We made a flying visit to Swaledale this weekend for the inaugural ‘Ard Rock Enduro.
Run by Pro Ride Guides in conjunction with Dales Bike Centre, the event combines a ‘traditional’ enduro event (un-timed transitions and special stages against the clock), with a sportive format for riders who wanted a time for the whole course.
With over 400 entries the atmosphere was super relaxed (just as you’d expect for an event touched by the magic wand of Stu and the crew at DBC) and although the weather was a little bit blowy (ahem) we did not see one single sad face among the throng drinking beer and eating burgers at the finish. Sportident timing made sure everything ran smoothly and the marshalling was top notch, too.
Singletrack sent the lightest person in the office along to take part, although given the insanely strong winds this was possibly something of a mistake; we might have had a better chance of upholding office pride if we’d sent someone with a bit more ballast on board. Here are a few thoughts from Jenn on the first ‘real northern enduro’…
“I like the riding in Swaledale. I’ve been there multiple times in the past, with all sorts of bikes and with all sorts of crowds, but this was one of the most fun weekends I’ve had there yet. The weather was a bit mad but I don’t think I’ve ever been up Fremington Edge on a still day (I bet it’s really quite dull/no fun at all when it’s not blowing a gale…), and there was plenty of help on hand for those folk who couldn’t keep their bikes on the ground for long enough to start a stage.
The four special stages – Point ‘n’ Chute, On The Edge, Flue, and Grass Roots – took in the best of Yorkshire Dales riding, from loose and fast rubble chutes to hay meadows and uppy-downy singletrack meandering through the mine workings. On the transitions in between we climbed road, then gravel, then concrete, then some more road; sometimes into the wind, less often with it, but almost always chatting. Swaledale is pretty hilly even on a good day and we notched up several thousand feet of ascent throughout the course of the event. (Apologies to the flatlander from Suffolk who I talked into not quitting as we walked up Fremington Edge and probably hates me now.)
The interminable drag to get to the final special stage was made tolerable by the bliss of cruising along on the flat in that special, tailwind-silence; as usual with these things it’s all in the head and Swaledale is a pretty stunning place to wear yourself out.
As far as the event format goes, I’m not really interested in whether or not enduro is the saviour of the sport (the sport’s going to have to save itself); what I am interested in is the chance to test myself in a non-threatening atmosphere, on a course that’s the right side of challenging, with good company, nice trails and plenty of banter. A beer and a nicely flipped burger at the end are just a bonus.
The ‘Ard Rock Enduro has all of that in spades and comes highly recommended; everything from the course to the organisation was spot on and this didn’t come as a surprise with two seasoned enduro racers at the helm alongside the irrepressible Stu @ DBC. We spared a thought or two for friends enjoying the late (early?) winter out at Passportes, but we definitely got the better deal – lots of fun, minimal travel hassle and definitely one to watch out for next year. And speaking of which, here are some lessons learned that I’ll be putting into practice if the ‘Ard Rockers decide to do it all again…
If course practice is allowed then use it and don’t spend the Saturday lazing around the campsite drinking tea! Practice lets you work out which sections are going to be tricky and also which are not – few things are more annoying than entering a section cautiously, only to discover that you could have gone faster.
Try not to pay too much attention to other people talking up/down the course (see above). Their strengths and weaknesses probably aren’t the same as yours.
It doesn’t matter how seriously or not you’re intending on taking things, once you’re riding on the clock the red mist will descend. Fuel accordingly, with plenty of sugar, artificial colourings and E-numbers to keep your system levels fluctuating wildly.
Enduro riders really will push uphill at any given opportunity. Even on the road. Really.
Swaledale is really hilly.
All races should have a pub halfway round. Genius.
Sheep can be even noisier than drunk folk falling over guy ropes when you’re trying to get to sleep at night. Pack earplugs.
Pack caffeine gels too; time spent loitering between stages soon adds up into missing the second, third and fourth brews of the day, and you don’t want to be falling asleep mid-special.
The opportunity to laze around on sun-warmed grass drinking post-event beers/lattés is a rare and beautiful thing to be celebrated at every opportunity.
If it’s too windy on the top of the hill to even stand up straight but you really really need a pre-special stage wee, then find a handy rabbit hole. We’re reliably informed this provides acceptable shelter for one’s appendage and avoids (most) blowback. Thanks to Andy Wood for the tip.
Results from Sportident:
1 Helen Gaskell, 2 Cheri Mills, 3 Sarah Newman
1 Gary Britton, 2 David McKendry, 3 Fraser Dales
1 Lee Kermode, 2 Chay Granby, 3 Richard Norgate
1 Ben Whitehead, 2 Timothy Breeze, 3 Chris Breeze
1 Robert Goodey, 2 Joe Harrison, 3 Oliver Taylor
1 Mike Harper, 2 Shaun Wells, 3 David Sutcliffe
1 Karen Lederer