After setting the stage in the epic Dudes of Hazzard/No Fuss enduro back in November 2012, Kinlochleven was well and truly on everyone’s radar as a world class enduro destination. Spurred on by great feedback, the guys from Bluegrass decided to hold a stage of the 2013 Bluegrass enduro series on the rocky, technical trails of the Scottish Highland venue. On the 15th June, over 100 racers turned up to glorious weather, to fight it out on one of the toughest enduros yet held in the UK. Here is SummitDOWN team rider James Knowles impressions from the day!
What an amazing event! Once again the Ice Factor at Kinlochleven was the base, providing refreshments and essential shelter from the insane midgies. The scene was set when the dibbers were handed out for prologue with spare tubes, this was certainly an omen for things to come as I’ve NEVER seen so many punctures, the fast sharp rocks of Kinlochleven make for exciting racing! A lot of the rocks are loose and require you to be loose too, the rest are sharp, pointy and DON’T move!!
SummitDOWN Team riders Brodie Hood and James Knowles bringing the style!
Practise was chilled out, a loop which was one long climb up to the dam above Kinlochleven, then 3 stages in a row, along the famous Ciaran path walking trail. The stages were fast, with grim consequences and required the upmost concentration, the wrong lines weren’t always just slower, some led to fairly gnarly boulders and holes and looking ahead was key.
Then it was a pedal up a tarmac road on the other side of the valley for the afternoon which turned into a track and led to the start of stage 4, this was used in the Dudes Enduro last November with the addition of a few tighter turns taped in. It was fast rocky, great fun and after some committing drops and lines led to some of the most amazing naturally bermed corners and gullies, drawing quite a crowd come race day.
Perfect weather for highlands racing
The prologue was down the west highland way and then onto some old trials bike tracks. The weather gods served up a helping of rain on Saturday night making the rock slippy and the day claimed a ridiculous amount of punctures and mechanicals. Barnes set the fastest time with a 2.43, I crashed on the last corner before the line on the loose rocks but got up to qualify 17th. Team rider Brodie Hood took an OTB’s into a big puddle, ruining not only a good position but also his iPhone!
As is the way with No Fuss, it ran smoothly, no complaints, good big gaps between riders and with a seasoned crew who were on the whole pretty rapid, a sensible order was assumed and there were no problems with traffic at all. On race day you could go off whenever you liked, I find the dibber systems so relaxed, sitting in the sun waiting for the queue to go down it was easy to forget you we were racing not just chilling socially in the sun in the highlands, the weather was perfect!
Kinlochleven providing world class enduro trails!
On Stage 1 I had a cleanish run and held a few sketchy moments, mainly due to forgetting what was coming up! Stage 2 involved a river crossing which you just had to hit hard as the exit was slippy, great fun! Another cleanish run with just one minor gear-related mechanical! Stage 3 was my favourite, big rock gardens preceded and followed by fast flowy singletrack. I hit a good line I’d seen in practise too which doesn’t always happen! Then there were 2 major climbs, the first was quicker running and I think most did, the second was quicker pedalled, coming off the back of that I was so tired I got lazy onboard and caught a rock and flatted. I managed to roll the rest on the rim and finish the stage losing only a little time! At the finish we were met with haggis and sausage rolls, My mate Dan Taylor was not so lucky and had to go off in search of medical attention on a suspected bust wrist.
After a civilised lunch back at the IceFactor, there was time for a quick tubeless tyre repair session, with the whole car park doing the same!! Back on board and up to do stage 4, a lot of guys I spoke to over the weekend said this was gnarlier than some DH tracks on the circuit! It is great that No Fuss together with Barnes, Shirley and Liam use these amazing rocky trails. With the riding so different to most people’s local trails it’s easy to see how the highland guys are so quick! It was also great to see that some events aren’t worried about scaring the less experienced and put quality stages first. I had a good run, aware that a mechanical, puncture or crash here would be easy, I tried to go steady but the track just invited you to get a bit loose and have fun!
Big descents back to the lake!
Overall I came in 12th, 8th in Expert, given the calibre of riders was quite pleased. It bodes well for a Scottish series I’ve heard murmurs of, as the terrain and talent around makes for insanely good racing. Barnes smashed it despite a puncture on 3 (all the best riders suffered punctures too!!) With James Shirley and Liam Moynihan completing a Dudes 1-2-3 on the podium. Katy Winton took a good win in the women’s, Patrick Bruce and Alistair Maclennan took 1/2 in the vets and Ben Miller, an up and coming junior who I had the pleasure of practicing with, took the juniors win by a healthy margin- Top 10 overall! Prize giving was the usual no-fuss style, chilled out laugh with Bluegrass in attendance to say thanks too. It was a shame this event didn’t get a bigger field than just over 100 but the quality was there for good racing and No Fuss demonstrated why in a season so jam packed you can guarantee a trip to the highlands is a good choice.
It was a Dudes of Hazzard 1-2-3 on the podium, with Joe Barnes, James Shirley and Liam Moynihan (pic from the Dudes of Hazzard)!
Full results can be found here
Words: James Knowles
Photos: Brodie Hood
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