If the Tweed Valley is known as the ‘heart of trail centre riding in Scotland’ then Laggan Wolftrax must surely be the teeth. For all who have ridden it, the black route is one of the most challenging and rocky you will find in any trail centre, anywhere! A jumble of huge slabs, bristling with sharp edges and wheel holes for the unwary, scattered randomly over a sinuous, flowing trail. This route has been challenging highland riders for years, and while easy enough to nibble down carefully, for the first time ever would be a stage in a race. The POC Scottish Enduro Series was rolling out the big guns, it was going to be a wild ride!

Laggan sits on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, 4500 square kilometers of true mountain country.
Laggan sits on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, 4500 square kilometers of true mountain country.
Laggan is rocky, steep and know for its fierce weather, furiously cold in winter and sometimes summer too.   This weekend the weather was kind and the sun shone bright.
Laggan is rocky, steep and known for its fierce weather, furiously cold in winter and sometimes the summer too. This weekend the weather was kind and the sun shone bright.
With dry and dusty, trails, this was going to be an incredible weekend of racing.
With dry and dusty, trails, this was going to be an incredible weekend of racing.

Laggan Wolftrax is one of the most cherished trail centres in Scotland and has been open for many years now, but through its history it has seen waves of development and loss. Sitting right on the edge of the Cairngorms national park (proper mountain country), its remote location has been both a blessing and a curse. Despite offering some of the finest purpose built trails in the highlands, management has changed hands a few times, and rumors circulated that it was on its last legs. But no, Laggan is back and its future looks very bright indeed. The newly appointed Laggan Forest trust has big plans and we should see some exciting new developments soon, keep an eye on their Facebook page to find out more.

The format of the race was to be one day of practice and then a day of intense racing, and once again, demonstrating Scotland’s passion for enduro and the popularity of the series, was a sell out event. Organisers No Fuss were promising a varied course with 5 stages, designed to highlight the best trails and showcase the beauty of the highland venue, and also serve up an unhealthy dose of full fat gnar. Not only were they using some of the epic trail centre trails, but also taking in the ‘off piste’ infamous Laggan Brown trail, a technical masterpiece that truly defines off-camber, and with dry and dusty conditions it was going to be amazing!

The No-Fuss team know how to deal with the dreaded Scottish midge.
The No-Fuss team know how to deal with the dreaded Scottish midge.
Riders line up to start the climbing.
Riders line up to start the climbing. Some looking for the win, some hoping for survival.
Stage one was a huge trail center blast.  Here Chris Hutchens on his way to second place overall.
Stage one was a huge trail center blast. Here Chris Hutchens on his way to second place overall.

After a beautiful day of practice, spirits were high for the day of racing. This would be the third round of the Scottish Enduro Series, and after the mud of Round One and the general vertical nature of Round Two, everyone was elated with the grippy and technical nature of the Laggan stages. Not even the dreaded midge could dampen spirits, and there was a heady smell of Smidge and Avon Skin So Soft (known repellents) around the pits. Interestingly I was privy to a secret from one of the marshals that midges do not bite ginger people, at first I laughed, but then noticed he was indeed sitting in the woods, in the shade and was not waving like a lunatic, so perhaps there is something in it!

Stage One was a belter, the top half had been closed the day before so was to be ridden blind by all the racers. It descended the normal trail centre climb in reverse, over rock gardens and flat corners. The trail was originally built to be picked over slowly while climbing, so was a hoot to fly down. There were wheel holes everywhere and it was easy to get over excited on the rock gardens and flip over the side, riotous fun. The fun was soon replaced with wheezing as the length of the stage became apparent, with a few punchy climbs and fresh loamy sections to liven things up. Ben Cathro smoked it, showing that DH riders are not lazy, and there were lots of grinning but very red faces at the bottom. The day had begun and everyone was stoked!

Ben Cathro put down an amazing run on Stage 1, stealing seconds that could not be reclaimed.  He took the win overall.
Ben Cathro put down an amazing run on Stage 1, stealing seconds that could not be reclaimed. He took the win overall.
Crawford Carrick Anderson, took a solid 3rd, he will never slow down.
Crawford Carrick Anderson, took a solid 3rd, he will never slow down.
There was a few new sections of sweet loamy single track on stage one.
There was a few new sections of sweet loamy single track on stage one.
This was a stage that rewarded power on the pedals!
This was a stage that rewarded power on the pedals!
Ronnan Dugan ignoring the rocks of Stage 1.
Ronnan Dugan ignoring the rocks of Stage 1.

Stage Two needed no introduction, it was the Infamous Laggan Black route, a carnival of big rocks and slabs that needed either inch perfect line choice, or plenty of gurning and panicked ‘butt back’ survival. There were a lot of features to remember and some of the slabs needed to be done right, but in the heat of battle rational thought often goes out the window, and I know that for me personally I spent a large portion of the stage looking longingly over at the best lines, while I desperately fought with the consequences of being on totally the wrong one. ‘The best’ trail centre trail had become a fantastic enduro stage and everyone got down safely.

Stage 2 was all about the rocks, big meaty rocks, everywhere!
Stage 2 was all about the rocks, big meaty rocks, everywhere!
This is what riding in Scotland is all about.
This is what riding in Scotland is all about.
Emma Guy took a wrong turn on Stage 1 and put herself out of the running.
Emma Guy took a wrong turn on Stage 1 and put herself out of the running.
Stage 2 mixed fast and flowing sections with massive rock features.
Stage 2 mixed fast and flowing sections with massive rock features.
You had to look after your tyres through the rough stuff.
You had to look after your tyres through the rough stuff.
Alistair MacLennan on his way to a win in the grand vets.
Alistair MacLennan on his way to a win in the grand vets.

