Our gravity enduro correspondent James Green brings us all the action from the woods of Eastridge, arguably the home of Midlands racing…
The venue of the fourth round of the Fetish Bikes Gravity Enduro Series race holds nostalgia for many in the riding community; for me, I was first made aware of the venue watching Mountain Bike Britain on a Saturday morning on Channel 4 some ten years ago. (Ed: It’s more than ten years ago – check out the youthful faces in this video) In more recent years, Eastridge has been given a new lease of life, the work headed up by Alex Langley and his merry men, who have committed their efforts to revitalising this venue through the Eastridge Trail Partnership. Following last years’ very successful race at the venue, this year had a lot to live up to and it didn’t disappoint.
Stage 1: Topography
What a great start to the race. A short flat sprint section scattered with a number of jumps started you off and then dropped you into a series of steep, fast loose turns. A short sharp start to the stage soon got your ticker pumping. Some of you may have also recognised this section from the ‘Tipping Point’ DVD from recent years.
Stage 2: 93 DH + red route backwards
This stage began with a long rocky sprint that flowed into a series of flat loose turns, ordinarily used as a climb on the Eastridge trail red route. Carrying speed through these corners and avoiding the speed killing roots was key to success on this stage. A short uphill fireroad climb followed, leading into a number of twisty turns which were really difficult to maintain speed through. The speed really picked up again at this point firing you back down the hill into a really steep section which was seriously good fun.
Stage 3: 98 NPS track
This stage began with a seriously speed sapping climb and those with a high power to weight ratio (key to enduro racing) excelled on this part of the track. Following the trail it lead you into a few bermed corners which were littered with rocks. The next section was flat out! Holding on for dear life and avoiding the plethora of roots, rocks and stumps you carried on almost straight down the hill, crossing the fireroad and into the final section that finished with a short fireroad sprint!
Stage 4: Big log + Poo corner
One of my favourite sections as it seemed to be a well rounded Enduro type stage. Beginning with a relatively flat section, known as big log due to the big log you ride over (obviously), the trail negotiated a series of flat rocky, loose turns. The trail then became very loose and rutted and maintaining a flow through this section was vital. The trail then crossed the fireroad into a short steep climb. This new section linked into a stage used last year which then crossed a fireroad into the section known as ‘Poo corner’ (speak to Alex Langley if you ever meet him about the naming of that corner. Alternatively – answers/best guesses on a postcard!). Following ‘Poo corner’ was a short climb into a seriously fast downhill into the finish.
Stage 5: BUSA champs track (Also used for seeding)
This stage was also used for seeding so people got to know this short blast very well. This stage was a flat out sprint as it was fairly short for a Gravity Enduro stage. Beginning on a couple of jumps, followed by a fireroad sprint the stage soon got a lot rougher. This part of the track was pretty steep and was littered with large loose rocks so finding a smooth line through this was no mean feat. After negotiating the tight, rocky turns you lined up for a series of fast jumps into the final finish field. The jump into the field unfortunately claimed an early victim as Andrew Woodvine (Leisure Lakes Gravity Team rider) ended up injuring his wrist and shoulder prior to the race. Therefore, choosing a fast line around the jump or over it was a key talking point of this stage. After sending the jumps (or not) you crossed a small stream over a final finishing jump, under the huge Shimano arch, round a final berm and into the finish.
Saturday morning’s weather looked very promising and the trails were in near perfect condition. However as the weather man promised, the heavens opened around midday and put a dampener on the race. The trails then became very loose and greasy. Eastridge isn’t your typical trail centre type trails and is left very natural so there are a number of greasy, slippy roots to catch you out as I’m sure many found riders found out. As seeding approached around 3pm some riders were changing tyres and fretting about the change in course conditions. I stuck with my trusty Muddy Mary’s as I knew they’d grip whatever the conditions.
