Words: Aidan Bishop
Photos: Barbara Sztyk
I have been riding and racing mountain bikes for over 25 years now and have travelled to many places to ride my bike, I can’t count the times I have driven through the Lake District and taken in the scenery and thought to myself that I must ride there sometime. That time finally came over the past weekend when the final round of the UK Gravity Enduro series was held in Grizedale forest in the Lake District. Starting and finishing near the visitor centre in Grizedale, the route was a good mix of terrain and used some of the marked trail centre trails and some fresh tracks created for the event. The loop in total was 36km with around 1500m of climbing. This didn’t sound too taxing on the surface of things compared to some events I have done, but I find my legs strongly disagreeing with my mind on that thought, the Monday after the race! Luckily the weather was very kind and we were treated to plenty of sunshine and some spectacular views of Lake Windermere and surrounding hills throughout the weekends riding.
Steve, Charlie and the team laid on another fine weekend of racing for everyone and numbers were high again and brought with it a nice relaxed and friendly atmosphere for the weekend, with the main arena full with people parked and camped up for the weekend, adding to social side of this discipline nicely.
5 stages were set out for everyone to tackle;
Stage 1 was a pedally affair after keeping the bike under control down some very greasy chutes you then had plenty of pedalling along a narrow footpath that eventually led you out across a grassy field before dropping you back into the start arena from where you started.
Stage 2 was a tight and technical one from the gate with successive tight and rooty corners to knock you out of your rhythm if you weren’t on the ball, a couple of road crossings and it picked up speed towards the finish again on some greasy stony trail.
Stage 3 was quite a long one, but allowed you to get some flow into your run. More open and so mostly dry, which was fortunate as there were plenty of rocks up top that would have been tricky in the wet. The top section containing three sharp rocky section that were taken at speed and were just in the blind spot over a little brow each time, many riders fell victim to flat tyres here. Off the top section and a long fire road pedal before flying back into singletrack for another minute or so to the line.
Stage 4 was a good mix of terrain, starting out with tight wooded turns before some open and grassy off camber trail to keep you on your toes, a short fire road climb and finally follow a wet stoney single trail down to the finish by the lake.
Stage 5, again doubled as seeding run on the Saturday. Very tight and twisty and extremely dark woods to start before joining a black grade trail centre track with plenty of tight switchbacks and jumps, this fired you onto a fire road sprint. Off of here and into damp but quite rutted and fun turns before a deep stream crossing to tackle, keeping well balanced through the centre rut was key if you wanted to pedal out the other side cleanly, and finally off camber grassy turns (just like the old days) to the finish line. Come Sunday, the whole loop was set out to take riders just under 4hrs to complete with some transitions being fairly tight so any mechanicals would need to be fixed quickly if you wanted to be on time for your next stage start.
So with practice over for the day, the seeding runs kicked off on stage 5 on the Saturday afternoon. In brief, Mark Scott led the elites home, with Tracy Moseley taking the women’s’ lead, Andrew Titley was fastest in masters, Tim Ponting (freshly crowned masters DH WORLD champion, respect!) was fastest Vet.
Sunday morning and race day, the sun was out in full effect and it was set to be a good day on the bikes. With so many riders having all number of stories over all the racing that was done, I couldn’t begin to tell you the whole story but I’ll try and fill you in on some. I started off awfully, 15 seconds into stage 1 and a short sprint climb I managed to drift off line and stop in a tree when I should have been pedalling hard up the rise, I heard of others doing the same so I wasn’t alone. Stage 2 was really hard to ride smooth and fast, it was like this for me and lots of others said the same. Stage 3 and as I had though it claimed few elite scalps with Alex Stock and Chris Keeble-Smith among them suffering flat tyres on the rocks and with it podium chances all but lost. Ponting also flatting here and riding on the stage with a flat front can’t have been much fun! Come stage 5 and everyone was ready to finish the race off, most had made it to the start but there were also a good few who had to retire due to mechanical of one sort or another. Trying to race the final stage flat out proved exhausting on tired legs but you were soon off the fire road and into the stream crossing where there was a good crowd gathered to heckle and cheer riders through which was a good end to the weekend. The Masters cat had a little shake up on this final run with my good friend and old school pro downhiller James Allaway setting the fastest time, here to get out on his bike an try out another enduro, if he gets used the hours in the saddle he may be back for more next year.
So after all stages were done the elites ended up with Mark Scott, Sam Flanagan and Martyn Brookes taking 1,2,3 respectively. Tracy Moseley was fastest on all stages and took the win from Carrie Poole and Emma Wareham in elite women. Ian Austermuhle from Andrew Titley and Rich Norgate were the top three in the large masters field. The vets was won by Rob Carr from Marcus Jones and Jamie Smith and the fast juniors were led home by Leigh Johnson, Elliott Heap and Vini Crighton-Poli.
Another great weekends riding and racing at the UK Enduro series, I ended up in 8th in elites which I was content with after some untidy riding so it is good to know I can still mix it with the level getting higher each year. All that remained was for me to get back home down south in time to watch the replay of the DH world Championships, I had managed to avoid seeing or hearing any results so I could relive the whole race and was fully entertained and proud of GB for dominating the podiums this year…result!
Big thanks to Cannondale, Mavic, ION cameras, MRP, ION bike, RRP for all their support this year.