For months now there had been much hype about whether riders in the UK were to be attending the UK Enduro or the British Enduro Series. The BES was boasting big prize money, elites galore and a very strict racing structure. The UK series, however, was promoted with more of a mate’s race type feel, no structure on which stages you had to do and what time. It was to be more of a fun event, where riders could ride and even race with their friends; no matter what category their friends were racing in. What swung it in the favor of the UK series for me and my fellow Core Riders were the tracks, gnarly and wild, with not one trail centre type stage in site, plus it’s all about the social for us lot!
Core Riders- This is us lot, an exclusive club, me and my best riding mates, we ride every weekend, usually without fail, no matter the weather, we ride the toughest of tracks locally and have years of racing experience under our belts, including series overall winners, and a world champ. These guys help me test many products to within an inch of their breaking points. Last year several of us had done a couple of rounds of the Red Kite Enduros at the Crychan Forest and knew the tracks were wild and our type of thing. So we couldn’t wait to get back there, the hill isn’t a Scotland-sized mountain, but big enough to be a challenge for any rider, no matter how fit. The tracks last season were crazy rooty, steep in places and more natural than a 1970’s porno bush! Plus Llanwrtyd Wells (smallest town in Britain) was a great base for the night at the event supporting Drovers Rest owned by the mega friendly town Mayor, who always makes such an effort to make all riders welcome for the pasta feast laid on for Saturday evening.
The format was the same with the UK Enduro as it was with Red Kites in 2015, you could either race the two-day event with practice on Saturday morning or just do Sunday as a blind race with no practice. The two dayers had practice from 9am till lunch on Saturday of the five different stages then race stages 1-4 that afternoon, followed by stages 1-5 plus stage 2 repeated on Sunday along with the blind racers. There was no structure as to what stage you did when and in what order, the best being you could actually follow mates down during racing if you felt like it; this is great for getting towed in at a faster mate’s pace! We arrived early Saturday morning to set up the Enduro Mag shelter, where the hustle and bustle of the other event sponsors were very noticeable; some of us Core Riders were doing the two-dayer and others just the one.
I had the super-bling Scott set up properly for the second week of owning it and was seriously getting to grips with everything a bit alien on it. It had totally new types of suspension, pedals, cockpit, brakes, tyres etc, so all felt a bit weird for a while as we rode up and started busting out a bit of loamy practice. I’m not going to ramble on and bore folk with a thorough explanation of each and every individual stage; as I think they can be summed up quite simply. They consisted of five separate 2-3 minute tracks of pure loam and roots, I mean this was just like old skool UK DH stuff, but some having pedally bits and flat stuff amongst them more than the DH tracks of old. Some parts of stages had extremely steep techy turns with catch berms at the bottom, there were fast and slow bomb-holes, incredible off-camber turns at low and reasonable pace; all testing the limits of tyre choice. There were long rutted sections, drops and more nasty roots than you could spot in the hair of a female meth addict. But the best thing about it all was the complete lack of bike-park type terrain, such a refreshing site in this day and age, where race organisers seem to be going for the simple-to-set-up racing more and more nowadays! There had been some serious time and effort put into these tracks and it showed, they were tough, but such fun and so rewarding when ridden clean. As for the safety of such (apparently) dangerous tracks, you come off on these (as we all did a few times over the weekend) and you aren’t going fast enough to nail yourself, not like on the high-speed stone-surfaced trail centre stuff, where a big-un can result in a big injury! These trails tested these 160mm travel enduro bikes to their max, you didn’t have any advantage on short travel, a hardtail or 29er wheels; enduro at it’s purest!
We had practiced stages 1-5 by lunch and got back to the pits for some fettling, I opted to swap out my front High Roller 2 for a more aggressive Shorty for those off-camber corners, but stuck with the rear Minion semi-slick, as things were drying up considerably in the cold but rain-free early spring weather. We were soon off for racing, myself (best mate) Stu Hughes and others seeming to spend the day behind the British Army team, a great bunch of lads, actually lucky enough to get paid for this stuff! As the day went on, we realised that it was the least crashes that were going to do well, as it was just so easy with all the sniper roots to be knocked off line and lay her down, ‘relax relax relax’ I kept telling myself. Stu, doing his first proper season as an enduro rider had decided to race Pro category at the tender age of 41, I tried a few times to follow him into stages to pick my speed up, but he is just so fucking annoyingly fast and left me in his roost!
