I’ve not spent much time in the Lake District, arriving late to a campsite on Saturday evening on the best weekend of the year so far for weather, the place was beautiful! We’d (boyfriend Adam and I) had a pretty epic weekend already, Bournemouth to Sheffield for Peaty’s Steel City Downhill, then to Grizedale in the evening casting aside our broken down van for a hire one along the way! Needless to say we were glad to get to sleep, hoping to feel refreshed for racing the second round of the Empire Cycles PMBA Enduro series. The Facebook page (what did we do before Facebook?) for the event describes their races as a grass-roots, fun enduro series. Empire Cycles are the title sponsor, giving away 6 of their new MX-6EVO framesets for the series first prizes in the six main categories. Other sponsors include Hope, Singletrack Magazine, KS and Ride Slovenia.

20140518-PMBA 2 Griz stage 3 top of dh-1

Up and about pretty early on Sunday, we got to the event venue before 8am in order to registered and start practice. This enduro was a one day race, with practice in the morning and then racing starting in the afternoon. The PMBA guys run a start groups of 10 people at a time, about 10 minutes apart. At registration you choose a start time, the 10 other spaces then fill up around you. Using the dib in/out timing system, there is no set time to be at each stage, just make sure you ride the stages in order and be back by the end of the day. This is a great, relaxed way to run an event meaning you get to pedal round with a group of guys rather than on your own pushing for the transition time.

It’s a great introduction for beginners, showing PMBA doing its bit for the grassroots of the sport. The start arena also doubled as the finish line and was a real focal point for the day, placed perfectly near to the cafe, with music playing the atmosphere was great! Unbeknownst to us we found ourselves lined up on the start next to someone Ad knows from a coaching weekend, what are the chances?! That’s what I love about enduro, there’s always a friendly face. By the end of the afternoon as we all rode round together, I was cheering on the rest of our group of 10 and comparing stage times – a great race atmosphere. I’m sure this was replicated in every group.

20140518-PMBA 2 Griz Stage 1 Rooty FP drop

Having not done the first round I wasn’t sure what the guys at PMBA would provide. It is Grizedale so I’m thinking natural rocky, loose with some muddy fun in the woods? But then again the race was being held at a trail centre so was there going to be some man made trials thrown in? I’d read Trev’s previous article covering round 1 and the motto was “go big or go home” so I was expecting a day of pretty big riding. We, weren’t let down, not in stage three at least but more on that later. The theme for round 2 has to be “PEDAL!” You know how it’s shouted and when it’s shouted – when you have to turn the cranks hard and fast and get the power down!

20140518-PMBA 2 Griz frsh cut above dh stage 3-1

Stage 1

So onto the racing, what you really want to know about! I was about to write stage 1 was the most physically demanding, then I remembered how I felt at the end of each stage and I’ll cancel that – all stages were hard on the lungs, hard on the legs and hard on the brain!

So stage 1….. Beginning on the flat in a clearing it rose up (yes, up) briefly before descending on a natural track, providing some sneaky off piste lines and fun roots to jump off. Through a narrow gateway and the going got tough – faced with part of a red route an undulating trail centre track is not something usually thought of as that hard. Ride it at race pace though, with another rider breathing down your neck only 20 seconds behind you and believe me, it’s pretty horrendous! Just to top it off throw in some big slabs of rock requiring some trials like manoeuvres to get over, it was testing. I was not the only one to be very glad to dib out at the end of the stage.

20140518-PMBA 2 Griz estage 1 fresh cut-1

Stage 2

Stage 2 started in the woods just above a different part of the same trail centre red route. Riders were sent quickly onto the red trail, which required some pedalling to keep momentum, following it down to the next fire road. Here began the mother of all fire road sprints! At least 300m of lung busting, uphill pedalling! It was an absolute killer, it took almost as much strength to regain your composure and drop off the fire road onto the red route again. This made up the end of the shortest trail of the day, swooping down on a typical red route descent – nothing too tricky here.

