Last year, it was fair to say that nobody really knew much about the riding in Dunoon, in fact, many had never heard of it. That all changed when the 2016 POC Scottish Enduro Series took over the town, showing the world that there was some trail gold hidden in the hills behind the coastal town. Once again, the sun bleached boardwalk of the Victorian pier hummed with the sound of tyres and cleated shoes as racers returned to the Costa-Del-Dunoon.
All around Scotland, this morning riders will be sitting in their offices, nursing red necks and trying not to scratch at their midged legs. Over 200 riders had travelled from across Scotland to take part in the third round of the POC Scottish Enduro Series and do battle with the challenging stages. Dunoon is the principal town on the Cowal peninsula, accessed via a short ferry hop from the outskirts of Glasgow. Now a haven for coach tourists and holidaying Scots, Dunoon is working hard to build it’s reputation as an outdoor activity hotspot. If there were two words that defined last year’s event, it would be ‘walm welcome’, and again the town had united to welcome the visiting riders putting on an amazing show. The historic Castle Mound was lined with race tape, obstacles and face painting stalls, ready to host the now infamous Street Prologue. Not just a show for the crowds, this would be the first stage of the race, and riders were holding nothing back in order to gain a small advantage going into the main race. As the night progressed, the music grew louder and the town turned out in force to cheer the excited racers. Local kids demonstrated their best wheelies as cutting edge enduro bikes tried to navigate through the crowds of spectators. The prologue was a hit.
The next day of racing saw the racers take on the main stages, travelling from the mountain to the sea, five tough stages taking in everything from fast and ragged clearfell, to deep and steep woodland gnar fests. The weather had not been kind, leading into the event heavy rain had churned up the ground and the freshly-cut buff trails had morphed into crank deep ruts that needed confidence and a low survival instinct to hit at speed. There are some stages that flow like hot butter, that carry you effortlessly from one sculpted turn to the next. Stages Three and Six were nothing like that at all! A barrage of roots, ruts and holes bombarded most riders into submission, ejecting them over the finish line wearing tufts of foliage like camo, babbling feverishly about midges the size of tennis balls and asking what day it was. In contrast, the remaining stages were fast and open, fast turns through the technical terrain, all the time exposed to sweeping views of the Firth of Clyde. After a tough day, smiling faces rode down the sun bleached promenade to the finish, another round in the bag. Mud smeared clothing exposed those who had enjoyed a fair few lie downs – dirty faces, scorched skin and thousand yard stares were worn with honour as icecreams and beers were consumed with relish on the picturesque pier, Dunoon had delivered.
This would be an important round for the series, gaining momentum valuable points were on the table. This is the point where campaigns are started, or even solidified. In the elite men’s category, it has been a one-horse race. Trek Factory Racing’s Lewis Buchanan is lit this season and is running away with the overall, putting 30 seconds into the field and making it three races three wins. Sam Flockhart has finally found his fifth gear and took a solid second place with Christo Gallagher not far behind. In the women’s race, despite some big mechanicals Janey Kennedy took the win, but look at those juniors, Elena Melton and Niamh Doherty took the fastest times of the day with some solid runs – future champions no doubt. Corey Watson again showed his calibre, taking the win in the junior males, putting down a time that would have seen him take 9th in the elites were he old enough. Paul French took the win in the Grand Vets, Darren Scott the Veteran Males, Julia Ferguson the Veteran Females, Nick Barber the Masters, Moray Goodfellow the Senior Males, Derek Laughland the Super Grand Vet Male and a special mention needs to go to Ian Churchill who won the hardtail category – purgatory for sure.
To sign up for the Innerleithen round of the POC Scottish Enduro Series, you can find out more on the Scottish Enduro Series Website.
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Words & Photos: Trev Worsey