Fetish Bikes UK Gravity Enduro, Rd3 Hamsterley Forest

Alex Stock takes the win at rd#3 from Dan Atherton and Joe Barnes.

Aidan Bishop raced the event and sent over this great race report.

Fetish Bikes UK Gravity Enduro
Rd3 Hamsterley Forest
26/27th May 2012

Words: Aidan Bishop
Photos: Barbara Sztyk

What a scorcher!! With the weather hotting up around the country this past week and the elite start list stacked with the UK’s best enduro riders, round 3 of the UK Gravity Enduro was set for some hot racing. Hamsterley Forest near Durham was the venue and the weather stayed awesome with blue skies and hot sun both days, adding to a good atmosphere for the race. As mentioned this round saw the attendance of the likes of Alex Stock, Joe Barnes and Dan Atherton, the first time for any of these guys to race together at a UK endure round, so with the exception of a couple of names the best the UK has to offer in enduro terms were here to race and it was going to be interesting to see who would come out on top.

Joe Barnes on stage 5, 3rd place for him.

Another face from the past appeared at Hamsterley in the form of Mr Ross Tricker, a familiar face on the DH scene of years past, we discussed the last time we raced there, turns out it was a DH national in 2001, in fact stage 4 of this enduro used half of the same DH track we raced back then and probably on similar travel bikes…how bikes and time change!

The venue was good (every time you’re out riding in fantastic weather it helps though!) with a good variation of terrain used throughout the 5 stages. The whole route was approximately 12 miles and transition routes weren’t too taxing so this allowed for a more relaxed practice loop and a little more time to study sections or stages, a welcome opportunity when trying to learn 5 tracks in one morning and meaning you weren’t out in the sun for hours on end.

Stage 1, started with a hole, stump and root littered trail alongside a stone wall before turning left onto a 20-30sec fireroad sprint then into flowing trail through woods before some tighter corners where pedalling was required to maintain speed, then steepening up as you dropped into the finish.

Here is GoPro footage of a practice of stage 1.

Stage 2, a couple of minutes of pedalling on manmade trail with doubles and berms, tabletops and a rocky gulley before joining a fireroad for another sprint then bank left down into a fresh loamy trail that steepened up a fair bit, some good corners and features kept you on your toes before crossing the line.

Stage 3, following a section of Hamsterley’s red trail here, well established and flowing yet when pushing at race pace it was a fine line of how hard you could rail the corners with slight berms but wouldn’t hold you if you over cooked it. Midway and you joined a fireroad with a proper climb in it, steep to begin with you had to keep rhythm over the top and maintain pace before re entering the trail. Again more flowing corners before picking up speed over rocks and a wooden drop before the finish.

Me nearly done with stage 5, 7th in the end.

Stage 4, the most technical of all. Start on the big 4X start hill, take in the first step down double and then launch off the right hand side of the second double into root and stump infested singletrack. Picking up speed in places here you had to try to find the smoothest way through the terrain, cross a road and into the trees, again littered with stones and stumps before a steep tricky left hand corner before crossing another road. A slippy right hairpin and then the trail straightened up and sped up with a number of natural gaps and double jumps before two hairpin corners and cross the finish.

Stage 5, a pedally affair all on manmade gravel covered trail. Caution needed on many corners due to the gravel surface, push too hard and you’d be on your arse. Two pedally straights to start before a slow tight uphill pedal around a rocky viewpoint before picking up speed again down and over numerous berms, drops, tables and doubles. Into some light forested trail, pretty flat slightly bermed corners then join a fireroad for a sprint then back onto the trail then quickly on and off the fireroad again before picking up some speed around some bigger berms and some rocks and drop into the finish arena.

Dan Atherton in his first UK Enduro, 2nd place.

Once Saturday practice was done, seeding runs started at 3:30pm for the first riders. Elites not starting till just after 5pm so I had time to enjoy the sun until it was time for the 20 min climb to the start. Unfortunately timing gremlins reared their ugly head once the racing was over. As soon as you had finished you could check the computer to see your time so no problems so far, but by the time the printed results were out a number of riders managed to have 5 secs knocked off their time!

Normally your seeding time would count toward your overall time for the race but due to this apparently inexplicable glitch it was sensibly decided that the positioning would count but the times would not be counted to Sundays racing, I for one was thankful of this due to not putting in the effort here and placing down the elite ranks.

Sunday arrived with more glorious sunshine and blue skies, so filing the backpack with water was important along with food and spares. Lots of people trying to find shelter from the sun whilst waiting for their start of stage 1. I think it’s important to start strong in these events as it gets you in a good state of mind for the rest of the stages, I felt I did this here and managed the 5th fastest time, the race was on!

Stage 2 and a couple of casualties where the loose corners brought down Neil Donoghue and Atherton., there was also some heated exchanges after the finish where a numbers of riders went to use a certain line but found it had been taped off after racing had started as it was deemed course cutting.

Stage 3 and everyone seemed to come through with pretty even time gaps so racing was going to be tight come the end, later there was to be big debate where again a few riders were taking advantage of a gap in taping to miss a couple of the established trail corners before rejoining it, perhaps a decent time advantage there?

Stage 4, don’t throw it away with a slip here! I nearly did just that, hitting the first double a bit keen and landing at the bottom of the jump on the front end but fortunately I kept it upright and had to compose myself and get into my run. A few punctures on this rough stage, notably Ralph Jones and Box Cooksley laying the bike down also.

Stage 5 and just one more big effort before you were done. With it being the same stage as used for seeding everyone knew what was required. A couple of moments here with James Shirley clipping the finish board and taking a spectacular spill in the arena for the watching crowd and unfortunately for Box a puncture or mechanical cost him a chunk of vital time therefore messing his race up, gutted.

Alex Stock rode strong and fast all day to take the win.

So the racing was done, all that was left was for everyone to enjoy the sun whilst we waited for the results to be collated. There was more debating on the course taping debate, should riders face time penalties or not, etc. This is an important issue with these races with plenty of people seeking out clever or sneaky lines according to the tape, maybe more time need to be taken to fully tape the stages as they are meant to be raced then this should end any arguments?

Ralph Jones, consistent 3 rounds should put him 1st overall.

A little while later and the podium presentations were announced:

Elite male
1st Alex Stock
2nd Dan Atherton
3rd Joe Barnes

Atherton, Stock, Barnes

Elite female
1st Tracy Moseley
2nd Helen Gaskell
3rd Sarah Newman

Gaskell, Moseley, Newman

Senior male
1st Sam Flanagan
2nd David Mirfield
3rd Rupert Fowler

Masters male
1st James Richards
2nd Ian Austermuhle
3rd Bruce McCleary

Veteran male
1st Marcus Jones
2nd Robert Carr
3rd Richard Ellis

Grand Veteran male
1st Steve Felstead
2nd Keven Baines (legend!)
3rd Dave Wills

Under 18 male
1st Joe Buck
2nd Peter Hook
3rd Joe Harrison

1st Alex Stock
2nd Dan Atherton
3rd Joe Barnes
4th Alex Rafferty
5th Ralph Jones

A great weekends riding and racing was had by all after all was said and done. Next round is Eastridge in 8 weeks time, let’s hope for similar weather!
Big thanks to Cannondale, Mavic, RRP, Crank Brothers, GoPro, Giro, Maxxis, 661 for their support.


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