It’s an unusual sight to see over 350 racers kicking the ground in confusion, this was a Scottish Enduro Series event. In April? Where was the mud? For Round 2 of the immensely popular POC Scottish Enduro Series, organisers No-Fuss had not only laid on 6 amazing stages in a new venue, but also some welcome sunshine.
Marking another sold-out event, over 350 riders arrived in the sleepy village of Monymusk, just a few kilometers from the trails of Pitfichie woods, eager to compete on new trails. Pitfichie, on the outskirts of Aberdeen, is not yet on the Scottish enduro radar like the big guns, Dunkeld, Fort William and Innerleithen, but it certainly should be. With tight and technical trails and huge slabs of grippy granite that flow like the best of Finale Ligure, it’s a destination in its own right. The recently founded NETCO (North East Trail Centre Organisation) are working to bring more focus to the Aberdeen area, tempting riders North from the 7stanes, and with trails like this, they shouldn’t have much of a problem.
Anyone who was expecting an XC pedalfest from the new venue was in for a shock. Stage one quickly introduced the racers to rock gardens ready to beat even the longest travel bikes into submission. The six stages took riders from steep-and-deep in the rocks, to fast open moorland flat turns and lung busting pedals, this was a round for the all-rounders, for those who could go fast anywhere. The hills were alive with yelps of joy, and the sound of hundreds of rims hammering themselves to squares as racers took on the formidable slabs of the old downhill stages. Line choice played second fiddle to hanging on as racers pinballed down with huge grins on their faces. Grip was plentiful and most sections could be taken flat out – you just had to take your brain out for a while. Stages two, three and four, took riders onto heather topped moorland, and rewarded those who had put in the winter training.
It’s a rare thing in Scotland to actually ‘wish’ for rain, but nobody was disappointed when the heavens opened gently for a few minutes on race day, helping t0 dampen down the dust and speed up the trails. As riders travelled from hilltop to hilltop, there was much-excited praise for the new venue, perhaps it was the sunshine, perhaps it was the loam, but the vibe was jubilant.
The day of racing went without a hitch and as usual, the podiums were sorted almost instantly after the last riders return. If anything, this was the round of the juniors. Watching from the sidelines, they were always the fastest through any technical section, riding in a way that only someone who doesn’t have a mortgage can. Corey Watson, set a monstrous time of 14:54.15, 7th overall and snapping at the heels of the big dogs. In the Junior Female category, Louise Ferguson looked super smooth over the rocks, taking the win by over 40 seconds. There is some serious talent coming up through the rankings, I imagine some of the elites are getting a little nervous.
Speaking of the Elite Class, it was a ‘who’s who’ of Scottish weapons. Ben Cathro, Chris Hutchens, Gary Forrest, Fergus Lamb, Liam Moynihan, Lachlan Blair, the list goes on. There were some wild cards too. DH Farm’s Sam Rodda and Focus Bikes Joe Connell were keen to get amongst it. In the end, nobody had an answer for Trek Factory Racing’s Lewis Buchanan who won three stages and took a considerable lump of time on the pedals on Stage 4. That makes it two for two for Lewis, and extends his grip on the overall.
In the Senior Female category, anyone who had watched practice knew that if she has a clean run, nobody was going to beat Janey Kennedy. The ‘female Sam Hill’, Janey was looking pinned through the technical sections and carrying easy speed through the steep and tight turns. She kept it clean on race day and won by over 18 seconds. Basecamp Bike’s Eilidh Wells was not far behind, making up significant time on the pedally stages, so the overall is still all to play for.
At the end of the weekend riders Instagram feeds – once everyone had finally found some 3G – lit up with claims of ‘best ever’, ‘so good’ and ‘must come back’. Pitfichie had proved itself a great host, adding a fresh dose of gnar to the series. The next round rolls back to the West Coast, to the seaside town of Dunoon, a highlight of the 2016 season. With the results at the top tightening up, it’s sure to be another ‘sell out’ round for the national series.
For more information or to sign up for Round 3, check out the POC Scottish Enduro Series web page
Words: No Fuss Photos: Trevor Worsey