THREE BY THREE: A unique insight into the present and future of the UK Gravity Enduro Series

“Can you set up an interview with Steve Parr?” This was Enduro Mag’s question to me, Steve, being the main man behind the massively growing, ever popular UK Gravity Enduro race series. I gave it a days though and said “I can come up with better than that, how about I get Steve, Neil Donoghue (Elite 2012 UK Gravity Enduro champion) and Rich Lewis (Veteran 2012 UK Gravity Enduro champion) to join in? We all meet up, as we’re all local to one another and Steve, Donny and Richi all get to ask the other ones three questions each?” The answer was yes from the mag, so we met up at the local eatery, here in Shrewsbury for some fodder and a good few beers, pretty soon the Enduro brains started to work overtime!



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Steve Parr, Neil Donoghue and Rich Lewis put the Enduro world to rights

Richi to Steve: Have you thought of having a National Championship race weekend?

Steve: Yes, I don’t know whether to do an actual weekend or roll it into one of the events, because in the UK July’s predominantly piss wet through, for the past 5 years the weather in July’s just been terrible, I’m undecided, but yes it’s definitely on the agenda.

Richi: OK, going on from that then, what do you think the future for the UK GE is and where would you like to see it grow?

Steve: The future, well, the future’s bright, the future’s Gravity Enduro! We need help from elite riders and advice, we’ve gotta get the press right this year, we’ve not focussed on the press for the past two years. We’ve gotta get the format right, little things that go with the format haven’t been right before, but we think we’ve got them right this year. I think its gunna fly this year, I mean Round one sold out in a day! Yes the future’s bright, it’s a lot of hard work but God it’s so much fun. Like DH and XC, they have the pyramid format, you’ve got grass roots races, and they filter into the top of the series National races, so that’s what we now need, we need a proper structure, it’s coming, fingers crossed, but three years time we’ll have that proper structure in place for Gravity Enduro.

Richi: That leads me into, the sport’s attracting all sorts of riders from downhill to cross country, even trail centre jockeys like myself! (laughter) what do you think it favours, do you think it favours any particular discipline?

Steve: To be honest I think it favours really fit downhillers, not detracting from cross country, but the state of cross country in this country at the moment is pretty gash innit! That’s my opinion, but I think the popularity is down to the bike. For downhill and cross country, you’ve gotta have one bike for that race, your race bike’s gunna be sat on the wall for six months a year, it’s gunna come out for six weekends a year! You’ve got your super light carbon 29er for your xc or your big downhill bike, they’re just gunna sit there, whereas the bike you train on for Enduro, you can put a chain device on and you can come out racing, so you literally need one bike instead of three! One bike to do everything! Unlike Donny here who can have three Enduro bikes (laughter) It’s gunna grow, because there’s so many of these trail bikes out there now, you go to your local bike shop and ask which bike sells the most, it won’t be your 29er, hardtail or DH bike, it’ll be a 150 trail bike, that’s what sells, and that’s what this series is aimed at!

Richi to Don: OK, the sport’s growing and new riders are entering the series, where do you see your biggest threat, and with that in mind have you changed your approach to this year?

Don: The biggest threat will always be a top World Cup downhiller who’s really fit, like Steve said, I worry I’m not fit enough and I haven’t raced downhill for a couple of years, so imagine if Greg Minnar showed up, I’d find it very hard to compete.

Richi: The question on everybody’s tongue at the moment is 26, 650, or 29er, what are your thoughts on it?

Don: It really depends on the trail, I reckon smaller wheels will always be better on technical stuff, so I’d imagine I’d probably stay on the smaller side, 26 or probably a 650.

Richi: Where would you like the sport to grow?

Don: Well it’s good to see the World series and see how that goes, but just the general popularity, if it grows, it’s good for everyone, a better series in the UK will always develop, that sort of thing comes from popularity, so the more riders the better I think.

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Steve to Don: As an elite rider, have you ever used your status to get laid!? (lots of laughter)

Don: Indirectly maybe! I remember when I met Leanne (my fiancee) she asked me what I did for a job and didn’t believe me and thought I was a dick, so it actually worked against me! (more laughter)

Steve: As an elite rider, how do you see the Enduro scene moving forwards and progressing?

Don: I guess everything’s gunna improve organically, there’s nothing majorly wrong with it at all, I guess for me personally I prefer some venues over others, but that’s just me, I might not like one venue and other guys will, but that’s down to where my strengths lie. But I guess it’s good to have a good mix of tracks, whereas downhill is always racing the same sort of thing, Enduro show’s a bit more who’s the best rider I think, so that’s where it should stay, trying to find the overall best mountain bike rider’s what it’s all about!

Steve: And my final question, I know I’m only meant to do three but the first wasn’t a proper one!! What do you think of C@@@s cutting corners!?

Don: I’ve said loads about this, people will think I’v got a chip on my shoulder or something, I guess I’m not into it, but people always try to push boundaries, you’ve seen with Frenchies taking EPO or whatever it is, so people will always try and take the piss, you just gotta try and stop them I suppose.

Steve to Richi: What does it feel like to be the oldest elite rider in the UK? (laughter)

Richi: It’s pretty cool actually, chuffed really, to show people that age doesn’t have to be too much of  barrier, it can help, it doesn’t have to hinder!

Steve: Has your moving into elite changed your winter training programme?

Richi: Yes it has changed a lot, I’ve had some coaching tips from a few of my friends like Donny here, I’ve had some tips on training programmes too, I’ve tried to focus quite hard on where I was weak last year; technical ability. Definitely my pre-race ritual will not be getting bladdered the night before! (laughter)

Steve: Leading on from that quite nicely, we noticed you consumed a lot of alcohol out of your trophy at the end of series party last year, have you curbed your enthusiasm for beer in light of your up coming races?!

