Next season sees the forth year running for the UK’s premier Enduro series UK Gravity Enduro, director Steve Parr is definitely known as a no-nonsense kinda guy, not afraid to speak his mind, certainly not being one to bow to the demands of the factory rider. He has spent the whole time previously trying to get the UK’s British Cycling Federation (BC) on-side, so as to be behind the series; running the insurance, booking riders in, earning national points and also offering many other perks for being with such a large organization. Last year saw them overseeing races with the constant presence of one of their commissaires at each event, which were run with BC insurance. It seemed to all be looking rosy and on the up, but last month the BC dropped the bombshell that they no longer wanted to insure any event deemed to be that of an Enduro style race.

Full-Face, the norm on stages for 2015
Full-Face, the norm on stages for 2015

So the fastest growing MTB sport of the moment has taken a blow from the fun police, but why and what are the real reasons? There are other hot topics floating about the UK racers forums right now too, one being the full-face helmet rule for next season, a real marmite topic. So we thought it only right to hook up with Steve and see exactly what he has to say.

Full entries last year, pretty sure that will be repeated for next season
Full entries last year, pretty sure that will be repeated for next season

How you doing Steve?
I’m doing well thanks, we are expecting our first born in March/April next year. Charlie, Liz and Me are busy getting the venues ready now.

So how was 2014 for you, did it all go to plan?
What a truly awesome year, the rounds just seemed to get better, the pits looked proper pro this year. Amazing industry support from Marin, Enve, Mavic and Ritchey trail, add the tech area support from SRAM, Mavic, and Shimano, then to finish off we had the Billycan doing the food it don’t come much better than that! Oh and 1 last thing, the racers, they truly make the event, thanks to all of you.

Ah the joy of the fresh-cut trails
Ah the joy of the fresh-cut trails

What about the venues, your guys definitely seem to be making the most of the tracks now, bit more gnarly fresh-cut stuff, is that a plan from now on and are we going to see tracks get rougher and tougher?
2014 has been an interesting year, Charlie is now in his 2nd year and has the same vision as me, we know what we want to accomplish and how to get there. This year has seen us trying different things, super steep, super techy and fast. We have worked our socks off to push the boy’s and girl’s to their limits technically and physically, the best received stages were at round 5 Grizedale.

Grizedale, a riders favorite
Grizedale, a riders favorite

Tell us about your decisions for the tracks you are using for next year
When we approach a venue it’s sold as a two year deal, so they know we will return, it’s time to spread the Lurve! We tried to get Triscombe in 2014, but couldn’t use it because of our proposed route. Ae forest is a return with possibly a new stage. Hamsterly again is a return after a year away. North Wales is proving to be a bit of a bugger and may well move. The return to Grizedale will be welcome by all.

Hopefully Hamsterly won't all be hardpack
Hopefully Hamsterly won’t all be hardpack

And what about the National Champs, four day venue hey, what’s all that about?
National Champs will be in Wales, but only a weekend, the four day event is something for another article! It will be like the TP or TS but in the UK, run by the UKGE team.

OK so hot topic number one, full face helmets, you said BC wanted it originally, if they are not part of the picture anymore is it going to still be enforced for next year?
Full face will be mandatory on stages in 2015 and a helmet must be on your head and fastened whilst on transition. People will moan about this, to be honest I don’t care, if you have watched, like Charlie and myself, for hours at a time, at how much faster the riders are now, you would understand our decision.

With Dan Atherton's accident a few years back, you'll never see him racing stages with a half face
With Dan Atherton’s accident a few years back, you’ll never see him racing stages with a half face

What about these new style ‘removable chin piece’ helmets like the Bell Super 2R, do you think these are a step in the right direction, offering more protection than a half face, why don’t you personally like them, do you think there is room for your personal taste to be a part of that decision?
If there was a safety standard for them it wouldn’t be an issue. Here’s a scenario for you, rider gets to the stage with a minute to spare, puffing and blowing out his arse. All flustered he doesn’t fit the chin piece correctly, has a crash and chin piece falls off, causing injury to Him. WHO’S TO BLAME??

About a minute before this shot I had face planted the grass (check the bloody nose) I still have nose bleeds from it now!
About a minute before this shot I had face planted the grass (check the bloody nose) I still have nose bleeds from it now!

Right hot topic number two, British Cycling. Firstly was there stuff leading up to their decision you can now tell us about, and why exactly do you think (or know) did they step away from Enduro?
It’s a crazy knee-jerk reaction to one tragic incident at a DH race, there are more ripples to follow throughout the MTB race world.

You will also see a lot of the 2 helmet riders in 2015
You will also see a lot of the 2 helmet riders in 2015

OK so where does this leave you the organizer and us the paying competitors, do you now have more freedom, are races going to change, get more expensive, will there be rule changes?
The UKGE will always continue to evolve and change, rule changes will always happen, price increases are necessary for the series to evolve. Let’s get one thing straight about UKGE, The series will not compromise on the safety of its racers and never will.

No more of this either for next season!
No more of this either for next season!

You have always worked closely with the BC, How does their decision affect your national championships, now it will not be affiliated to British Cycling?
We have always worked closely with BC, they are the UK’s governing body for cycling, but the planned National Champs will be going ahead. The winners will still receive medals, etc…. it will just be an unofficial one now.

So who could be 2015 National Champ then?
So who could be 2015 National Champ?

So what of the future, will there be a new federation for Enduro, have you been talking to other organizers about it all as some already operate outside of BC control?
We are already talking to the other Enduro organiser’s and offering support and advice where possible. A federation for MTB is the future, will it happen, who knows, what I do know is it will need someone to do it full time.

How do you see National Enduro developing in the future in relation to the EWS. As the EWS series fills up with more and more pro riders, do you see national series and champs playing an important role in feeding riders into the EWS?
The controlled pyramid system is the ultimate for Enduro as it develops and finds its level ground. The regionals will feed into UKGE, we then feed into EWS, it’s the way DH and XC work up to World Cup level. I read a very interesting presentation the other day, cast your mind back to when I stated that “Enduro would pass XC and DH for popularity in 3-5 years” according to the survey in the presentation, Enduro is now 1% behind DH in the UK!

With the new tougher trails, Enduro just goes from strength to strength
With the new tougher trails, Enduro just goes from strength to strength

On the subject of categories, what about Experts, is this going to happen or not?
There will be no Expert category in 2015 either, not enough Elites yet.

On a lighter note, what do you have planned around winter, we talked of a big UKGE ride somewhere?
A UKGE ride somewhere would be nice, be good to see the ‘Family’ keep me posted if it gathers pace.

Now that's how to propose!
Now that’s how to propose!

Thanks Steve

Words: Jim Buchanan | Photos: Doc Ward

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