Last weekend saw the very first race in the 661 Gravity Enduro series taking place in the woods of Ae in the Scottish Borders. Despite the buff weather leading up to the event, the weather was a little on the moist side come the weekend, with heavy rain plus a bit of thunder and lightning over the hills leading to some sketchy trail conditions.
The wet weather didn’t dampen rider’s enthusiasm, with almost 300 people heading out to take part. The format was pretty simple; on a mix of man-made and natural trails the riders would be timed on the five (mostly) downhill sections and they’d pedal between each stage under their own power.
Saturday saw open practise on the whole course, although most people elected to stick to practising the seeding stage which used part of the Ae downhill course plus some freshly built trails through the woods. With the wet weather, some of the freshly cut trails were a tad on the slippy and muddy side which led to some carnage and caught a few people out.
At this point we’ll give a quick shout out to Franco, who’s recovering in hospital after a
nasty crash during practise left him with a deep gash on his side and stitches in his spleen. Matt and myself helped him down the hill and to the medics, who took care of him quickly and professionally. Good to know that they’re there for you just in case the worst happens.
The muddy seeding run caught out quite a few people, the wet weather making a technically challenging section even harder, but even those that struggled managed to carry on and post their seeding time. There was one corner in particular (wait for the video) that provided entertainment for a few morally bankrupt heckling types (us) but on the whole it went without a hitch and the running order had been set for Sunday’s race.
With thunder, lightning and heavy rain overnight, some Sunday morning events were conspiring against them but riders headed up the first big hill to their first timed stage down the Shredder. Although step in places it was thankfully lacking in the mud that had proved troublesome on Saturday and the run was incredibly fast with the odd slippy root and rock section to keep riders on their toes.
There followed another three timed stages, by turns jumpy, pedally and flowing, riders battling it out against the conditions and trail as well as each other on each of the stages. The pedalling element along with the technical difficulty on some stages proved to be an excellent leveller, with course preferring neither the downhillers or the fit whippets, just the all round bikers.
After a hard few hours and a bit of confusion as the linking time was changed for Stage 4 (something that won’t be repeated next time), riders once again found themselves at the top of Stage Five, the seeding run which had proved tricky for so many.
Although the sun had finally come out to play, the conditions were still greasy which made for a great spectacle, riders still pinning it (and binning it) on the final run despite a hard day of racing and riding. The live timing added to the atmosphere down the bottom and even riders who wiped out on the tricky and slippy final corner into the arena crossed the line with a smile on their faces, as well as plenty of fine Scots mud.
With the Masters field being the biggest by far, it was a tough battle to win that category with more than a few of them being ex-pro downhillers. Rob Cooksley took first place with a total time of 17m11s with Chris Buchan in second with CRC/Nuke Proof team manager Nige Page taking third.
Rob Cooksley also took the fastest time of the day, his result eclipsing the fastest time set in the Elite category – 17m16s by Neil Donoghue, fresh from second place in the iXS Macavalanche. The second fastest Elite rider was none other than Hotlines UK Marketing Manager Martin Astley with James Green in third place.
In the Veteran category, Crawford Carrick-Anderson took first place in 17m12s (second fastest overall – it seems age and experience counts in this format), with Marcus Jones in second and Rick Ellis in third.
Helen Gaskell won the Elite female category with Sarah Newman second and Bex Reilly third – get well soon Bex…
In the Open female category Carrie Poole took the honours with Meave Baxter second and Jules Wood in third.
Despite the glum weather, it was a top weekend and going by what riders said at the finish line, the first round of this very young series has been a real success. The timing systems, a weak link in past gravity enduro events, have proved to be more than up to the job, providing accurate timing. There was a bit of confusion over the time limit for one of the linking stages but the event organisers reckon they’ll have all the teething troubles done with for Round Two.
That race will take place in Kielder Forest, Northumberland on the weekend of the 11th June, so if you fancy a bit of the action then head to www.ukgravityenduro.co.uk and get yourself involved. Matt and Jon have decided to resume their Steel City Mini DH grudge match and are planning to enter…
Full results can be found on Race Timing Systems’ website: www.racetimingsystems.com/public/results.aspx?raceid=1452
…or on Roots & Rain.
We took a whole load of pics, so check the next pages to see if we got you…