Words: Mike Sanderson

Photos: Doc Ward.

Fancy a chilled and back to ‘racing with mates’ style race, with the added excitement of trying to go flat out in the pitch black? Well, you missed a blinder last weekend!

Llandegla was the venue, an awesome trail centre that will be familiar with loads of you. The combination of its relative ease to get too, great trails for all levels and the sweet setup that the One Planet Adventure crew have got (the cakes are too good!) attracts loads of you every weekend.

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Racing was a ‘Mash Up’ format which was a new one for me, and I think for a lot of other people. Riders could take on each of the four stages as many times as they liked between 4 and 8pm, meaning you could keep trying till you were happy with your run. In all honesty, I just did the one lap of the track and was perfectly happy that I’d spent enough time in the saddle.

Racers departed on the first climb of the Llandegla red/black route. This steady climb was a good way to get warmed up on what had been a pretty wet and bleak day.

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We started with Bob’s Sleigh Run. Now I’m not the fittest by any stretch of the imagination (too much cake) so struggled on this stage. It started in the open with an uphill sprint that got my heart rate maxed straight away.

It levelled off to take some table tops that are normally an opt-in of the trail. The trail sweeps through a roller coaster of berms and pump bumps that are great fun anyway but with the tunnel vision of the lights it made it feel like warp speed! The finish sprint was another uphill again, only short but felt like it went on for ever. There was lots of head-on-bars action and heavy breathing after this one!

Stage 2 was a combo of the Big Jim’s & Parallel Universe trails and this was my stage! The first black descent started high in the woods, firing you straight into a rock chute and some tight turns in a really heavy wooded part of the hill, adding to the darkness. The trail had got greasy in parts but overall was pinned as you sprinted out of turns and pumped your way down the longest stage of the night.

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One of the great things about the race was that most of the stages began from the same point, meaning that you could just lap them out till you were happy. Stage 3 began from the same point as stage 2, but was a bit mellower and lost height less quickly.

This proved to be a tough one, even though it was quite short and you had to sprint the whole thing. The course flowed through the pine trees with rollers and bermed turns that begged to be railed then quickly on to the fire road for 20 meters. Here you had to get as much speed as you could to bring the pace into the next section which was basically flat out and straight but had limited places to pedal. Another heavy breather!

The final descent was stage 4 and came after a long, but easy transition. The stage took in the much loved final descent of Llandegla's Red/Black route and saw riders sprinting into the big berms and being sling shotted into a series of tables, step downs and mini hips. The grin was firmly on my face and a short sprint climb halfway got the blood well and truly pumping.

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Crossing the line we went straight into the One Planet café for a well-earned cup of tea (I really wanted a beer!) and watched with the rest of the racers as the live timing came through, it was a good atmosphere with the dance tunes on and riders regaling stories of near misses and what-might-have-beens.

While I managed a decent enough result it was Ryan Dutton who took the elite men's win and Sally Evamy for the women, both scoring cracking times. Ryan and second place elite male Martyn Brookes were the only two racers who scored a sub 7 minute total time - those guys were hauling ass.

The Night Enduro was great work from Chris and his team. I thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed, riding with mates vibe, everyone at the top of the stages were chatting and laughing with each other – even though none of us you could see each other as were blinded by each other’s lights! Despite being a dark, chilly winter night Chris put on a great fun, busy race, I can't wait for the next one!

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