Looking at the position of this event in the calendar certainly made me a bit dubious, with it clashing with the first round of UK Enduro & the EWS opener only a week away most elites and top UK riders could have been elsewhere. However the event had sold out in 2 days and had double the numbers of the UKE, so I went up to see what makes this series so popular. The weather throughout the weekend was prime for Northern England, the amount of road kill we swerved on the journey proved we was up North!

Arriving on Sunday morning blessed with glorious sunshine, a rarity in Northern England, I think this race will mark the start of Summer for me (touchwood). Chatting to my fellow racers in the packed car park about what to expect before setting out on my lap I was surprised just how relaxed everyone was, you would expect more nerves for the many peoples first race of the season. The overall atmosphere of the event was great, it was more like a huge ride with 340 people.


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 SI timing system is fast and the team turned it round really quickly and we were all done by 6PM, good work! 20KM loop and 5 stages, the day looked to be good one indeed!


Series organiser Kev said “We weren’t sure what the weather would bring so kept the trails mainly on the trail centre, although of course we still have some off piste sections too”. As a event billed as grassroots I wasn’t sure what to expect, would there be enough technical sections to keep me entertained or would I be relying on fitness. In the end it was a mix of both.

Stage 1 was slightly hectic, unfortunately the transition from the start area wasn’t long enough to split up the riders and left you with a 15 minute wait, a lot of riders were changing tire pressures as the rest looked around in question. At this point I was truly glad that there wasn’t a cloud insight. A stage that made me question riding clipless, it would have been beneficial to ride flats as the roots weren’t getting any easier throughout the day. All being said this was a great stage and a real challenge for everyone!


Stage 2,3&4 were relatively similar, they were very fun and just general trail center descents, never mind having a 50t cog on the back, you need it on the front for these stages! Stage 2 was tight and twisty singletrack descent through the trees, a tricky rock staircase near the end before a fireroad sprint into the final woods section and a little jump over the finish line. The transition to stage 3 was the longest, and from one of the lowest points of the forest to the highest, following the normal XC red loop until we were perched atop Whelpstone cragg. Great views from here especially with weather like this.
Right at the start stage 3 split, a choice of a steep slab drop known as big foot, or a less steep but longer and very loose alternative, I went for the slabs and this gave the me a good amount of speed to carry into the berms, a little flat sprint along the top of the woods before twisting down to the finish. All in all a great little stage not that much over a minute.


From the longest transition to the shortest, just 200M up a fire road to the start of stage 4, I’m lead to believe in previous events these 2 stages have run as one with this lungbusting fire road connecting them, I was glad they had split them for this race the final 100m sprint along the stream would be a killer, I’ll be needing another Clif Energy Bars like I did after Stage 2.
Stage 4, the “black” graded Hully Gully, features some of the biggest berms I’ve seen, swooping in and out of a little valley this wide track was so much fun and one of Gisburn’s biggest attractions and I can see why. Longer than the last stage but not by much I was still tired by the end.

Theses last few stages were more suitable too the trail centre rider, without massive elevation throughout the whole course it meant the stages were pedally and tough, I would of liked to see another technical ‘freshcut’ stage, like stage 1, although I might have said different if the sun hadnt been out for the last week.


With that said I really enjoyed Stage 5, starting in the trees with some off camber and little rock drops the line we were soon into the open onto the DH line with drops every 20m, and a big crowd cheering and heckling riders down. Jumping over a final tabletop lead you back into the forest and a few more little drops before crossing the fire road into the bottom woods. Here few crazy line choices, and roots galore added to the fun! This felt like proper enduro, and I sure was relieved to see the timing box on the exit of the stage.

James Swinden took the win in Pro Men, and Rachel Walker in Women.

As for my race, well, I fell at the first hurdle, with a crash on stage 1 costing me roughly 40 seconds I had nowhere to make the time up, I finished mid-pack in Senior Men. My new Orange Four long term test bike rode like a dream, a bigger chaining on the front would have been beneficial. Now to get some more training in, Im off to YT-Mob team camp next week so circuits with Aaron Gwin are needed.

For more information visit the Borderline Events Website.

Words: Isac Paddock Photos: Isac Paddock / Nick Moor

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