Richi: I’d like to say yes I have (as an elite athlete) unfortunately no, I did drink a lot that night didn’t I, I think I passed out!! Yea I suppose I have cut down a bit on my alcohol consumption. But that end of year party was good, being overall winner meant quite a lot to me. To be able to let my hair down and having won the last round as well was great!

Don to Steve: Big thing this year, I’ve found I’ve had a lot more sponsors interest, but the one concern I did hear is with press coverage, Enduro (unlike downhill) is actually quite hard to cover. As far as racing goes you can have a results sheet and that’s about it, when it comes to the “up to the minute” results, how do you think that can be got around?

Steve: Well the first thing is, I haven’t particularly been bothered about the press coverage, I wanted to make the format work, If you can’t have a product for the riders, what’s the point in giving it to the press?! The riders are pretty happy with the format now and we are 99.9 percent sure we’ve got the timing glitch sorted, so the timing should be the most accurate in the World, so now we are starting to roll stuff out to the press. It’s a rolling thing with me, there’s no point trying to sell a product if it’s crap!

Don: The attraction with Enduro is that anyone can show up, so you get all the average Joes showing up. Where do you think that lies with the future of it, will it still stay in the realms of the average guy, or as it progresses do you think it will focus more on the higher level of rider?

Steve: I had a thing in the back of mine that I wanted to move it that way, make a points system, so once we’ve got a points system in place we can make the courses harder. You made a very, very good point there, and what I thought the most is, I’m not after all elitist riders, I’m after the average Joes. Basically what I wanna do is have people turn up and have a good weekends racing. I still can’t get over how friendly the guys are, coming from a downhill background and organising the NPS’s for three years I still cant get over how friendly everybody is in Enduro, there’s no cocks, no real big heads like in DH.

Don: I know the courses in Europe tend to be a bit more extreme, I’ve not raced any Euro rounds, except the Mega Avalanche, but the tracks over there are definitely more gnarly, do you think you might run things over here with a bit more of a mix, where some might be a bit more technical or others easier for example?

Steve: One thing I’ll say here, and I will make a point of this, the more 29er freak wheels we get, the more technical I’m gunna make it! The UK’s landscape is totally different to the rest of Europe, we’ve got no huge mountains, unless you go right up to Scotland or deep into Wales, where you can’t get a course in there anyway! So its always gunna stay that average Joe can do most of the tracks, but the more 29ers I see, the more tight corners will be going in!! (laughter) As you said earlier, it’s all about having fun trails and every round will be different, Afan is a fitness round, get that test out of the way and you’ll know where your base is. Innerleithen is really technical, really physical, round three Hamsterly is a total 50/50 mix. Then we’ve got round four in Dyfi which is just mental, the fastest bits where you’ll be hitting 40mph, finally Triscombe is all natural downhill, where a 29er is definitely not gunna win!

Don  to Richi: Bit of a two parter this first one, how long have you ridden mountain bikes?

Richi: 23 years!

Don: You’ve only just started racing mountain bikes?

Richi: Yeah I did a couple of local mountain bike races in 92, they were just classed as mountain bike races, more like cross country. I then started training with mates that were big into racing, but never got into racing at all!

Don: So why now?

Richi: I just saw this discipline which seemed to be what bought me back into mountain bikes, riding trail centres and six inch travel bikes and I thought I’ll have ago at that, hoping I’d have a good season, maybe pick up some trophies throughout the year!

Don: I consider myself really competitive, and if I ever ride with people it always turns into a competition and I find that you’re the same, have you always been competitive?

Richi: Yeah, that’s a bit of an unfortunate trait of mine, If I can’t win I don’t like to play, yeah, I’m pretty competitive at everything I do, certainly mountain biking!

Don: I went into elite at the age of 18, you’re now going into elite at the age of 44, for me it was a big deal, making a career out of it and there was a lot of pressure, I guess for you being an older guy, you’ve had a job, you’ve had a career, you’re not going to base your living on mountain biking now, so does that have a slightly different feel to it, or do you still feel pressure?

Richi: I think I feel the pressure because I’v put the pressure on myself, obviously I want to do well, I don’t want to show myself up, I had a great season last year, I’v been riding with the likes of yourself over the winter, so I’ll try hard and I suppose the pressure’s off being older. Plus I’m retiring from work this year and I’m going to devote my time to training for 2014, so this year’s gunna be a bit of a run in to next year when I will be completely ready for it!!

So after a great night talking about what we all love, bikes and racing, we all shot off our separate ways back to our homes to hit the sack and dream of racing victories and perfect tracks!! A big thanks to Richi, Steve and Don and best of luck from all of us at Enduro Mountain bike Magazine for the coming season, watch this space to see their progress

For more information on the UK Gravity Enduro 2013 check out http://www.ukgravityenduro.com/

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Interview by Jim Buchanan


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About the author

Trev Worsey

Trevor loves adventure. Whisky, riding his bike and everything in between. Though he was born in England, he believes he should have been Scottish. Besides being accustomed to bad weather he's a specialist when it comes to steep and demanding trails. Once, he was in love with competition and raced in the early years of the EWS, but now, at 41-years-old, he no longer has anything to prove. Nonetheless, demonstrating that you can teach an old dog new tricks, he continues to hold his own against the wild and fearless youth. As a reminder of his new role as a father, the words “Think about Brook." (his son) are inscribed on his top tube as a gentle warning against unruly riding. Together with his young family and two crazy dogs, you will almost always find him outdoors. Whether it's teaching Brook to ride trails, hammering out gravel loops, surfing, skiing or canoeing, he’ll be there no matter the weather, like a true Scotsman.