To Hell and Back Again (No Fuss/Hope Fort William Enduro)

On August 1 the 2nd No Fuss Events / Hope Fort William Endurance race happened, i was there for Hardtailnation and on the side for dirt, a proper paid and everything journalist from MBUK also raced (he got paid to do it, i paid for myself to do it) Where did the Dirt staffers get to ? the toughest downhill race in the world and the fairys went to watch some world cup in the sun, maybe next year ?

Anyway last year i said this was “off the scale” and called it “Hell on Earth” this year was much harder.

Last year we had a running start, grab the bikes, ride about 2 miles uphill to Tower 8 where the big wallride is, then drop in hit the motorway over the finish line, first person over the line started the 6 hour countdown, Ok got that ? this year was the same except the clock started ticking as we ran for the bikes, this ment less time on the track, hence the slightly lower lap count this year. The start was later 3.30pm which ment the last chance for the gondala was 9.30pm, this did have a dramatic effect on the race.

Yes the start went UPHILL, after last year some people have been doing XC on full on DH bikes to get ready for this, as the start could make or break your race. So after the antics last year i decided to stay at the back of the pack, there where bodies and bikes getting tangled up, people falling over, chaos, i jogged in saddled up and started to pass people, those that sprinted where shagged within 1/2 mile (when it goes uphill) i passed over half the field and got to within 200m of the drop in point, i used this to whip out the multi tool and drop the saddle ( no Q/R see) at this point last year i had already lost 1 back tyre (defective beading) so confidence was high, in the first hour i had ridden up and bagged 2 laps, Run 3 went well, wrists ache a bit, but going strong, and the rain has started and it’s here for the rest of the race, oh crap, Run 4 it started going wrong, my neck muscles gave out, i was worried about this as it happened last year, i had to stop at the pit for a rest.

Run 5 sooo fast on the top, nice tail wind, got a bit drifty and spooned up my entry on the boardwalk, i was aiming for a small rock and jumping on, i missed the rock and hit the edge of the board, could be 2-3″ square edge, rim a ding ding, no pop ! the front tyre was flat when i hit the long section of boardwalk, that was no fun, trying to stay in control, stay on the walk and not crash. Credit to the WTB Prowler it stayed on the rim (unlike the brand last year) and didnt suffer any damage from being run flat through rocks, same goes for the DMR Backline rim, i used these last year and they are still taking the abuse. Trackside repair, new tube get some go again ! straight into a world of pain, nearly on the motorway, sweet mercyfull release smoothish track, give my neck a rest, by the bottom it really hurts, the rain is getting worse, i am getting scared now. I spray my neck with Deep Freeze and my fingers with deep heat and sit down. I come very very close to giving up, i watch others packing up, the shocks and forks are popping game over. At this point a stranger offers me a cup of tea, hell yeah yes please, his son is racing and is pitted 2 down from me, he even leaves a used spare tube handy for me as i only had 1 left. You see i dont get paid to do this, which is why my bike has old parts and stuff out of bins on it, my spare wheelset is shagged, play in the front bearings and the rear bearings and freehub are shot too, might be good for 1 maybe 2 runs if i need them, i could have taken 1 more flat, then it would have been game over after that. I think about things and decide to carry on, remember what Dirty Harry said “Do you feel lucky” i think so, yes, and “a mans got to know his limits” sound advice back off, bag the runs have a break get to the damn finish.

Ian Collins there in the uplift, the man from MBUK. first time at the fort, a tad nervous, race plan was fit the fattest tyres 2.7″ set the rear for max travel and hopefully not feel anything, after the uplift the next time i saw him was in the fuzzy photo, taken from the gondala (windows dont open) the bike was upside down and he was kicking it, trying to force what was bent straight again, a common sight at this race, i reckon a bent wheel or mech hanger, the 2 people in red watching are medics, so i think he may have binned it and damaged the back end, didnt see him again after that, gotta wait for the results to be posted to see how he did, the track shows no mercy, and every uplift you see people trying to fix bikes trackside, crawling out of a hedge or just having a lie down in the track, and it got worse

As last year 3 Hardtails lined up for action, on the top is Oliver Young on a blue NS Surge, first time at the fort and a late entry to the race, in the end damage forced him to pull out, think he might have got up to 5 runs, still sussers blew up from run 2 so he did well, Respect ! he had a go. The next fella is an animal, one of the locals, he lives on the track and it showed, watching him overtake sussers in the rock gardens was scary stuff, to make it worse Jesse Wigman’s fork a Manitou Sherman Flick locked out after about 3 runs. His final lap count drew silence at the awards ?

