Hardtail fanatic, Somerset resident and Dirt blogger Ace Woodley popped into have a gander at the X-Fusion/Enduro1 event down at the Quantocks in the South West.
Remember the “Your Neck Of The Woods” feature in the magazine? Well Ace is kind of doing that for the South West massive.
Words and Photos: Ace Woodley
Seem to be catching on, last year we had the Mondraker gravity Enduro near Minehead, this year we start with Enduro 1, then mid summer Mondrakers back, then in September the UK gravity series also drops into the Quantocks. The DH racing seems to have gone off the boil in Somerset and the gap is well filled by Enduro.
I haven’t done one (yet) but went to try and have a look. I had put in for Marshall duty, but mid week was informed that all slots had been filled and thanks for offering, so altered my plans to have a visit instead of working it.
www.enduro1.co.uk kick off their season. Due to the adverse weather pre-event, there is lots of tree damage in the woods, lots of fallen and hanging but waiting to drop any moment trees, because of this spectators where not being encouraged to come along, less people wandering about the better. Add to that the course is around 22km with 5 special timed stages, so getting to the stages on foot was not doable, only got to stage 1. This type of event is really something you need to be “in” rather than watching, covering a normal DH race is fairly easy as you only have one track, this is spread out over most of the Quantocks.
As I expected parking to be tight in the woods with over 200 racers being there, I parked up at dead women’s ditch on top of Ramscombe and wandered down to the signing on point.
Riders started at 10.00am, with one going every minute, expected time to get round was 3-4hours, I found the start sheet, riders are given a time to get to each stage, getting to a stage early and you might have time to pre-walk it or part walk it. No practice runs, but ride-able for all so don’t worry about having to do blind 10foot gaps and drops mid run.
As the first riders out come back, the last few will be heading out.
With heavy snow doing most of the damage not so long ago (still some pockets hiding up there) the rain was the next problem, with heavy rain on the Friday and Saturday, add to that some new sections had been cut in just for the race. I reckon the early racers got the best go, the sun was out, pockets of mud and water, the new sections will be soft and chopped up for later racers, pre-event chatter was mostly around mud mods and what tyres.
I found Alex Rankin down at signing on. He scored a lift to one of the outer stages with the marshal wagon, he was having trouble getting about to get filming in, and with constraints on where you could go for safety as well. On that point, the course itself had been cleared of fallen trees and made safe, this has taken a huge amount of effort and couldn’t have been done without the Forestry Commissions help and guidance.
I overheard riders chatting as they pootled passed me on the transition sections, lots of over the bars and leaving the track action for a soft landing in mud. No one seemed bothered by the mud…DH races they love to whinge about the mud, I saw many smiley faces, spattered with mud, bikes grinding away, people riding whatever bike they can and having fun, apart from one bloke who looked like he was going to puke at the top of the first climb I told him the track leveled out then went downwards, he cheered up and kept his breakfast down.
I wandered round to try and find stage 2, but headed back as it was going to take some time to walk there, and was parked up over the top and not down in the Combe. I did find a track map, and it might have possible to drive round the Quantocks and get out to the further stages. Being unsure if the “track map” is for “open use-age” I have decided not to put it up. It may have been an event staff only item, maybe on general issue to riders, so playing it safe so can’t get myself into trouble. Was very well marked out with air ambulance landing zones and marshal points.
The format is very different to the Downhill racing, and this series is not doing “day/event” awards on the day, but more focused on the series, so do all 4 races and if you make the podium (and random awards) that all happens on the final race. With no podium to see and expected finish around 5pm I headed off up the big hill.
At some point I am going to have a go at one of these events, just need to be much much fitter and have a more all-rounder bike with gears.
I fancy a chop at the Tour De Ben Nevis, but that’s 72km and a bit wilder than the UK enduro, you will be wading through rivers in that one, still has special stages, with self activated timing, but wilder and a lot longer. They have a mandatory kit list to carry, as does the Enduro 1 series, the other key word I see is “scrutinising” meaning bikes and mandatory kit will be inspected, and if you’re carrying these items…perhaps learn how to use them.
It’s different at DH races, you wrap yourself round a tree, medics scrape you up stuff you in a helicopter (if it’s bad) and job done. Your bike breaks, roll down the hill, get the toolbox out and fix it. Bit hard to do that mid-enduro, even harder if you carry the kit list, but have no idea how to use it, talking more chain-splitters and first aid kits. Patch yourself up, and get the bike rolling mid event.
I was talking about this with the Life Venture people at the Madison ICE bike show. Got one of there kits, had it for years, I have the unique “Trekker or Biker” version.
No I am not Ray Mears or Bear Grylls:-) Put the Swiss army knife and 500ml bottle of water there for scale. Nearly all the mountain bikers I know are gear freaks, XTR this XO that, carbon or titanium etc etc. Shiny things to splash cash on figure a lot in any chats with mountain bikers. Boring first aid stuff…rarely seen or spoken of, until someone needs one.
There are other kits out there, this one has stood up to several years riding and racing and being soaked in brake fluid (water proof) the contents change on use or what I think I might want. Basics to patch myself up. The silver packet on the right is a foil blanket that can fit in the pouch, the rest is fairly obvious, plasters, wipes, latex gloves (in case I have to help a bleeder) some bandages and dressings and safety pins. My first aid ticket has expired now, but most workplaces are happy to help or send employees off on a day course, learning how to fix your self up is a handy skill, must renew my ticket. Used the kit a few times, also used race medics a few times.
From the left, with red tape, that’s a foil bag, about £10, that’s an old one, never had to use it. Next is the foil blanket, really cheap that one was £2 smaller lighter than a bag but less protection, have used them before along with the big old orange plastic bags. Just got myself up to date with a SOL bag £15 very light, very large, very reusable and similar pack size to the older blanket, this will be with me when being out there. If it comes to having to use a bag, then your in trouble, these cheap simple items can be lifesavers if you have to leave someone to get help. As this is now a part of enduro kit I thought I would throw it in to the mix, No Fuss and Enduro1 it’s mandatory race kit, don’t think I have ever seen a kit review in any bike mag on first aid kits and survival bags and blankets, at the moment the SOL bag is prime gear freak kit, and first aid kits are cheap enough to get and with some experimenting not as bulky or heavy as you might think, unless your carrying for heavy use. Yes medics are there at the races, but being spread out you might have to wait while they find you. Some things to think about for any budding enduro racers out there, while Life venture are trying to get into bike shops, you can find all this gear in most outdoor type shops.
www.enduro1.co.uk 3 races left in the series.
www.nofussevents.co.uk Tour de Ben Nevis is September 21.
http://shred.cc/gravity/ for the Mondraker Gravity rally July 6/7
www.ukgravityenduro.com/ All over the UK series from Somerset to Scotland.