For 2018, the immensely popular POC Scottish Enduro Series has matured, playing host to the Continental Enduro Series final in Fort William, the racing is now truly world class. Last weekend, the 2018 Scottish Enduro Series kicked off in fine form in Laggan, showing it has not forgotten its good-vibes foundations.

Just a stone’s throw from Laggan Wolftrax, Dalwhinnie Distillery’s exposed location means that it is regularly cut off in winter – it holds the dubious distinction of being the coldest settlement in the UK
This would be the start of the new season, the highland air filled with the smell of burnt heather, waiting for the spring.

For those who have not been, Laggan Wolftrax is one of the finest trail centres in the UK. Seemingly missing out on the ‘all must be armoured surfaces and easy’ memo, anyone who has taken on the Laggan Black route at speed will be recognisable by a 1000 yard stare and characteristic wince every time someone mentions rock slabs. One of the most perfectly built trails, cutting down through mighty rocks and drops, it’s one of those special trails you could ride all day and not get bored. But there is more to Laggan than the sculpted trails, and the Scottish Enduro Series was intent on showcasing the best of the hidden gold for the opening round of the season.

With fresh new branding, and a round of the Continental Enduro Series to host, the POC SES is stepping up its game in 2018.
There was great confusion in the morning, it was April – in the Scottish Highlands – and it was sunny? What on earth was this voodoo?
Friends reunited; after a long off-season, the first order of the day was catching up.
With the last remains on winter still on the mountain tops, it was a relief to only need shorts and jerseys.
Stoked to be racing again

After a winter gripped in the clenched fist of deep snow and cold temperatures, most of the racers winter training programs had consisted of marathon Netflix sessions, and there was a look of ‘bear coming out of hibernation’ around the pits. It did not take long for the special vibe of the POC Scottish Enduro Series to kick in, and as soon as pedals started spinning, the atmosphere was jubilant. Old faces were joined with new ones, and as younger pinners moved up a category they were replaced with hungrier, faster youngsters riding with the abandon that is only possible if mortgage free.

Heading up to the stages, everyone was nervous about what would be in store, no doubt it would get a little wild.
Nobody really likes climbing; luckily No Fuss knew everyone would have the lung-power of a hamster, so kept the loop short and sweet.
Eyes on stalks, straight into it and Stage one was a battle in the dark.
You could actually hear racers willpower snap on Heartbreak hill, the burial ground of Netflix training sessions.
“I’m off the mutha flipping hill”, racing to the finish of Stage 2

With a chilled race village full of campers and tents, the Laggan Wolftrax Cafe was working double time supplying steak burgers and coffee, while excited pre-race social media updates hammered the Wifi. The weather was perfect, sunny and dry and too early in the year for Scotland’s favourite pest, the mighty midge. Knowing that for most, peak fitness was still a dream, organisers had kept the course short and punchy, a 24 km loop with 5 feisty stages that had enough spice to blow off the cobwebs. Stages were the classic Laggan style, fast, wild and full of rocks. Direct lines here mean a ride straddling the handlebar, taming the angry horse. It was Stage Three, already prematurely proclaimed as the ‘best stage of the season’ that had everyone hot under the collar, a devilish mixture of some of the world’s finest flowing turns, punctuated with intensely steep surprise corners, and a rock garden where even the good lines were bad lines. This was a riders stage, built to be ridden, and we hear rumours that some riders ‘practised’ it 4 times. Stage four was the classic Laggan Black. A giants causeway of boulders and slabs, constructed with the sole purpose of pushing suspension and brakes to the limit. This is Enduro racing like nowhere else, huge slab features dominate, and nerves run high.

Stage 3, the racers choice, fast, flowy, a little bit crazy, a lot crazy, then flowy again.
Lindsay Carruthers testing out the support of the upper turns, not as much as expected it seems
Lewis Buchanan railing the hell out of ‘the corner’
Then……..hold my beer. Maximum effort.
The entire day was golden, great trails and great weather.

The day of racing went without a hitch, the short course even allowed a relaxed stop for lunch between stages, the air full of “did you see my line” chatter. After the last rider had rolled through the finish and the podiums were done, all agreed it had been a fantastic start to the season, but more than that it was a chance for 300 friends to catch up again after a long winter. Like a fine bottle of single malt, the essence of the Scottish Enduro series has matured, half serious, half ridiculous, you can fight for milliseconds against the world’s best riders, as tight as any EWS, or simply try and stay out of the bushes. This is the balance that makes the Scottish Enduro Series so much fun.

Steak burgers were a welcome distraction at lunch.
Back to it, Elena Melton dropping into Stage 4
Full speed in the trees, there is a line
Janey Kennedy on the hunt, and her way to third.
Lewis Kirkwood putting his knees and a Pipedream Moxie to the test.
From deep winter to summer in one week.
Fiona Beattie charging the rocks.
Bonkers stunt of the race, Lewis Buchanan pulling up on this ‘hospital huck’. Madman.
Heckle squad (though nicely) in the house.

The racing could not have been closer, the full results can be found here, for the overall win there were only 9.6 seconds in it, Ibis’s Lewis Buchanan won one stage and was almost second for second with Canyon’s Joe Barnes on most stages but Joe is the king of Laggan, and he lit up the Black (stage 4), taking 9 seconds and the win. Focus’s Joe Connell is a new name to the Scottish Enduro Series, but no stranger to racing, stealing third place. In the women’s categories, Elena Melton took a comfortable win in the Juniors, and the second fastest time overall, but Niamh Doherty is getting faster and faster, taking second but always closing the gap. Louise Ferguson took the win in the Senior Females, followed by Catriona MacDonald and Janey Kennedy, only 6 seconds behind. But it was Roslynn Newman who was crowned queen of Laggan, setting the fastest time of the day, it’s great to see Roz firing on all cylinders again.

Joe Connell charging hard to third
…but Joe Barnes is the king of Laggan
That’s what its all about, the new school moving in.
The inner battles are fierce, every second counts.
Beard or hair, we are still not sure.
A solid result for Joe, but Lewis had him on the ropes for a while

Special mention should also go out to Badley Illingworth, Lindsay Carruthers, Callum Thornley, Scott Aisthorpe, Steve Bradley, John Young winning the Masters Male, Grand Vet Male, Junior Male, Senior Male, Super Grand Vet Male and Veteran Male categories respectively. Let’s not forget Kirsten Thomson and Stuart Mackay for taking the wins in the short course, you guys are killing it. We would like to also spend a second in remembrance of Lewis Kirkwood’s knees, racing and winning the Hardtail Category.

Bikes cleaned, and it’s onto the next round. Innerleithen

For more info on the POC Scottish Enduro Series, check out the website.

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Words: No Fuss Photos: Trevor Worsey