After a wild opening round in Dunkeld and a short break, where was better for the second round of the Scottish Enduro Series to be held than Fort William, the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ and home of British downhill which was always going to produce a scintillating race. Waking up on Saturday morning I had to have a double take out the window as blue skies and sun stretched their way over Cow Hill and Ben Nevis, was the weather actually going to play ball this weekend?! Almost…

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The drive north up through Glen Coe never fails to impress.
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Snow still at the top of the hill with flurries falling down to the car park through the weekend.
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No gondola action for any of us this weekend!

Five stages taking in everything from the downhill track, the xc world champs track to the classic rut fest of Allt a’ Mhuilinn. Riders were tasked with a diverse variety of stages and terrain to race, but the real talking point of the weekend was the organiser’s decision to stick a large section of the red downhill track in, which required a rather hefty hike-a-bike mission across an open moor side and up a valley side. We all love a bit of an adventure though and it was largely well received once riders received their prize in the epic descent back to the finish area.

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There always a good vibe at the SES with riders ‘stoked to the max’ to hit the stages.
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*See above*
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Stage one featured lower sections of the downhill world cup track.
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Passing under the xc world champs track or locally named ‘Haggis Trap’.

The Dudes of Hazard call Fort William home and the trio of Joe, Liam and Ferg were always going to be the boys to look out for on the stages and results sheets come Sunday evening. There were a few other contenders who could get a say in however, BMC’s new singing in Lewis Buchanan was a danger man having killed it in the two opening Enduro World Series Rounds whilst guys like Sam Flockhart, Ben Cathro, Gary Forrest and Chris Hutchens would have their eyes set firmly on the podium.

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The steep ruts of Allt a’ Mhuilinn are always on point! Sam Flockhart negotiates a top chute and bagged himself a rad 2nd place on the box!
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Lewis Buchanan had a lot of eyes on him this weekend after an amazing EWS debut in Chile and Argentina.
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Not your average liaison.
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Almost there, still smiling after the mission across the moor.
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Enduro racing done right! Riders were dwarfed by the surroundings in the shadow of Ben Nevis.

Sunday morning and race day. The weather had changed for the worse with winds picking up, temperatures dropping, and rain showers passing through. The rain wasn’t heavy enough to significantly change the stage conditions, perhaps making Stage 4 (Allt a’ Mhuilinn) a little greasier, but the top of world champs and the loose sections of gravel on the likes of the red tend to be a little grippier in the wet.

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The stump gap section of the world cup track offered riders plenty in the way of line choice.
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Lewis Buchanan has ridden this section hundreds of time from his downhill days, meaning the stump gap proved no obstacle. Lewis was running very strong going 1st, 1st, 2nd but then suffered a mechanical, losing his chain and mech. Taking him out of the running.
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The lower section of world champs was one of the easiest sections of the weekend, but it didn’t stop me from sending it over the bars on an innocuous looking straight section!
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Riders legs and lungs were tested throughout the weekend.

Meanwhile in the women’s, Fiona Beattie and Kirstin Moynihan were looking to use their knowledge to good use and were pinned out on track all weekend. When race day came around they were both right at the sharp end, but it was Eilidh Wells and Fiona trading stage wins before ultimately Eilidh proved too strong on the long final stage of the day. Great racing with the top three separated by only sixteen seconds after five stages!

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Fiona Beattie with Kirstin Moynihan in tow.
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Joe Barnes rails a turn up top.
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Extra points for styling mid race run!
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Chris Hutchens leaving the dark side.

Lewis Buchanan came out all guns blazing going 1st, 1st and 2nd in the opening three stages before he hit trouble and a serious mechanical took him out the game. No mech and chain for large sections, somehow Lewis still salvaged a 4th overall! Joe Barnes was always going to be the one to watch, these were his local woods and he didn’t disappoint taking the win and schooling the field on stage 4 by nearly 6 seconds.

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As usual the SES didn’t disappoint! Big props to the race organizers and marshals for all the hard work.
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Tricky rock slabs caught out many, not helped by the savage winds at the top of stage 5.
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Liam Moynihan was fast and consistent the whole weekend finishing up 3rd. He placed seconds on the long final stage just behind Ben Cathro.
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Your winner by nearly 16 seconds; Joe Barnes.
Scottish Enduro Series Fort William Podium Shot 1
The Top 3 Women: 1) Eilidh Wells 2) Fiona Beattie 3) Kirstin Moynihan
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The Top 3 Men: 1) Joe Barnes 2) Sam Flockhart 3) Liam Moynihan

A top weekend of racing was had by all with five really diverse stages and a crazy hike-a-bike mission across an open moor a valley side! Next up is Glenlivet in a couple of months, see you there!

Full results can be found on sportident.co.uk.

Special thanks to POC Sports, CUBE Bikes

For more information visit the Scottish Enduro Series-Website.

Words & Photos: Ross Bell

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