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.
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 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!
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.