As I happily ‘fell’ into the comically steep, larch lined chute of stage 4, a real white knuckler, my mind was full of questions! Should my brakes be working right now, when was the last time I took a breath and what would a tree look like as a hat? In a losing battle against gravity, mud and slippery roots, corner after corner squeaked by in a ‘narrow escape’ fashion, 780mm bars missing trees by a midges whisker! Then it was over, I was literary spat out of the bottom of the chute before pedaling my legs off to the finish! It takes nerve for organisers to include stages like this, but thank the gods of enduro that they do! Welcome to Round 2 of the Scottish Enduro Series!

After a fantastic start to the season at Fort William, the POC Scottish Enduro Series had marched south to Innerleithen for the eagerly anticipated Round 2. This time it was the turn of Innerleithen MTB Racing to host, and with some of Scotland’s best technical single track on their doorstep, it was sure to be a good one! Featuring 5 Stages and over 1200m of steep climbing it was going to be a tough one!

Round 2 of the Scottish Enduro Series would be held at Innerleithen, things were sure to be steep and rowdy!
Round 2 of the Scottish Enduro Series would be held at Innerleithen, things were sure to be steep and rowdy!

With a hill riddled with old motorbike enduro trails, forgotten walkers paths and some of Scotland’s best downhill trails, the team behind the event had plenty of scope for creating a great race course. There was something for everyone, trail centre blasts, steep technical mud, punishing mid stage fireroad sprints and the opportunity to plummet down one of the steepest tracks in the valley, hoping that the catch berm would indeed catch!

Repeating the format of Round 1, Saturday was all about practice, and after all riders had registered, at 12PM the course was opened for inspection. Over 300 riders headed up onto the course to check out what lay in store. Some opted to practice just a few of the stages and save their legs for the morning, some opted to do a complete loop. It soon became clear that the organisers had some tricks up their sleeves, plenty of super challenging steep and rooty sections punctuated by mid stage lung busting fireroad sprints, and the odd snappy climb.

After practice on day one, the local Alpine Bikes Innerleithen store hosted a free enduro night with none other than EWS director Chris Ball and Dirt School coach Andy Barlow answering questions - great night!
After practice on day one, the local Alpine Bikes Innerleithen store hosted a free enduro night with none other than EWS director Chris Ball and Dirt School coach Andy Barlow answering questions – great night!

After a full day on the hill, there was nothing left but head down and poke mud off the bikes, try and dry shoes and get prepped for the morning. The local Alpine Bikes store in Innerleithen had arranged a special free ‘enduro’ evening in celebration of the Scottish Series coming to town. Lining up none other the EWS Director Chris Ball and Dirt School’s Andy Barlow to speak, after 2 great presentations to a full house the floor was opened and the duo fielded questions on the UCI, riding techniques, the future of enduro and course cutting! It was an inspiring, and exclusive insight into the world of top level enduro and with free beers and food, a cracking night!

Weather forecast were undecided but the signs were there!
Weather forecast were undecided but the signs were there!
Stage 2 was muddy and not very steep!  Momentum was key!
Stage 2 was muddy and not very steep! Momentum was key!
Once into Mince Baby Mince, things hotted up on Stage 2!
Once into Mince Baby Mince, things hotted up on Stage 2!

The morning arrived and many were relieved to see that it was not raining, riders started to gather, grabbing last minute coffees from the Billy Can Cafe before starting up the steep climb to the top of Stage 1. At 567m The top of Minch Moor was shrouded in mist and buffeted by a strong wind, riders hiding behind rolled up hoods jumped and windmilled trying to keep warm. One by one riders shot off down the fast rolling trail, wind propelling them along until a change in direction would bring on the head-wind induced pain! It was a fast stage on surfaced trail with a few sneaky rocks and jumps to keep riders keen! This is where winter fitness would pay off as it was all about watts and determination!

