For Round 5, the POC Scottish Enduro Series turned it up to 11 in the spiritual homeland of burly Scottish slabs, Laggan Wolftrax. The woods thundered with the sounds of whoops of joy and clanging rims as racers merrily hammered their wheels into squares, who would be victorious in the legendary venue?

Laggan Wolftrax lies deep in the Scottish Highlands, there’s some trail gold hidden in those hills.

After a monstrous Round 4 in Innerleithen, the series had headed north, deep into the Scottish Highlands to the jewel of Scottish trail centre riding, Laggan Wolftrax. Hidden between Aviemore and Spean Bridge, Laggan is often mentioned in a whisper with accompanying 1000 yard stare by those who have experienced it’s concentrated rocky punch. Organisers No-Fuss had kept things a little shorter for this round, delivering over 20 minutes of timed stages from a three-hour loop, but that’s not to say that the round was going to be easy, oh no. While the trail centres of the Tweed Valley or Dumfries and Galloway may deliver adrenaline as if on tap, Laggan is like being thumped in the face with a boxing glove full of it, a test of strength and nerve.

The only way to start the day – the amazing Laggan Wolftrax Cafe delivered.
Choices choices…….
Clearly a Laggan SES veteran, though admitedly the midges seemed unprepared this round.
Hardies Bikes were kept busy all weekend – the Laggan trails are anything but gentle.
The new Orbea certainly caught our attention.
Mossie net or pants? The SES’s answer to Steven Spielberg, expect a new video banger to drop very shortly.
It was great to see the new multifunction ‘enduro specific stem/face buffer’ finally making its debut.

The team at Granton-on-Spey based Basecamp Bikes had worked super hard with the preparation of the course, adding many new sections and sneaky lines to surprise those who know Laggan well. The build-up to the event could not have been worse when it came to the weather, solid rain with no letting up, it was going to be slick. The classic stages were all in place but with enough naughty twists to keep everyone on their toes. Stages 1 – 3 were all on ‘the other side’, far from the armoured trail centre with not a berm in sight, just wild off-camber tech fests with a side-order of crazy. Deep under the dark forest canopy, racers took on roots and loose rock in near darkness, on terrain that has not been dry since the days that dinosaurs walked the earth. Momentum was key to fast times, but also to impromptu foliage collection. Muddy faces and big smiles (of relief) filled the fire-road at the bottom of Stage 3.

When day becomes night, despite racing in the middle of the day, some riders had packed lights – does not seem so daft now.
Stages 1 – 3 were all deep in the thick forest, it took nerve or stupidity to hold it wide open here.

Born again, firing out of the forest and into the open on Stage 2

After a quick steak sandwich refuel at the awesome Laggan Wolftrax cafe it was back to business. While there were just two stages left to race, they were proper monsters. Stage 4 was a full-bore charge down the Laggan Black route. We can only assume that upon completion of the Black Route many years ago, the builders lay down their tools and retired to Spain, filled with sadness as they knew their best work was forever behind them – the Black is the perfect trail. Huge rock slabs and crazy direct lines dominate, take a poor line choice here and you could wave goodbye to your rims. With enough fresh cut to keep everyone sharp, it was just the ticket to refresh the batteries before the monumental effort of Stage 5. The final showdown, the big kahuna, the lung buster, Stage 5 was all of these things and much more. For most riders it was a 10-minute lactic acid explosion, pedalling and battling from the very top of the mountain to the bottom, through rocks, roots with the sadistic addition of some sharp climbs to shock the system. Never has a ‘finish’ sign been more welcome.

The other side of the hill was a different beast entirely, rocks were the order of the day.
Contemplation of the long stage to come – everyone had to dig deep for Stage 4 and 5.
Ella Conolly is flying at the moment.
Spirits were high.
Joe Barnes is the King of Laggan, get him a crown.

The field was stacked, perhaps the best round yet. All the Scottish enduro big guns were in the house to throw down some times, Ben Cathro, Chris Hutchens, Christo Gallagher, Joe Connell, Callum McCubbing were all keen to try and catch series leader Lewis Buchanan, but there was a wildcard too, Joe Barnes, the king of Laggan was ready to upset the balance. When the results came in, it was Joe Barnes who had whitewashed it, taking the win in every stage and putting almost 30 seconds into the rest of the field. Lewis Buchanan took second and still looks set for the overall, while Chris Hutchens took a solid third. In the women Kirstin Moynihan took a solid victory in the Senior Ladies, but it’s in the juniors where the real magic is happening, Ella Conolly was in a league of her own, putting in over 2 minutes over the rest of the women’s field and setting a crazy fast time to take the win. She was followed by Louise Ferguson and Niamh Doherty, who set the second and third fastest women’s times of the day respectively. Huge credit should also go to Paul French in the Grand Vets, Kevin Ostroznik in the Hardtail Cat (? crazy), Gregor Nixon in the Junior Males, Lawrence Juliussen in the Masters, Calum Grant in the Seniors, Steve Bradley in the Super Vets, Margaret Weir in the Vet Females and David Ogden in the Vets. Also special mention to Diana McLaren and Graeme McCart the short course winners – great effort folks.

As always, the medics, timing and marshalls were faultless, never has enduro racing felt so well organised. Special thanks to the Laggan Wolftrax Cafe who kept the engines stocked up all day with amazing food. The next round is the final showdown, the end of the season, and no venue could be more fitting than Dunkeld.

The next round is in Dunkeld, it will be all to play for.

Plans for 2018 are already afoot and there is no better time to sample some of Scotland’s finest trails than to join in an SES round. It’s high time more riders from south of the border come up to check out what Scotland has to offer. Full news of the 2018 schedule will be dropping very soon.

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Words: No Fuss Photos: Trevor Worsey