Stages Three and Four took in the ‘secret’ trails on the other side of the valley. The fast and flowing armoured trail centre trails were replaced with good old rooty gnar, with plenty of vertiginous corners to catch out those of a nervous disposition. More than one rider burst out the bottom of the stages with evidence of a close encounter of the foliage kind and I picked up some leafy helmet decoration from an inelegant OTB. Blown out, off-camber corners became super sketchy, and a hop, skip and jump approach seemed the fastest, thank heavens it was dry! There was plenty of post stage debriefing going on at the bottom and overtaking was all friendly sportsmanlike.

Stages 3 and 4 jumped to the other side of the valley and were a technical riders dream.  This is Roz Newman on her way to 2nd.
Stages 3 and 4 jumped to the other side of the valley and were a technical riders dream. This is Roz Newman on her way to 2nd.
Dust, Scotland was feeling kind!
Dust, Scotland was feeling kind!
With cheeky blown out corners and off camber everywhere, this was a fun stage to race.
With cheeky blown out corners and off camber everywhere, this was a fun stage to race.
Frazer full gas and grinning!
Frazer full gas and grinning!
There was plenty of carnage in the steep chutes, many folk became very well acquainted with the trees!
There was plenty of carnage in the steep chutes, many folk became very well acquainted with the trees!
The post stage debrief, banter was high all day!
The post stage debrief, banter was high all day!
This was a lot steeper than it looks!
This was a lot steeper than it looks!
Everyone loves the dibber waggle dance.
Everyone loves the dibber waggle dance.

The final stage moved over to the trail centre once again, this time featuring a blast down the ‘orange’ freeride trail, a collection of big berms and jumps, all gravity fed, all full gas! I am not normally a fan of ‘trail centre’ stages but I stood corrected, it was the perfect end to the day. A chance to let it all out and pin it to the end, drifting through big berms and trying to look cool for the cameras on the last big jumps. And what a great day it was too, amazing views, stages that had the perfect ‘scary to fun’ ratio and that lovely relaxed pace and good vibe that defines the No Fuss events!

Perfect post race 'enduro specific' cake, served in monumental portions.
Perfect post race ‘enduro specific’ cake, served in monumental portions.
It is not about who won overall, its about if you beat your mates.
It is not about who won overall, its about if you beat your mates.
The Billy Can kept riders and spectators fueled all day!
The Billy Can kept riders and spectators fueled all day!
The results analysis starts as soon as all the riders were in.
The results analysis starts as soon as all the riders were in.
Laggan provided the perfect venue.
Laggan provided the perfect venue.

Results:

As always, the focus of the day was more on the races within the race, the fierce friendship rivalries and participation. In the end though it was Ben Cathro who held off a hard charging Chris Hutchens and fit Crawford Carrick Anderson for the win. Ben is on a roll at the moment, recently winning the Scottish DH championships, if you want to learn from the man himself, you should check out his coaching company, Sick Skills. In the womens category, it was Tracy Brunger who took the top step, ahead of Roz Newman. Special mention should go to Fiona Beattie who was not only instrumental in running the event, but squeezed in a quick lap and manged to take 3rd overall! Full results can be downloaded here.

Hardtail Podium, 1st Micheal Clyne, 2nd Euan Camlin, 3rd Greig Walker
Hardtail Podium, 1st Micheal Clyne, 2nd Euan Camlin, 3rd Greig Walker
Vets Podium, 1st Crawford Carrick Anderson, 2nd Justin Grice, 3rd Barry Coull.
Vets Podium, 1st Crawford Carrick Anderson, 2nd Justin Grice, 3rd Barry Coull.
Masters Podium, 1st Dave Henderson, 2nd Dan Greenwood, 3rd Frazer McNeil.
Masters Podium, 1st Dave Henderson, 2nd Dan Greenwood, 3rd Frazer McNeil.
Overall winner Ben Cathro was handing out Sick Skills coaching vouchers and hugs!
Overall winner Ben Cathro was handing out Sick Skills coaching vouchers and hugs!
Grand Vets Podium: 1st Alastair MacLennan, 2nd Mark Dodson, 3rd Steve Bradley.
Grand Vets Podium: 1st Alastair MacLennan, 2nd Mark Dodson, 3rd Steve Bradley.
Womens Podium, 1st Tracy Brunger, 2nd Rox Newman, 3rd Fiona Beattie.
Womens Podium, 1st Tracy Brunger, 2nd Rox Newman, 3rd Fiona Beattie.
Senior Podium, 1st Ben Cathro, 2nd Chris Hutchens, 3rd Nash Masson.
Senior Podium, 1st Ben Cathro, 2nd Chris Hutchens, 3rd Nash Masson.

And let us not forget all the people behind the scenes, without whom these amazing races could not happen. Cheers to all the marshals who braved the midges and the sharp breeze in the morning, and the Billy Can for keeping everyone fed. Also all the sponsors POC and 2Pure, Hope Technology, Sick Skills, Singletrack Bikes Midlothian, OneUp Components, Escape Route Pitlochry, Basecamp Bikes, Jayfest, Spank and Innerleithen MTB Racing who donated money, time and prizes. The next round is on the 12-13th July in Ae forest, for more information check out the series homepage it is sure to be another belter.

Words: Trev Worsey


Photos: Cat Smith and Sophie Buckingham

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