Throwing shapes and staying in the groove was the only way!
Throwing shapes and staying in the groove was the only way!
Thomas Mitchell stepped up to seniors and took a very respectable 12th in a stacked field!
Thomas Mitchell stepped up to seniors and took a very respectable 12th in a stacked field!
Neil Carnegie was flying on his 29er to take 28th overall!
Neil Carnegie was flying on his 29er to take 28th overall!

Stage 2 could not have been more different, after a bit of a ride then a boggy trudge, riders arrived at the top of something all together more natural. The first half of the stage was a proper ‘Old Skool’ affair, loose and rooty with a well cut in groove! I think every rider felt pretty slow through here, without enough gradient to let gravity keep it all moving, it was all about spinning for the win. Big roots lay in wait under the porridge mud, and there was plenty of sideways action to keep things interesting. Then came the sting, a sharp uphill sprint on a fireroad that had muddy fingers fishing for the reverb remote! Still gasping from the sprint, riders dived into the classic ‘mince baby mince’ trail, a masterpiece of awkward rocks, off camber roots and wheel holes. Gravity was again on side, but it took some nerve to keep off the brakes. After a final chute onto the fireroad and a frantic rubbing of the dibber, it was over! What a great stage!

This compression caused a few riders to kiss rubber!
This compression caused a few riders to kiss rubber!
Stage 3 had a few big features, and plenty of flat out steep action!
Stage 3 had a few big features, and plenty of flat out steep action!
Local pinner Jess Stone took a decisive victory in the ladies category!
Local pinner Jess Stone took a decisive victory in the ladies category!

Stage 3 was pure Innerleithen Gold, taking in the mid section of the notorious Cresta Run before making a few cheeky deviations to wind down to the arena! Starting just after a feed station, and with a rocky 45 degree chute just 2m from the start, Jelly Baby induced states of overconfidence resulted in some riders setting records for the quickest OTB ever on an enduro stage! Cresta Run was wet but fast, well worn in and with bags of grip, you could get off the brakes and enjoy the electric feeling of riding at high speed in very tight trees! There were some big features, a few sneaky roll-able drops and a tough pedal in the middle, it was a real all-round stage that would test every component of a riders skill and fitness!

Crawford Carrick Anderson on his way to a win in the Vets!
Crawford Carrick Anderson on his way to a win in the Vets!
Tyres faught for traction through this traverse, Glen Comnys working hard!
Tyres faught for traction through this traverse, Glen Comnys working hard!
The top of Stage 5 was a dream for some and a muddy nightmare for others!  Jess Stone looking composed!
The top of Stage 5 was a dream for some and a muddy nightmare for others! Jess Stone looking composed!

Rejuvenated by high fives at the end of stage 3, riders started back up the hill for another grunty climb to the top of the DH stages. Stage 4 was a true gravity trail, starting on Gold Run before cutting over some fresh heather with a sweet line left and right (I chose the middle), it dropped down into the tunnel, a 400m long tree lined straight, filled with fly offs, jumps and gnar! The top riders were hitting warp speed through here, about 50-60kmh. Then it was hard left into the luge, a high speed jumble of berms and jumps, before plummeting into perhaps the steepest natural trail on the hill. Brakes were all but redundant, and if you came in too hot, you would stay hot to the bottom, or end up as part of the foliage! A small minority of riders would perhaps find this a step too far, but UK enduro needs to push boundaries and shed its ‘surfaced trail’ image if we want to join the world enduro stage! Many riders hugged a few trees but all made it down with a big smile and a massive sense of achievement!

IBIS UK rider Lewis Kirkwood getting stuck in!
IBIS UK rider Lewis Kirkwood getting stuck in!
All eyes were on WTB Enduro Teams Gary Forrest for the win, but a crash on stage 4 left the field wide open!
All eyes were on WTB Enduro Teams Gary Forrest for the win, but a crash on stage 4 left the field wide open!
The classic finish down Caddon Bank was scary fast compared to the mud at the top!
The classic finish down Caddon Bank was scary fast compared to the mud at the top!

