly at your designated time, time penalties will apply.
No riding till you sign on, time penalties will apply, including exclusion from the event.
Who do you think are the racers we need to look out for this season?
Always a difficult one, the two lads on the UK Enduro Scholarship, Leigh Johnson and Joe Harrison, These 2 boys are gonna be hauling! I also think Chris Keeble-Smith will be one to watch as well, there are the obvious ones like the Don and Al Stock, but I’m confident Chris will be pushing them. I hear the Shucksmiths have a big time deal too, so keep an eye out for them.
Finally thanks a lot for always giving Enduro Mag the time and is there a message to the riders you would like to give?
No, thank you Jim, always good to have a beer with you and talk shit! thanks Enduro Mag for their support in 2013. Charlie, myself and our team are really excited with the series for 2014, we look forward to greeting you at a round and sharing a few giggles with you as well.
THE FUTURES BRIGHT, THE FUTURES GRAVITY ENDURO
Words Jim Buchanan
Pics Doc Ward