A night time Mini-Enduro race is a totally new concept for organizer Chris Roberts, it has been done before up in Scotland, but Chris Roberts once again led the way with this new concept of a Mini-Enduro in the dark. Held in the fantastic trail center of Coed LLandegla in North Wales, one of the UK’s busiest biking meccas, this was bound to be a biggy, and with 300 entrants I knew it would be no walk in the park.
A couple of us went up the week before to scope it out for an evening loop, I have ridden this trail loads of times, being local to me, but when pushing hard through the downhill sections it really is so different, it gets so confusing, even with my mega R8 and Magicshine the corners and trees seem bewildering at speed. You just don’t know where apexes are, what corner, drop or berm follows and how long you are going up or down for, I though I might as well have never been there before!
The format was simple like always at a Mini-Enduro, one loop with three timed stages thrown in! Practice was held in the day on Saturday, with the racing kicking off at 6pm. I went along with two mates, arriving at lunch time, with the tactic of not doing a daytime loop, just ride up to the last stage and practice that a few times. One of my mates is Andrew Bickley, one of me bezzies, he used to race DH in the 90’s to early noughties, but quit racing, due to lots of real nasty bone snapping injuries. He had told us for years how nothing and no-one would ever get him riding a bike competitively again! I worked and worked him till he agreed, soon after he bought the first Carbine we tested and there we were, old mates, together, practicing sections like it was the old days, only Enduro seems to have that old-skool feel good effect and we were buzzing.
This race was definitely a bit of a season opener to see who had been putting in the leg work over the winter, with two of the three sections being pedally, and all sections being full-on hard-pack trail center style riding. There was a bunch of us who were now representing one of our local shops, Blazing Bikes, they had looked after us, so we all felt we had to return the favour with some kind of result. Donny (still on the SPS Santa Cruz team) was hot tip for the Pro-Am team, but with the presence of mega quick DH rider James Hughes, it really wasn’t going to be a walk over for him.
As the practice went on in the day and dusk rapidly approached, around the brilliant café area, this is where the usual hobby trail riders finished their rides, and the location for the finish tent. I think lots of these happy hobby riders had never seen an Enduro race before, they seemed very interested! It was a great place to host a race to get people curious about the sport.
During the evenings racing, the full LLandegla loop had been cut short to accommodate the three stages in the allotted amount of time, so the loop was done in a couple of hours with the timed stages included. I have to admit I was shitting myself prior to the first stage, all the winter training and bike prep seemed to come down to this in my head, it might as well have been the World Championship with how flustered I was. Off we went and it was barmy, nothing like I had experienced before, worst of all, with me thinking I was being clever missing out stages one and two for practice, I never knew they had big diversions on them, using bits I didn’t even know were there!
The first two stages were pretty similar, with berm after berm, lots of pedaling and everything seeming to look the same. The third was definitely the best, a couple of pedally bits in, but mostly fast and furious with some trail jumps built way too short for kamikaze race pace, but fun on the flat landings. The nerves went after stage one and all us Vets (including the 2011 and 2012 champs) just got into it and had a great social evenings racing and riding, with (as usual) it seeming to end in a shot.
On completion we all hit the café, brewed up and cosy, with lots of race story chatting going on, whilst we awaited the results. After a while Chris came in, a grim look on his face, stage two’s times had gone kaput and the race had to be decided between stage one and three. I felt sorry for him, he looked devastated and couldn’t be more apologetic. Personally I wasn’t too bothered, things do very rarely go wrong with anything, everyone was still buzzing and having a laugh after the event and it never seemed to put a dampner on things. Plus stage two was very similar to stage one, so better we still had a mix of one pedally and one fast, so no DH or fitness riders ended up with an advantage. Chris told me after it was the timing device that corrupted the data and it was going back to the supplier the following day with a rather substantial bollocking I would guess! Did it put me and my mates off the Minis, no chance!
So who did what, on this, the first Mini Enduro of 2014? Firstly in the ladies Twelve50 Bike’s rider Cheri Mills proved she’s still in fine form, with a win over Antur Stiniog’s Alwen Williams and RAF’s Fay Jordan. Whyte Bikes/SRAM’s new signing, Pete Lloyd decided to hit the Hardtail category, smashing it, nearly ten seconds ahead of Plush Hill Cycle’s Noah Williams and Phil Roberts. Another near ten second win was taken in the Under 18’s by UK Enduro Scholarship’s Leigh Johnson over MTB North Wales’s Callum Hadfield and the other UK Enduro Scholarship rider, Joe Harrison. Local fit fella Jim Tip took the Super Vets win over Martin Lamb and Twelve50 Bike’s Neil Mottershead. Our Vets field was crazy competitive, Fast Fossil Racing’s Marcus Jones took the top spot over Jamie Smith and Blazing Bike’s Richi Lewis, I was less than a second behind my mate Richi and very pleased to have held my own with two previous UKGE champions. Masters saw one of the top UK 4X riders, Yeti Racing’s Dave Richardson having his first stab at Enduro and taking the win with a mere five seconds over my mate and Blazing Bike’s Andrew Bickley, on his first go too, Scott Evans was also in close pursuit. Seniors, quite a small class, compared to Vets and Masters was however no less competitive, Ryan Dutton took the win over Holywell Avengers/Lifeonwheel’s Will Rowlands then On Finance’s Jonathon Walsh. Finally it was time for the Pro-Am, SPS’s Neil Donoghue, although having conceded a second to 1868 Racing/Antur Stiniog’s James Hughes, still took the win, with the Don gaining just over two seconds on him in stage one. Continental/Saracen’s Mathew Pritchard was runner up in third.
Massive thanks from all the riders to Chris Roberts all the very cold looking marshals and Coed Llandegla for putting on such a great event
Words: Jim Buchanan Pics: Doc Ward