It would be safe to say that nobody knew quite what to expect when ‘Dunoon’ popped up on the POC Scottish Enduro Series calendar. Following MTB heavyweights like Dunkeld, Innerleithen and Fort William, would the area be able to deliver a race fitting of the previous rounds? Well that question has now been answered, Dunoon not only delivered but in many ways raised the bar

Even getting to Dunoon is an adventure, sitting on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, it looks over the Firth of Clyde to the west of Gourock. The quickest way to access the region is by ferry over Holy Loch, and on Saturday morning the regular service was filled with the standard collection of VW vans and cheap cars carrying expensive bikes that define the coming of a Scottish Enduro Series. Rolling off the ferry in the sunshine, everyone flipped into holiday mode as they cruised the promenade on bikes, checking out the ice cream shops. Dunoon shot to fame in the 1960’s as Holy Loch hosted the US Nuclear Submarine fleet, polarizing the locals, but now it’s more of a quiet holiday destination with a picturesque promenade and grand sea-front hotels.

With big hills falling to the coast, Dunoon is a worthy location for a race.
With big hills falling to the coast, Dunoon is a worthy location for a race.

But enough with the history, it was time to see what Dunoon could offer a mountain biker. Dunoon’s commitment to the event was clear, with the Race HQ grandstanding at the end of the beautiful Victorian pier it was clear this would be a special round. ‘No Cycling’ signs had been cast aside to allow riders to enjoy the amazing location. With a big course to practice before an exciting new urban prologue stage, it was time for everyone to hit the hill. Most of the visiting racers had never even heard of Dunoon and excitement was high to see what was on offer. Would it be too easy? Would it be technical enough for a Scottish Enduro Series? Any doubts it would be too easy were cast aside within the first 100 m as rider after rider catapulted over the bars on the first rooty technical plunge, there were two choices, one over a huge rock and slippery root garden, the other over a huge rock and slippery root garden, it was going to be a big race!

The organisers were not messing around, and had taped in some nice big features.
The organisers were not messing around, and had taped in some nice big features.
Practice was a great time for friends to catch up - this is what enduro is all about.
Practice was a great time for friends to catch up – this is what enduro is all about.
The top of Stage 2 raised a few eyebrows, Kyle Beattie getting it done!
The top of Stage 2 certainly raised a few eyebrows, Kyle Beattie getting it done!
SES Dunoon Trevor Worsey ENDURO MAG Assets Podiums-3357 SES Dunoon Trevor Worsey ENDURO MAG Assets Podiums-3267

The Dunoon street prologue

After a tough day of practice normally riders would retreat to the comfort of hotels, or squalor of the back of a transit van, but not in Dunoon. It was time for something amazing – more akin to a race in Italy or Spain, there was to be an exciting single stage race held right in the middle of town. One by one racers would pinball from the top of the peak, down stone staircases, past the museum, up trials-esque ramps and over the final big huck under the WELCOME TO DUNOON sign. After a bagpipe serenade, the local sailing club commissaire signaled the start of racing with a cannon salute. Locals of Dunoon had turned out in force, kids, babies and excited onlookers of all ages enjoyed the spectacle of neon coloured riders getting wild on the urban stage. There were ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as some riders tried to jump the hay-bales, before realising in mid-air that they had never hopped a hay-bale before. The excitement ran on late into the evening as tunes were pumped out over the PA system. It was certainly great fun but also, more importantly, a groundbreaking moment for UK enduro, showing how well the sport can connect to the general public when brought out of the forests and how enduro racing can be great for tourism. We hope to see more prologues in the future, chapeau Dunoon, chapeau!

Before the street prologue could begin, it was time for a fanfare, Scottish style.
Before the street prologue could begin, it was time for fanfare, Scottish style.
A cannon blast marked the opening of the 1st urban stage.
A cannon blast marked the opening of the 1st urban stage.
Over 260 riders took to the hill over town to take on the special stage.
Over 260 riders took to the hill over town to take on the special stage.
With racing underway, Fergus Lamb lets rip into the staircase
With racing underway, Fergus Lamb lets rip into the staircase
It was a great change for riders to tackle hay bales, hucks and staircases.
It was a great change for riders to tackle hay bales, hucks and staircases.
Tight and techy, the staircases kept everyone on their toes.
Tight and techy, the staircases kept everyone on their toes.
The hay bale slalom was a test of bunny hop skill.
The hay bale slalom was a test of bunny hop skill.
The final huck onto the road was a real crowd pleaser.
The final huck onto the road was a real crowd pleaser.
Nicola Fell showing the locals how it's done.
Nicola Fell impressing one lady.
It was great to see how many locals had come to check out the course.
It was great to see how many locals had come to check out the course.
Welcome to Dunoon, the new most bike friendly locations in Scotland.
Welcome to Dunoon, the new ‘most bike friendly location’ in Scotland.
Sprinting down the pier to the finish.
Sprinting down the pier to the finish.
With music pumping from the decks the atmosphere was electric.
With music pumping from the decks the atmosphere was electric.
The fun ran on to the close of the day! An epic start to the weekend that was loved by locals and rider.
The fun ran on to the close of the day! An epic start to the weekend that was loved by locals and rider.

After a massive night and lots of good natured banter, elated racers disappeared into town to hunt elusive pizzas and get set for a big day on the hill. For the racing action, check out the next page.

PS: Readers' Survey 2017 - Give feedback, win awesome prizes: We're giving away an exclusive Trek Slash 2018 in top spec! Click here to take part now!