Winter took it’s own good time to leave these shores this year and like many other forests around the country, Ballinastoe took a battering in the seemingly never-ending storms that left trees upturned and trails waterlogged everywhere.

On the climb to stage 1 overlooking Vartry lakes.
On the climb to stage 1 overlooking Vartry lakes.

Thankfully a trojan effort by the trailbuilding team, a relatively fine week’s weather in the run up to the event and with most riders helpfully training elsewhere to rest the trails, most of the natural sections of the stages were sweet and loamy by race weekend, despite an isolated few wet and muddy patches here and there.

Competitors sessioning stage 2

Not that a little mud was going to put any of the 350 entrants off – for sure, in an ideal world, we’d all love to be attacking totally bone dry dusty trails in the sun but who doesn’t relish the challenge that the occasional slippery, sliddery, skiddery bit of trail provide also?

Cormac Phelan or "Mr Whippy"
Cormac Phelan or “Mr Whippy”

So then, Sunday morning saw the field take off bright and early to battle it out over the course and the 5 timed Special Stages to see whose winter training, bike handling, fettling and tyre choice was going to prove the best.


Competitors faced 865 metres of climbing & 763 metres of descents over a total race distance of 27.6 kilometers comprising both steep challenging technical descents in the forest loam and hard charging, pedally, hardpacked singletrack, with a few lung busting climbs thrown in for good measure, it was truly a test of both rider skill and fitness.

Damian Mulchrone on his Giant.
Damian Mulchrone on his Giant.

As the first race of the ever more popular series it was always going to be popular and in fact had sold out over a month ago and competitors were queueing eagerly in the race village early on saturday morning to get signed up and out on the trails for practise. Strong entries therefore were present in all classes with no small shortage of talent either, so the racing, as was to be expected, was tight.

Glyn O'Brien riding his Nukeproof Mega.
Glyn O’Brien riding his Nukeproof Mega.

The 14-18 Category was secured by Conor Lavelle, with Rob Hales and Scott Wallace taking second and third spots respectively.
Howie Millar took the honours in the 19-29 Category, closely followed by Lindsay Watson and Mark Lennon.
In the hotly contested 30-35 category, Alan Mellon was the victor with Simon Lennon and Luke Ireland battling it out for the other podium spots.
In the biggest field of the day, Ian Coates took a dominant 50 second win in the 35-39 category over Damien Mulchrone and Glyn O’Brien.
Similarly Joules Dormer, stormed home to victory in the 40-49 category with an impressive one minute, 44 second advantage over nearest rival Darragh Smith, with Peter Durbridge taking up the third spot.

Gravity Enduro R1 Mens Pro podium

Joe Bergin took top honours in the over 50 Category followed by Stephen Graham and Karl Thomas.
Team took the top two spots in the Pro category with Gavin Carroll and Peirse Griffin and third spot was taken by Peter Boaden
In fact Team were absolutely dominant with Carroll, Lavell and Griffin absolutely annihilating the trails to take the three best times of the day overall.

The womens Category featured another dominant performance by Leah Maunsell, followed home by MBW Kona teammate Shona Darcy with Silvia Gallagher taking third.

2014 Gravity Enduro R1 Womens podium

The whole results can be found here.

As an opening event, we could hardly have wished for better. A sold out field, dry, bright weather, great racing, banter and craic aplenty. Erdinger even laid on free beer at the finish, non alcoholic of course and the prizegiving ceremony was as ever, hilariously entertaining with MC Dave Carroll presiding on the mic.

MC Dave Carroll and series organiser Niall Davis

As an indicator of where mountain biking in Ireland is in general and the sport of enduro in particular, we’re in a good place. We’re looking forward to the next round already.

Team with suspension guru James O'Carroll of OC Tuning.

Incidentally, there are still some entries available for the next round in a little under 6 weeks time in Ticknock, so hurry to avoid disappointment.

Words: Alan Dufy | Pictures: Alan & Marta Duffy |

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.