The UK winter is halfway gone already. Riders and racers alike are getting out in the muck and damp honing their skills ready for the upcoming race season. Whilst our preparation as racers involves training, riding and maybe even a diet, we have to think about what the race organisers get up to during the winter to bring us a top series for the upcoming season. We hooked up with UK Enduro’s Neil Delafield for a bit of an insight into the off-season world of a race promoter.

So Neil how’s your winter shaping up, are you getting plenty of riding in?

“I am wishing it would stop raining, just like everyone else in the country. I’m riding a lot more than last year so far, plenty of time on my Rocky Mountain Altitude Rallye, but with the rain, I am also getting in a lot of miles on the turbo trainer. My plan is to get fit again (the last few years of organising events has taken its toll), and actually get to race this year. My season kicks off with the Roubaix sportive in April, a dodgy subject I know for an enduro magazine, but it’s still riding bikes.
As always time is an issue with the demands from sorting venues, talking to the guys who support the series like the medics, food outlets, toilet hire, number boards etc, plus meeting with the sponsors and going to trade shows, keeping up with social media and journalists. I am full time working on UK Enduro series and also the Lord of the Trails series.”

I see things are hotting up for the UK Enduro Series, first of all, can we talk sponsorship, who have you picked up and what are they throwing into the pot?

“We have some great sponsors for the 2016 season. Rocky Mountain is our title sponsor for 2016 and has the first refusal on the 2017 season too. Joining Rocky Mountain are two of our long-term sponsors SealSkinz and Muc-Off and we are very glad to have them back. Also we welcome Wheelies, Julbo, Skratch, Absolute Black, Rapid Racer Products, Sixth Element, Airshot and Flare Clothing. All the sponsors are fully behind the series and will be attending the majority of the rounds if not all. Between them, they will provide some really good prizes to be won at each round, as always the prizes will be given out randomly to the riders at the podium presentation.
We also have great support from the Drovers Rest Restaurant, Drover Cycles (mechanics), SportIdent are providing our timing for the 2nd year, and Salop Medical Services will be looking after any injured riders. Without the sponsors and teams that support the series we couldn’t put on the UK Enduro series, not to mention all the riders as well of course.”

Jim Buchanan represented ENDURO Magazine last year, and is looking forward to doing the same in 2016.
Jim Buchanan represented ENDURO Magazine last year, and is looking forward to doing the same in 2016.

Have you got a Rocky Mountain yourself then?

“Rocky Mountain have kindly supplied a Rocky Mountain Altitude Rallye for me to ride. What an awesome bike, long travel, light and so good to ride. The bike climbs as well as it descends, which is damn well. Grease ports on the suspension pivots, ideal for the riding in the UK. Without a doubt this is the most capable bike I have ever ridden, it[s happy to be thrashing my enduro tracks as well as long trail rides. Would I part with my own cash to buy one? Without a doubt.
Rocky Mountain UK are doing demo days at all of our rounds this year either the Friday before each round or 2 weeks before, more details will be announced soon. They will also be at every round with a fleet of bikes.”

How about venues, I know you have had to rearrange a couple of places, what was that all about and how have you managed to get other venues; was it a mission?

“Most of the venues have been a breeze to organise. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the South Wales venue choices to work with Natural Resources Wales, so we had to move the venue to Dyfi Forest. Dyfi is an awesome venue anyway and we are pleased to be going there in May. We are busy working away behind the scenes so that we can get the access we want in South Wales, but this will not happen until 2017. We probably could have got away with using Trail Centre official trails but I feel this wouldn’t fit with what we are about. Jim, you have ridden at our events so I am sure you know what I mean.
We had to move the round at Revolution Bike Park back one round. The Revolution boys want to put on the best enduro the UK has ever had, with the pressures of running their Bike Park and also hosting British Downhill Champs they asked us to tweak the dates a little bit. In return, we are getting uplifts for 2 of the stages, possibly 15-minute stages and a venue worthy of the National Enduro Championships.”

How busy have you been driving about and meeting up with all the venue management and what has it entailed in terms of organisation?

“Some of the venue planning can be organised from the office. However, we still need to go onsite to plan the tracks, talk to the land management companies, landowners and the neighbours of the venues. As well as planning the tracks, we also have to think about things like where to position the paramedic vehicles, our own first response vehicles, where land and air ambulances can access the venue. I guess we spend an average of 10 days at each venue over the winter and early spring. Upsides are that we get to ride in great areas and some of the pasta parties are being held at pubs this year, so these need testing too.”

You can expect some tough tracks and some big challenges.
You can expect some tough tracks and some big challenges.

What exactly are you looking for in the trails of potential venues?

“I really like challenging tracks. Do we have the toughest tracks in the UK? I would probably say so. So I am after a good mix of tracks that are exciting to ride – steep, off-camber, loamy, rocky, and also throw in some pedally sections. I like to have at least one stage in each weekend that gives the riders something to be worried about. I remember you looking a bit worried as you headed up to stage four at Coed Trawllm last year! Mainly I want riders to be worried as they drive to my events, and leave with smiles that last for days afterwards. If you remember the old Dragon Downhill days, that is what I want. I think we achieved that last year, this year is will be the same but with a lot more polish.
Round 1 for example, we have built three brand new stages and extended three of last year’s.
Above all the trails have to be safe as possible. I will not allow big jumps, gap jumps or huge drops to be included in my tracks. Basically, every obstacle is rollable; scary, but rideable.”

What else would you be looking for in a venue?

“Having a great venue is also about the event village. So we need plenty of car parking that is ideally hard standing, campsite onsite or nearby, and plenty of room for the event village. We also need a decent venue for the Saturday night pasta party as well. We also work closely with the local riding network and aim to give something back to these networks after we have visited them.”

Will we be having any sort of trail snack and drink stations at any of the races?

“We will have water and Skratch hydration/energy powders out on the course, so no need to carry heavy backpacks. We even provide cups! There will be a food outlet at the event village, and at most rounds the route layout means that riders will be returning to the village, at least, every other stage. We will also have some form of snack out on the course as an energy top up.”

The series will be kicking off very soon! Who's in?
The series will be kicking off very soon! Who’s in?

How are the entries filling up, are you getting the numbers you hoped for?

“I am really pleased the way the entries are coming in, we are way up on last year and on track to sell out each round so far. The support the riders have shown us as been really encouraging. 4700+ likes on our facebook page shows that we are doing something right and that the #fortheriders message is getting out there.”

Thanks for that Neil, we look forward to seeing you at the races.

You can find out more information on the UK Enduro website.

“Thank you, Jim, for taking the time to contact us, and we are looking forward to seeing you and all the other riders over the year.”

Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: UK ENDURO, Dan Wyre

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