Having had such a great time at the Redbull Foxhunt in September, I was desperate to fit in one last race before the end of the season. So when a couple of entries for the last round of the PMBA Enduro Series at Gisburn went up for grabs a few days before the race, Dan and I were straight on them. Since moving down to Liverpool 6 months ago, Gisburn has become one of my favourite places to ride, which made the prospect of doing a race there even more exciting.
As we’d signed up so late, there was already much speculation about the course, which was apparently part of the reason for a few people pulling out. Rumours of a stage on the downhill line, and another with a long uphill sprint were confirmed when the course was officially released the next day, but there were also some less daunting stages.
There were five stages in total; three of which consisted of sections of ‘The 8’ red route, and two lesser known, more ‘off piste’ routes that had been marked out especially for races.
Unlike the previous couple of races I’d done, which had taken place over two days, the PMBA enduros are generally one-day events, with practice in the morning and the actual race in the afternoon. Once again we were lucky with the weather and it was relatively mild and dry underfoot, or rather, under tyre.
Having said that, there was still plenty of mud on stage one, although apparently not nearly as much as there was for the last race held there in March, which was a total mudfest! Stage one consisted of a relatively new section of trail that had been built especially for this year’s enduro races. It was a tight muddy trail through the forest, with plenty of awkwardly positioned slippery roots to keep you on your toes. There were some tricky bits so I spent a while in practice choosing the best lines. My attempt to pick up the pace a bit for my race run resulted in me hitting the deck within the first hundred metres, which wasn’t the best start. Deciding it was probably better to stay on the bike than just hurl myself down as fast as possible, I proceeded with a bit more caution, focusing on the line choices and tactics I’d decided on in practice. Perhaps I was a little overly cautious, as it ended up being my worst stage, although that was probably inevitable after such a bad start!
The end of stage one came out on the blue trail centre route, which I’d never ridden before, but it eventually linked up to the all too familiar fire road and the steep slog up to the top of the Hope Line and the quarry.
Stage two started at the top of ‘Bigfoot Slab’ up on Whelpstone Crag and ended shortly after Hully Gully. Having ridden that line quite a few times we decided not to bother heading up there for a practice run so that we could focus on the stages that we didn’t know so well.
Even though I’d ridden the slab several times before, I still felt slightly nervous as I queued to drop in for my race run. Although not as bad as it looks, it can feel a little daunting being perched near the top waiting to take the plunge, and I was glad I’d mustered the courage to give it a go previously. In reality I should probably have been more nervous about the 200m hill sprint that lay in store after the initial descent, as that was definitely the hardest part of stage two. By the time I got to the top, my lungs and legs were screaming, so it was quite a relief to start the rollercoaster ride that is Hully Gully, which was as much fun as ever.
Stage three started at the top of the downhill line, and was the one that I was most apprehensive about. Other than a short section near the bottom, I hadn’t really ridden Gisburn’s downhill trails, so was unsure what to expect. However, a quick recce on foot of what I was told was the most difficult section helped to put my mind at ease. Other than a series of pretty big drops, which I was ok with, there was nothing too daunting, and it actually ended up being one of my favourite stages. After the downhill line there was a section through the forest with multiple line choices, which was also great fun. I took a bit of time in practice to session a few bits of the lower section, which was definitely worth doing. I actually rode the top section better in practice though and had a bit of a wobble on one of the drops in my race run. Fortunately I managed to hold it together and stay on the bike, but it was a close one!
Stage four was on the Hope Line; a fun descent crammed full of berms, jumps, tabletops and drops. We often miss it out on a trip to Gisburn as a certain riding buddy doesn’t like to do the slog of a fire road climb more than once, so it was good to have an excuse to ride it again. I didn’t ride it as well as I’d have liked in my race run, but it was fun nonetheless.
The fifth and final stage was another familiar section of ‘The 8’; a swoopy trail with lots of ups and downs that required a fair bit of pedaling. I ended up getting my best time on this section, coming fourth in the women’s category, which reassured me that at least my fitness wasn’t too bad!
Overall, I finished 8th out of 16 women, which I was pretty happy with for my third ever enduro. The indomitable Bex Baraona not only won the round, but the entire series, just pipping Martha Gill to the post.
It was great to squeeze in one last race before the end of the season and now I can’t wait until it all kicks off again next year. The dates for next year’s PMBA Enduro Series have just been released and I’m very excited about the prospect of entering the whole series.
Discovering new lines to ride at Gisburn was also an added bonus, and has spiced up our Gissy shred days no end!