Where was i, must be run 7, the deep freeze has kicked in and this went quite well, Run 8 the track is breaking up now, rocks are pulling out the switchbacks in the woods are greasy now and i wash out and drop the bike, stop again at the bottom, Run 8 was the worst, i went off track and binned it big time, no damage not hurt, get off the hill, get some go again.

Run 9 scared the living piss out of me, its getting dark the track seems empty, i get passed by about seven riders, contact with 1 of them, i also pass people who are trackside, it’s getting to everyone now, cold tired, making mistakes, braking bumps are now big holes. I stop at the bottom and try to find out how many runs i have done, if it’s 10 ( my target, 9 last year) i will stop, get told run 8 was an 8.22min, best last year was an 8.36 so up on lap times a boost to the fragile ego, but only told i have just done my 9th run, oh crap, it’s about 8.45pm if my body could take it i could do 2 more, i have the time ! i ask Dirty Harry’s advice (things do get weird in these races) he says the same, “do you feel lucky”, naa think my luck might be fast running out. “a mans got to know his limits”, yep think i am beyond my limits now. I think about it, 1 more double figures, beat last year ? doable yes, i can do that just bag the run, time no longer matters, get the 10th run. If i go for 11 it will be very very dark, naa fuck it, screw that, at 9.19pm i cross the start line for the last time, shit it’s dark, i come to a dead stop 3 times to let high speed loonies pass me, they want another run, funny thing is it felt fast, never thought i would do a world cup track in the dark with no lights, fun in a strange way.

I get to the bottom and think about it i could do 1 more, i wait, the seconds pass, 30 SECOND countdown begins, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, race over uplift shut off. Those on the uplift will get the run in, it is now dark, and i want a cup of tea.

So pack up, clean up, get back to the bar at the top for the awards, while i pack i hear the cheers as the last lappers get down in the dark. If last year was off the scale i dont know how to descibe this year (although next year could be really really insane, watch this space).

Awards where dished out by Big Ian the Boss man from Hope, gonna start with the girls, as they deserve a big shout, yes girls did it so why didnt YOU. Big up to 1st Naomi Willison 13 laps, 2nd Angela Coates 13 laps, 3rd Jo Carwell 12 laps. (hope i got the names right as i was in a mess and not quite with it)

Next the Hardtails i got 2nd with 10 runs, and when Frazer read out Jesse’s lap count the room went very quiet, i was thinking out loud and blurted out “thats not normal” Frazer said they would have to double check ! Jesse was on 15 laps ! i thought i heard one person made 17 the senior men where all on 16, have to wait for the final all run time sheet to be posted, someone sponser Jesse and give him a susser !

And yes we both look a bit bow legged, you would too if you had done what we just did. Senior Males then, 1st James Churly 16 laps, 2nd Chris Hutchings 16 laps, 3rd Mark Machever 16 laps, again sorry if i spelt names wrong bit tired when i did it. The order was decided by Laps then overall time taken to do them, James did the 16 laps in the fastest time.

I will add to this with another blog later in the week, as i am about to go down the pub and drink some pain relief, got some more photos to sort out and wait for the times to be posted, also stu from MTBcut TV was there filming so maybe a video of the race will appear in the next few days.

A proper race, a different style of rider, fantastic work by and a killer track, really not a race for the weak willed, fragile ego prima donnas that go to some races, the Endurance racers are a breed apart, they are scary people, and i think we will all be back next year.

Thank you Frazer for doing it again, and of course Thank you Big Ian from Hope for the trophy !

P.S. me being a skint hardtailer, well when i got home last night i tried to take my trophy apart to see if i could get the hub built up into a wheel, it wont come apart ! bugger, i was going to use that. will whack up some photos of the big lump of CNC billet with a glued on hub later in the week.


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