20140518-PMBA 2 Griz bottom of dh line stage 3-1

Stage 3

Stage 3 was a completely different kettle of fish! After a push up some typical Lake District rock, this stage began just above the treeline. Diving quickly in to the cover of the trees, it became clear this was going to be much more technical track than the last. The first two corners became one straight line to the more experienced racers, then twisting through the trees on the approach to a massive boulder that all but blocked the route though, staying left it was negotiable with a slight foot dab for me. Some pumped over, keeping it buttery smooth with feet firmly on the pedals. The track then dropped down off another rock before spitting you out over roots into an area cleared of trees. Here the track went straight down the side of the hill, with pretty much no grip. Touching the front brake meant certain death, leaving both brakes alone took balls! Across a fire road and the track moved onto the black trail centre route.

This contained an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ line, with ‘A’ clearly being miles faster just requiring an huck off the top of some rocks (also rollable), down into a dip keeping enough momentum to propel you up over a pile of rocks to re-join the higher level track. A few berms and jumps later and it was time to get your sprint on again. Uphill (the least preferred gradient) this one took in another 300m of fire road……. hell! Dropping in again to the only slightly damp part of the course, it was time to negotiate slab style rocks and tight corners before a trail centre sprint to the line, nicely finishing in the start arena.

I found it to be a pretty testing and varied days riding, well planned stages gave something for everyone, whatever their level of riding or their strengths. Here are the ones that were strong on the day, results time:
Elite rider Helen Gaskell took the win in the women’s category, followed by Claire Bennett, Emma Wareham took the third step. The Senior men win was taken by Ed Roberts in a time of 11:38 making him the fastest man on the hill, second was Joe Young, followed by Matthew Jones.

The biggest class of the day was the Masters with 107 entrants. Matthew Prichard took the win here in a time of 11:42, Jan Czugalanski was second and Dan Greenwood third. Next up the Vets was won by Andrew Mee followed by David Bentley and Paul Dixon. The Grand Vet category was won by Howard Stuttard, second step was Nick Wilkin and third Stephen Faulkner. Rowan Carpenter took the win in the U18 cat, Lewis Murphy on a hardtail took second and Dan Hole third. Finally Lee Kermode finished in a time of 11:42 in the Pro cat, ahead of David Mirfield and Joe Flanagan.

Ladies: 1st Helen Gaskell 13:13, 2nd Claire Bennett 14:48, 3rd Emma Wareham 15:17
Ladies: 1st Helen Gaskell 13:13, 2nd Claire Bennett 14:48, 3rd Emma Wareham 15:17
Grand Vet: 1st Howard Stuttard 13:26, 2nd Nick Wilkin 13:55, 3rd Stephen Faulkner 15:01
Grand Vet: 1st Howard Stuttard 13:26, 2nd Nick Wilkin 13:55, 3rd Stephen Faulkner 15:01
Vet: 1st Andrew Mee 12:31, 2nd David Bentley 12:43, 3rd Paul Dixon 12:48
Vet: 1st Andrew Mee 12:31, 2nd David Bentley 12:43, 3rd Paul Dixon 12:48
Pro: 1st Lee Kermode 11:42, 3rd David Mirfield 11:51, 3rd Joe Flanagan 11:58
Pro: 1st Lee Kermode 11:42, 3rd David Mirfield 11:51, 3rd Joe Flanagan 11:58
U18: 1st Rowan Carpenter 12:22, 2nd Lewis Murphy 13:07, 3rd Dan Hole 13:36
U18: 1st Rowan Carpenter 12:22, 2nd Lewis Murphy 13:07, 3rd Dan Hole 13:36

For me, the best I could do for On-One bikes was a 4th place on my new blue mean machine! I know I let time slip away from me in the pedal of stage 1 and then made expensive mistakes in both of the other stages. I go away from this, with the PMBA organisers reminding me that enduro isn’t all just downhill. It requires grit, determination and the ability to pedal through the pain – something I am going to try my best to dig out before round 2 of UK Gravity Enduro and upcoming Enduro World Series!

Photos: Nick Moor

Words: Rachael Gurney

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