Neil Donoghue takes the win in the Eastridge woods at rd#4 of the UK Gravity Enduro.

Fetish Bikes UK Gravity Enduro Series 2012

RD4 Eastridge woods, Shropshire.

4/5th August

Words: Aidan Bishop

Photos: Barbara Sztyk

With a long break since round 3 in Hamsterley Forest the UK Gravity Enduro series continued this past weekend again, returning to the famed venue of Eastridge woods just outside Shrewsbury in Shropshire. The venue will be known to many riders and racers who have been ‘round the block’, including myself of course, staging many regional and national races of all disciplines through the 1990’s. Last year the series saw an enjoyable but challenging route, shorter in distance than rounds held in Scotland and Wales but the technical content of the timed stages a little higher. This year was no different, we didn’t however have the dusty trails we enjoyed last year, with the great British summer delivering wet forecasts all over the country the weekend was also looking to be damp! As it turned out one heavy shower fell on Saturday lunchtime during everyone’s practice time, so otherwise the event actually remained dry, the trails however remained greasy throughout in most places.

east 1
east 1

‘Donny’ taking the win for the second time at Eastridge.

So another sold out round, with a reserve list set up for people not getting an entry in time, showing the interest and popularity of the enduro discipline. The five timed stages were similar to last years with some differences to mix it up a bit.

The 1st had a pedally start before dropping quite steep down tree lined singletrack before flattening out to the finish, a sub 2 min section that required smooth riding to maintain speed along.

Stage 2 was a physical top section, lots of pedalling to keep your speed high, with the path made up of a mix of rocks and earth it was quite greasy to hold your line along it. After a quick fireroad climb and flat winding trail you picked up speed before entering the final steep loamy corners that led you to the finish road, over 3 mins for this tiring stage.

Back up the fireroad climb (you had to ride 4 times in total) to stage 3. Pedally start again before dropping through a technical rocky bowl and subsequent rocky trail that featured in a national DH race years back (that time just on shorter travel bikes!!), cross the road and keep your speed flowing along smoother singletrack before finishing on the fireroad along the bottom of the woods, between 2-2 1/2mins for this one.

Onto stage 4 back at the top of the hill, this time heading off the backside. A flat start with plenty of rocks to make it tricky to keep some speed going before pointing downwards more and crossing a road, a series of sweeping corners with little rises after them required focus and energy to keep speed up as much as possible. The trail then headed downwards more before a 200m climb/sprint and then the final and quite steep and fast chute onto the bottom road and cross the line, nearer 4mins for this stage.

Back to the top one final time to line up for the final stage, also used for the seeding run on Saturday afternoon. Starting out the same as last year except the inclusion of a couple of double jumps along the start straight, then turning left onto a fireroad before dropping into a nice section of DH trail. Rocky and quite steep winding its way straight down the side of the hill, lots of concentration needed to stay on line and on the bike down here before straightening up and over two step down jumps and into the race arena with a couple more jumps to keep spectators entertained before passing under the Shimano arch and cross the line, sub 2 mins a good target time for this one.

east 2
east 2

Phil Shucksmith rode strong to finish second.

With the whole route being a little more compact than other rounds, it gave riders the opportunity to section parts of stages more I felt or maybe ride some tracks twice which was useful. Saturday afternoon and it was seeding time down stage 5, with the lunchtime downpour the track got slicker but then with riders using it through the afternoon it was starting to dry a little. This year your seeding run time is added to all of your times on Sunday to make up your overall race time, so the race is on to post the quickest time you can.

I set off to do this, pedalling hard out of the gate and in-between corners hitting the doubles quickly and then, before I knew it I was flying over the handlebars….damn it! Not feeling hurt I jumped up to continue to find my brake levers out of position and when I tried to pedal something was badly out of shape. I had to pull over straight away again to sort my levers and see the damage, I must have caught a tree stump in the grass as my pedal axle was badly bent meaning pedalling was very tricky to do and in the meantime my 20sec man Alex Langley passed me by. I got back on and managed to finish the stage, but very frustrated and a chunk of time lost to the field before the race on Sunday…but that is just part of racing!

Last year’s winner at this venue Neil Donoghue set the fastest time overall in seeding with a 1min 40sec run, followed by Alex Langley and series leader Ralph Jones.

east 3
east 3

Ralph Jones, 3rd here and consistent fast riding keeps him leading the overall.

Fortunate to have packed an old set of pedals in the van, the Jekyll was ready to race, I woke up bruised and sore from my fall but nothing to stop me racing, I decided to get stuck in and try to claw back as much of the lost time as possible and salvage a result from the weekend, so I prepared for the climb to stage 1.

I managed to complete all 5 stages without mechanicals or crashes so I could at least be content with that, otherwise I didn’t feel I rode very well but hoped that due to the varying tracks and surfaces we were racing on, everyone was in the same boat. Tracy Moseley took the elite women’s category from Helen Gaskell and Sarah Newman.

Neil Donoghue again took the win at Eastridge in front of Phil Shucksmith and Ralph Jones, I had managed to finish 8th in elite and 13th overall, so pretty happy I managed to end up in the top ten after my mishap. Impressive finish by Joe Buck to finish 4th overall, in a field largely populated by ‘senior’ aged racers this under 18 racer was mixing it up.

Overall top 5 was:

1st Neil Donoghue

2nd Phil Shucksmith

3rd Ralph Jones

4th Joe Buck

5th Rob Cooksley

east 4
east 4

Aidan Bishop coming into the finish, happy to battle through to 8th in elite.

Full results here:

5th and final round is 8-9th September in mid Wales, get your entries in quick if you fancy a try.