When the alarm went off early on Saturday morning, I started to wonder whether entering a two-day Enduro the day after doing my British Cycling Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership assessment, might have been a tad ambitious.
The 8 hour, 40km long assessment that tested our navigation, mechanical skills, and ability to deal with all manner of eventualities, had been both physically and mentally exhausting. However, the elation of having passed, and the prospect of an awesome couple of days racing made dragging my weary body out of bed that little bit easier.
Round two of the 2017 PMBA Enduro Series was being held at Lee Quarry and Havok Bike Park, and if last year’s event was anything to go by, it was going to be great. Saturday was practice day and we started by checking out the two stages in Lee Quarry itself (Stages 1 and 6) before heading onto the moors for Stage 2.
The course was largely the same as last year, although they’d had to do a fair bit of work to Stage 2, aka “Moto Moors”, to make it mountain bike friendly again after a year of being ravaged by its usual motocross inhabitants. The result was a fantastic stage that was both fun and challenging. After blasting down the open moor for a while, we dropped into a rutted ravine with multiple line choices that were definitely worth scoping out before the race. By picking the right line you could fly down virtually unimpeded, but if you found yourself stuck in the warren of narrow intertwined ruts, the descent would suddenly become much more of an ordeal. Choosing the right gear was also crucial as, after negotiating a rocky speed trap of a stream crossing, the trail climbed sharply up the other side before plunging again into a series of rollercoaster-esque peaks and troughs.
Across the moor on the outskirts of Facet, a killer push-up took us to the top of Stage 3; an awesome local DH line through the trees with a brutal rocky climb half way through.
Stages 4 and 5 were even further across the moors at Havok Bike Park near Todmorden. For practice it was possible to avoid the epic transition by driving over, so, with energy levels already at a premium after the previous day’s exertions, I was all over that. After parking towards the end of the transition across the moor, we entered Havok from the top, near the start of Stage 4. Like last year, Stage 4 was on Havok’s red downhill line; an awesome descent through the forest packed with tight berms, drops, jumps, the odd rocky section and a wee gap. The main feature was a huge tabletop that saw some massive air over the course of the weekend.
Whereas the trails over at Lee Quarry, and even up on the moor, were bone dry, it was a very different story over at Havok, particularly on Stage 5, aka, ‘The Beast’. Rather than being a bike park style track like its predecessor, the penultimate stage was a muddy natural trail through the trees, with roots, rocks and ruts in place of jumps and drops. A tricky rock garden half way down had most people stopping to pick their line or have a go at gapping it, but the biggest challenge was just keeping the back end of your bike under control in the greasy mud, particularly on the steep bottom section.
Having familiarised ourselves with the stages, we were all set for the race, however, with rain forecast for the following day, there was a strong chance they’d all be riding very differently by then.
Fortunately, other than a short, sharp downpour, the good weather held out for race day so we only had to contend with slight changes to the trails caused by the volume of riders, and even that was only really evident over at Havok.
Other than a wee “rest” towards the end of Stage 5, I had a fairly decent race and loved almost every minute of the course, except, perhaps, for that mid-stage climb on Stage 3. Even the long transition across the moor was relatively enjoyable thanks to some good company. I was delighted to finish 2nd in my category and 5th woman overall. A problem with the timing on Stage 2 meant that they had to omit that stage from the overall results, which was a bit of a shame, but everyone appreciated that it was only fair.
As always, a massive thanks to the organisers, marshals, medics and supporters, and big up to everyone who took part, especially those who made it onto the top step. Roll on Kirroughtree!