I don’t know why, but these One Industries Mini Enduro’s, run by Mr Nice Guy- Chris Roberts are always the races I look forward to the most, with their great simple format and casual approach to racing. They are always fun and always well stocked with swag for the podium chasers from One Industries themselves. I have to admit I didn’t feel quite as stoked this time, as seven of us from the Shire headed towards the hills of the Forest of Dean, amidst the worst of the Autumn rain.
With me was the usual crowd, the two newbie Enduro racers Baker and Piles, the Don, young Vini, Coop and Stu Hughes. Now I feel I have to tell you about Stu, back in the 90’s we were joined at the hip, best riding and racing buddies, causing as much trouble as we did riding. Back in the day Stu was one of the fastest short course DH racers in the country, with a ridiculous amount of talent. Now at the tender age of 38, after two seasons of Moto Enduro, years of Expert Moto X and becoming World Mini Bike Champ I finally persuaded him to have a go at Enduro upon his brand new Commencal, after only three weeks back on a saddle. Stu and I used to race the Forest of Dean local races back in 2000, where he usually won, it was pretty weird for us to be heading back to the same location after thirteen years.
We firstly hit the digs for a drop off of kit, I had arranged this one and hoped it was OK; wow, what a place I found, a real jewel. I would recommend Sarah’s Place B&B to anyone, a gorgeous big pad out in the Hills of Symonds Yat, where the owners are mad keen bikers and cater for like minded people, serving up top home-cooked grub and a proper English breakfast, spot on.
20 minutes from the digs and we arrived at the mega-busy, but rainy trail centre of the Forest of Dean. Most people choose to ride and race just on the sundays at the Mini’s, so there weren’t many around prepping to race, just lots of trail riders on the marked out trails and DH kids hitting all the jumps at the bottom of the various downhill trails, it really is a South Wales mecca for riders. After picking up the race map and my Diamond Back Mission Pro test bike (article to follow) we hit the trails for the 19k loop.
The weather never really seemed to let up all day, it was definitely wet, windy and wild. The trails were proper old skool, with not a stone-clad track in site, we’re talking natural as Ken, with peaty loam and roots galore, there literally wasn’t a rock in site, refreshing! Well with the loose loam and lack of traction, we all had one gripe, why didn’t any of us bring any frigging spikes! All three stages were kind of similar, mega fun, flattish in places, but not ball-busting, just enough gradient to keep your rig spinning.
All three stages also had some great tight techy corners and steep sections, needing riders to dig deep into their experience bag to stay rubber side down. Stage 3 was definitely the trickiest, it had a real long off camber greasy downhill section with the odd steep catch rut here and there, this took balls to stay clipped in, but very rewarding when ridden right.
Although the weather was shitty, we all had a right laugh and headed off back to the digs with smiles a plenty and empty bellies. After a good shower and cracking meal we chilled, then hit the sack ready for the following day’s racing, this was a strange concept for Stu, as he was renowned in the 90’s for getting drunk, turning up at a downhill start the next morning, being sick at the top, then winning the race, how times have changed! With the clocks having gone back, we ended up bike cleaning and prepping early in the morning. It had been too dark the previous eve to sort the bikes, then with a belly busting full English brecky we were off back to the race site. The sun was out, giving perfect weather all day and drying the trails out by about 50%, there was a massive amount of racers parked all the way up the fire-road. Race organiser, Chris (after his trip to Finale Ligure’s EWS) had taken a leaf out of the EWS’s book and printed top-tube stickers for all the racers with their run times on, nice touch. We headed up and managed to ride all three stages again before racing, they were now starting to ride so much better with the extra grip.
Racing was soon upon us, and as ever with the Mini’s, a great fun, social day was had by all and it all seemed to be over as soon as it begun. In the Super Vets our man Baker was just off the podium in 4th, the amazing 66 year old Chris Waddup 3rd, Tony Hicks 2nd and Neil Small 1st. The ever consistent Liz Simmons took the ladies title over Rachael Gurney and Ruth Thomas. Hardtail riders put in some impressive times, with Paul Mackie 3rd, Stephan De’ath 2nd and Pete Lloyd 1st (although there was another hardtail rider who smoked the lot of them!) Juniors saw MDE’s Joe Harrison pushed down to 3rd by Empire Cycles’ rider and our Monner Vini Chrighton-Poli, with the ever rapid Leigh Johnson in 1st. I was stoked with 3rd Vet on the nifty little Diamond Back, with Rich Webster in 2nd and the beast that is Andy Sadler (spikes equipped!) taking the win. Rob Newman took 3rd in Seniors, with Ajay Jones in 2nd and top spot belonged to Joe Taylor.
Masters (as ever) was the biggest category with an impressive 77 entrants. The mega-fit sponsors-dream that is Shire boy Andrew Titley took the win on his 1st ever go of a borrowed 29er, as he was awaiting his 2014 Ghost bike arrival. 2nd spot and most impressive feat of the day went to Joe Finney, upon a Ragley hardtail, as he awaits the arrival of his new team issue Empire Cycle! Stu Hughes proved he could still cut the mustard with a solid 3rd place, I’m sure this will please his sponsor Decade who took the risk in helping him out before he’d even done a race! When it came down to the Pro-Am, Donny was hoping to end the season on a high; he managed it, even after being beaten on stage 2 by the rapid Chris Keeble-Smith, close behind the two of them was Paul Aston in 3rd.
Big props go out to Donny and little Vinny, being the only two riders to send it over the ditch jump at the bottom of stage 1, I looked at it and though no fucking way! Also massive thanks to Forrest of Dean trail centre for hosting, Chris Roberts for running another spot-on event, One Industries for the great race sponsorship, Sarah’s place for the ace digs (sarahs-place.co.uk) and Diamond back for the bike.
Words: Jim Buchanan | Photos: Doc Ward, Jim Buchanan