With one last effort, riders climbed to the top of the hill to take on the 5th and final stage. This was certainty the most talked about in practice, a rooty, nibbly mud fest, that demanded sideways action and clogged wheels mercilessly. As I set off I kept repeating in my head ‘keep smooth, keep smooth’, only to have a huge highside and pass by some spectators half way down, both feet unclipped, pretty much lying on the seat in a comical display that looked a bit like someone trying to drive a car from inside the boot! After the longest mid stage sprint that was more panting than power, it finally turned downhill again on the legendary Caddon Bank DH trail, where full gas riding battled with tired bodies and brains! Skidding to the final dibber and beeping out, after the obligatory pre-results-check excuses had been aired, everyone agreed that it had been a most awesome day!

The course was indeed tough and challenging, but it mixed in every kind of riding in the valley, and was a perfect showcase for the diversity and quality of the trails in the area. With instant timing and great organisation from the Innerleithen MTB Racing and No-Fuss teams it had been a great day on the pedals, the series just keeps getting better, and to top it all off the sun even came out!

With instant timing printouts it was time to compare stages!
With instant timing printouts it was time to compare stages!
Good times in the Tweed Valley!
Good times in the Tweed Valley!
The day finished in the sun, marking another successful round of the POC Scottish Enduro Series
The day finished in the sun, marking another successful round of the POC Scottish Enduro Series

Results

Full results can be found here:

It was great to see a real mixture of riders on the hill, all ages, fitness and ability levels were battling in the mud, some to win, some to survive. With a stacked field of highly skilled riders anyone could have taken the overall! All eyes were on Gary Forrest for the expected win, born and raised on these trails, Gary was flying! However a mistake on stage 4 cost time and took him to second place. Irish Enduro Champion Greg Callaghan put down the best runs of the day, reinforcing his position in the overall and taking the well deserved top spot. Mark Scott put his DH skills to good use to take 3rd place!

Junior Girls: First Place Elana Melton!
Junior Girls: First Place Elana Melton!
Juniors: 1st Place Drew Carters, 2nd Place Ruaedhri Forrester, 3rd Louis Reid
Juniors: 1st Place Drew Carters, 2nd Place Ruaidhri Forrester, 3rd Louis Reid
Veterans Podium: 1st Crawford Carrick Anderson, 2nd Patrick Bruce, 3rd Justin Grice
Veterans Podium: 1st Crawford Carrick Anderson, 2nd Patrick Bruce, 3rd Justin Grice
Ladies: 1st Jess Stone, Joint 2nd, Fiona Beattie and Lesley Ingram
Ladies: 1st Jess Stone, Joint 2nd, Fiona Beattie and Lesley Ingram

Local WC racer Jess Stone was unstoppable in the womens category winning by a clear margin, with No-Fuss’s very own Fiona Beattie and IBIS UK rider Lesley Ingram in joint second place. MTB Cut rider Drew Carters took the win in the Juniors despite losing around 4 minutes with a puncture right at the start of one of the stages, and Crawford Carrick Anderson again showed when it comes to the tweed valley he is king, taking a solid victory in the Vets.

Masters Podium, 1st James Knowles, 2nd Tobias Pantling, 3rd David Duggan!
Masters Podium, 1st James Knowles, 2nd Tobias Pantling, 3rd David Duggan!
Hardtail Category: 1st Mike Clyne, 2nd Robert Farrer. 3rd Adam Robson
Hardtail Category: 1st Mike Clyne, 2nd Robert Farrer. 3rd Adam Robson
Senior Podium, 1st Greg Callaghan, 2nd Gary Forrest, 3rd Mark Scott
Senior Podium, 1st Greg Callaghan, 2nd Gary Forrest, 3rd Mark Scott
Ben Cathro was on hand to give out prizes for coaching with 'Sick Skills'
Ben Cathro was on hand to give out prizes for coaching with ‘Sick Skills

All podium finishers received prizes from POC and Spank, while Ben Cathro kindly donated sessions for his Sick Skills coaching school! The next Round of the Scottish Enduro Series moves to Laggan, marking a new venue for enduro and is sure to be a hit, ENDURO magazine will see you there!

Words and Photos: Trev Worsey

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