With rain forecast for this, the latest event put on by the One Industries Mini-Enduro team in the fantastic location of The Forest of Dean (Gloucestershire), I knew this was going to be very different to the norm! I had been sitting on a set of the Michelin (cut-downable) spiked mud trail tyres for several months, but not had a chance to put them to the test. Finally they were fitted to the big 29er and after an hour or so of snipping the outer spikes off (640 cuts to be exact!) the bike was prepped up and ready for the journey down with the rest of the mons from the shire.
On arrival at the busy trail centre, the previous week’s rain had subsided, and it held off until the instant that we had got suited and booted and were ready to ride, then the heavens opened! This was the order of the morning, in the end the skies dried up, but the track’s impressive water retention by no means matched the sky’s actions. The damage had been done, and after a quick push up to the top of stage one, the mud-fest was soon to be apparent. Stage one was to be used twice, once as the first and again as the fourth, this was by far the most technical, so definitely the most important one to get sussed. A quick sprint down from the top and you were straight into what was the theme for the whole run, mud, slime, roots and more mud. All the lads were having a bit of a mare, but the Michy spikes were lapping it all up in their stride, keeping the bike on-line and in the right direction through the many tricky lines of the snotty corners. We sectioned the top for a while, then after a fire-road crossing things sped up and the fun really began. There were fast natural shoots with step-ups and step-downs on their exit, putting a massive grin on my face; so much fun. The final section of stage one was the trickiest of the whole weekend, the mud was deep and even the spikes were struggling to hold their line in Saturday’s slop, with ruts and roots appearing it really was a case of point and hope!
<-p>Stage 2 was pretty flat at the top, a bit of a slog, but still natural and fun, things soon sped up with several corners being tricky, due to the slickness of conditions, but the normal tyred folk seemed to be happier with this stage, finding the much needed grip they had been lacking during stage 1. When things sped up a bit near the end of stage 2 there was a mint few tricky corners leading into, then out of a big bomb hole, one that was most fun to jump into like a demon. Stage 3 we rode steady at the top, as this too was flat, although we knew it was going to be a bit of a slog from the start. Once out of the flat shit, it was fantastic, included in this was an awesome jump section, with a real difficult couple of off-camber corners, which took several attempts to get right. At the time we were guessing at each stage being around the 2 minutes mark, with the main objective being just to stay on and keep things clean. After the day of practice I can honestly say I had the most fun at a race I had had since the old days of early snotty natural UK DH races, it was such a blast.
Things were still dry at the end of the day as many more riders started arriving and signing on, but with much more rain forecast overnight, I have to admit I was looking forward to more wet, so the spikes could come into their own. That evening it was the perfect opportunity to get a meal out in the very affluent local area (except where we stayed!) we then hit the sack, and after a shit night’s kip we were back at the race site, after nowhere near as much rain as I had been hoping for.
Things were definitely buzzing around the little trail centre, with car parks busting way past capacity from the trail riders, family riders, DH riders and up-lifters, plus the 300 plus riders who now adorned the place for this (meant to be) one day event. Racing was set to kick off around mid-day, and with the very short transitions, lots of racers turned up just on the Saturday with plenty enough time to check out the 3 separate stages. Track conditions for most of the morning had been getting tackier as things started to slowly dry out, until that is, a great big dumping of rain for half an hour just before the end of practice, I have to admit to a smug smile at this point! Also noted by some of the older riders was the presence of so many old days UK DH riders, they all seem to be making an appearance and it’s fantastic. Amongst those were old mates and all ex-Elite riders, Billy and Johnny Cheetham, with Gareth Hopkins in toe too, I had predicted Gareth would pull a result out of the bag and was hoping to be right. Also amongst the Old Skool crew was top rider, competing in the Pro Am, Rowan Sorrel, back after his win in the Haldon Mini Enduro round, looking for his second win at his second Enduro race. The dumping of rain had disappeared and the skies were blue, the atmosphere out on the slippy stages was such a great one and made you feel so special to be a part of the ever professional/yet fun Mini Enduro. One Industries were set up in the arena, giving stuff out and running their usual prize competitions, really happy with the news of their star riders Gee and Rach with wins at the DH world cup.
Things were soon up and running, with riders heading off up the hill for their various stages. Transition times were slack, so the usual order of the Mini race was steady up the short hills, with lots of walking involved on the steeper sections. The weather literally held off until all riders had finished their runs, with the final snotty part of stage 14 being lined with stacks of cheering riders and spectators, who nipped back after completion of their race. I remember coming through there with my star tyres holding perfect lines to the fantastic noise of excited racers, what a buzz!
It was all over, I had stayed on the whole race, where loads had fallen, when I found out I had taken the 3rd spot in Vets I was so stoked and just wanted to do it all again. It seemed everyone had a great time, lots of riders were maybe a bit intimidated by the conditions at first, but kind of relaxed and got in their grove to realize just how much fun those sort of skill testing conditions can be at an event.
Category winners were Ben Jones (Open 13-17 yrs old), Paul Mackie (Hardtail 13+), Kev Sherry (Super Vets), Andrew Titley (Masters), Joe Taylor (Seniors), Tracy Moseley (Elite Women), Rowan Sorrell (Elite Males)
Special mentions go out to Rowan making it a 100% winning streak so far. Also Gareth Hopkins, who after a 10 year MTB absence and only just buying a bike, came in 2nd Master, only 8 secs behind Titley. Most impressive thing of the day though (according to our Doc Ward) was the little rippers. These were the young kids who absolutely flew down the stages, in mud up to their knees, Doc said their lungs sounded like they were trying to escape their bodies, but their pure determination just pushed them on like warriors till the bitter end, a fantastic thought, the stars of the future, learning so young, the first rule of Enduro, ‘Never ever ever give up ever!’
Usual Massive thanks to all that had made the journey over to join in such an incredible race, special props to our foreign participants, Julian from Stuttgart (Germany) and Sarah from Australia (no they didn’t fly over especially!) Big thanks to Chris and team for the event and the FOD trail centre for letting it take place, And as usual Doc for the pics
Words:Jim Buchanan Photos: Doc Ward