As we drove past the ‘Game Cock’ and ‘Spread Eagle’ pubs I had a sense that Lancashire folk are blessed with a unique sense of humour, and indeed the opening round of the PMBA enduro in Gisburn was unique. I have been to a few enduros recently, and it seems like a lot of organisers are constrained to a ‘wheels down’ approach, Kev Duckworth and the team behind Empire Bikes / PMBA on the other hand had taken on the philosophy ‘Go Big or Go Round’! As I reached Stage 2 for my practice lap, I could hear a group of riders shouting a hollering but I could not quite see what all the fuss was about, then I turned as a rider charged down from above and hit the taped in double, Ahh that’s why!
We first arrived at Gibson in the middle of the night on Saturday and pulled up into the spacious car park. Peeking out of the window at 7AM I thought it was a pretty poor turnout, until I noticed the full field behind us, bristling with cars, campers and excited riders. With a sold out entry list of 310, it is great to see enduro doing so well in the UK! And not only in the participation, but also the industry, with carbon fiber exotica and yellow wheels everywhere! And why not, yes these bikes are built to handle the roughest trails in Europe, even WC downhill, but they are just as at home on a UK trail centres, perhaps taking us full circle back to the 1990s, we truly now have one bike to do it all! Empire bikes were on site with their awesome new MX6-R 3D printed bikes, and were kindly providing 6 frames up for the 6 series overall winners. Check out their new bikes at www.empire-cycles.com
The event was a single day format, with the morning reserved for practice, then riders leaving to race between 12-3PM. When I saw some of the late time slots I thought it was going to be a really long day waiting for podiums, but the team turned it round really quickly and we were all done by 6PM, good work! With good weather, a 20KM loop and 3 highly varied stages, the day looked to be good one indeed! So lets talk about the stages.
Stage One was a fun trail centre style blast, the top was rocky with plenty of loose grit on the berms to keep things interesting. Some riders in practice had discovered a new ‘enduro line’ within the first 100m which shed a few seconds, but come race day there were no secrets from the 40 or so queuing riders watching above, it soon became the blind line of choice. I took the new line and got my berms mixed up, resulting in an exciting huck to heather, but it worked out OK. Then it was a hard charge through loose unsupportive berms before being spat out at the bottom of a cheeky fire road climb. This sorted the fit from the fast, just before it got too much, the stage turn a turn down and gravity was again on our sides. This final section of trail finished down Hully Gully, a riotous, exhilarating, perfect section of fast singletrack that was worth the drive alone.
Upon arrival at Stage Two it became obvious that PMBA enjoyed spicing things up! Starting on an ‘Old Skool’ downhill trail, complete with 5 waist high drops and a fair sized double at the top. All had alternative lines but they were much slower, none were rollable though and there were more than a few comical last second changes of mind as bravado evaporated. There were a few OTB’s but luckily no Kamikaze bike borrowing spectators at this event. Lining up at the top, there was plenty of nervous talk about the booter, riders feeding of their mates looking for the confidence to hit the jump. It was fun to see such features being taped in, organisers often shy away from the bigger stuff, but it makes for a really varied race and you don’t have to hit them! After a hoot of a descent down the DH line and after some quality heckling by the mid point Marshall, the stage got a lot more natural as it worked through off camber roots and greasy mud. Great fun and a great stage.
With only 406m of climbing over the day it was a short hop back up to the top of the third and final Stage Three. Starting with a flat out pinned 300m straight line pedal, nerve and brakes were tested at the 90 degree turn at the bottom. Another long straight began, but this time deep mud and rock gardens spiced it up, mud tyres would have been a winner here as control was out the window! Then it was a flowing pedal to the final dibber, and time to head back for a well earned coffee at the cafe. Being only a one day race, those that practiced in the morning rode over 40km and climbed 800m, a good day on the pedals, especially as for many, summer fitness has not kicked in yet.
Full results can be found here. In the end it was Lee Kermode who took the win! The eagerly anticipated Flannagan brother showdown did not happen as Sam could not get down in time, but Joe was the only other rider to go sub 9 minutes. Emma Night took the womens win, and it was obvious that everyone has had a brilliant time!
What really stood out from the day was the great organisation, marshals were everywhere and kept people on the right track, the results were immediate and podiums happened within 30 minutes of the last rider coming in. PMBA have their enduros dialled, and the whole event had a good natured, fun feel to it, feeling like a lot more racing than the 10 minutes of stage times would indicate.
As to my race, well it was over before it begun, my ever reliable XX1 drive train which has so far been faultless, properly spat it’s dummy. 3 dropped chains over the race, twice on the lower part of stage 2. If anyone has tried to remount an xx1 with seconds ticking away, they will know that the only combinations that are possible when rushed is thin-thin followed by thick-thick. So that was me done, but I loved it, great stages, great place and top organisation. A top guide is on order for the upcoming EWS.
For more information on the next exciting round, check out www.borderline-events.co.uk
Words and photos: Trev Worsey