A couple of hours later and day one was completed, we handed over our chips for the timing and were rewarded with an instant result sheet. I was gutted, as although I had won one stage and got 3rd in another, a crash with a very annoying stem/bar twist had cost me dearly, losing 45 seconds, Stu was leading Elites and currently running second overall behind Master rider Duncan Porter. Race Director Neil was running around like a blue-arsed fly making sure all ran to plan for his event, constantly asking for our feedback, as us Core Riders are helping him to get this series up to scratch over the coming months.
After a freshen up at the digs we went to The Drovers for the Pasta Feast which was packed and like the day’s riding, it turned out to be a fantastic social affair of food and a few local beverages, although after the 33k and 1300mtrs climbing of the day’s events we were all a bit battle weary and welcomed our warm beds, but not the four flights of stairs to get up to them!
The morning was very chilly and were all tired from the previous day’s events, this time a couple more of the Core had joined us for the blind racing, that being Coop and Billy, both fast boys in their own right, Coop (as ever) like an angry excited terrier wanting to catch a rat on each stage, we still struggle to calm his race full-on-ness! The Sunday saw a lot more riders turn up than the previous day for the blind race, one of with being 2015 EWS Champion Tracy Moseley and the previous weekend’s Mini Enduro and Welsh Gravity round Elite winner Rowan Sorrell; Coop knew Rowan was his main competitor and it was a big fight to have to try and put up! This time, we headed off as a much bigger posse, about eight in all, repeating the previous days activities, without practice but with the added stage 5 then stage 2 repeated. The morning saw the first couple of stages still sporting the evening’s slime and it sure was greasy! I had a lot of making up to do to try and reduce that 45-second deficit. Stu again was flying all day, never seeming to falter in the tricky conditions, reverting back to his 90’s UK DH skills where he could podium with the likes of Rob Warner and Steve Peat.
It was a shorter day on the bike, we were all feeling it a fair bit after day one, but we got the job done, finding the pedaly mid-stage sections a lot tougher than the previous day. We came in, all a little fatigued and hungry, where we slowly packed away and got changed, amongst excellent stories from other riders of their day’s events and their highs and lows out on the tracks. The final results were soon brought out as the last riders came in and handed their chips in, to be fair we had all done pretty well; we had landed four podiums between us. I had cranked it up to get back to 4th Vet (Freddy Fourth strikes again!) Ben had come in 1st 2 day Master, Sonny come in 2nd 2-day Vet, Coop was 2nd 1 day Elite, only eight seconds off the amazingly smooth Rowan, beating him in four of the six stages! Stu had taken the 2 days Elite and overall honours as the fastest man on the hill!
1 Day (Blind)
Ebike – Robin Grant, Women – Cassie Phillips, Vets – Dan Bishop, Senior Men – Myles James, Master Women – Michelle Giltrap, Master Men – Ben Llewellyn, Junior – George Sweet, Grand Vets – Gary Hopkins, Elite Women – Tracy Moseley, Elite – Rowan Sorrell.
Women – Maya Atkinson, Vets – Giles Austin, Senior Men – Ben Jones, Master Women – Nicola Palmer, Junior – Mason Pritchard, Grand Vets – Stuart Mundell, Elite Women – Becky Cook, Elite – Stu Hughes.
A mention needs to go out to Bike Park Wales rider Will Soffe, who was real close to Stu’s times all weekend in the Elite, but made a daft mistake of stopping early in a stage; Will had nothing but praise for the riding skill of old man Hughes! The event all ran well, except for the loss of one stage time, due to a simple mistake we are assured will never be repeated. The social mates-race aspect and incredibly testing tracks really were second to none, as is the way Neil and team are flat out making tracks and searching for feedback on them off all the riders. There are obviously a few loose ends which need tidying up for this series to look like it is National level, but this is where Neil has plans afoot. After this round, he is to be emailing racers to find out what they didn’t like and what they think needs changing. Like anything new there will be criticism, but things can only move forward with a promoter who is 100% willing to listen to the riders and doesn’t think they know best, so we look forward to the next one at Triscombe in a month’s time.
Full results can be found here:
Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Dan Wyre, Doc Ward