Rider after rider came down and seeding seemed to go without a hitch. Pre race favourite and local rider Neil Donoghue took the top spot in Elite category with a time of 1:40. Aidan Bishop (a regular top five finisher in Elite) seemed to have a mechanical issue which put him down the rankings. Some fantastic seeding times were also posted by relative locals, Jon Adam-Martin (Master – LeisureLakesBikes/Yeti) and Chris Headley (Veteran – Plush Hill Cycles).
Sunday morning came and it seemed as though some seeding times had been slightly adjusted. Despite this the racing began in glorious sunshine and the weather looked promising for the rest of the day. As always, everyone seemed to put everything into their race runs in the Elite category and hoped they were doing well. There were some mishaps as Alex Rafferty had a mechanical issue on stage 3 which put him out of contention. I was happy with my own consistent performance on my Yeti SB66 which helped me to 5th in Elite.
In the Under 18 category a relatively unknown rider, Joe Buck, put a storming time to take 4th overall and the category win – one to watch in the future maybe? A strongly fought battle was played out in the Veteran category between Richy Lewis (Datatag Horizon) and Chris ‘Deadly’ Headley (Plush Hill Cycles). Both riders put in some serious time analysing the stages with Richy narrowly taking the win by one second.
Chris Headley (Plush Hill Cycles) – 2nd Veteran
‘I now need to go and work on my peggling to get to that number 1 spot!’
In the Masters’ category Jon Adams-Martin (LeisureLakesBikes/Yeti) put in a very strong performance smashing 25 seconds into his nearest competitor which also placed him 7th position overall. In the Elite category last years winner of the round, Neil Donoghue, didn’t disappoint by beating his closest rival, Philip Shucksmith, by ten seconds. Ralph Jones continued his consistent performance in the series and took the third spot.
Alex Langley (LeisureLakesBikes) – 7th Elite (Eastridge Trail Partnership)
‘With UK Gravity Enduro visiting Eastridge for the second year I really wanted to mix the course up from last year. There seemed to be some desire for some more physical stages so myself and ETP volunteers put together two long, physically demanding stages, with three technical DH stages in between. I think they all ran well and given the weather we’ve had recently it was touch and go as to how they would hold up but I think all the teams hard work paid off. My race started well with a 2nd in seeding but then dropped chains on stages 3 and 5 and two crashes on stage 4 took me out of the running.’
Bike Soup Under 18
1st Joe Buck
2nd Joe Harrison
3rd Peter Lloyd
Osprey Europe Women
1st Cherri Mills
2nd Liz Simmons
3rd Sally Evamy
Troy Lee Veteran
1st Richy Lewis
2nd Chris Headley
3rd Peter Roberts
1st Keven Baines
2nd Dave Wills
3rd Steve Felstead
Osprey Europe Master
1st John Adams-Martin
2nd Richard Minshull
3rd Andrew Devine
Streak Clothing Senior
1st Christopher Keeble-Smith
2nd Tobias Pantling
3rd Sam Flanagan
Schwalbe Tyres Elite Women
1st Tracey Moseley
2nd Helen Gaskell
3rd Sarah Newman
Continental Tyres Elite Men
1st Neil Donoghue
2nd Philip Shucksmith
3rd Ralph Jones
1st Neil Donoghue
2nd Philip Shucksmith
3rd Ralph Jones
4th Joe Buck
5th Rob Cooksley
Check out Race Timing Systems for full results: http://www.racetimingsystems.com/public/results.aspx?raceid=2133
From riding Eastridge many times before and knowing the quality of the trails I hoped that it would produce another great Gravity Enduro race and it did. The weather conditions and quality of the trails were excellent and the timing issues of past races seemed to be less apparent due to the use of transponders on the fork leg. The trails produced some great racing and most people I spoke to seemed to think the same and had a smile on their face.
A final thank you goes to the Eastridge Trail Partnership and Alex Langley for producing a quality race venue and also to Steve Parr for another great race. It seems as though Steve and the team have things running smoothly again and with the talk of a British Cycling affiliated Enduro series next year and possible World Cup Series the future of enduro racing has never looked better.
Keep those wheels spinning for the final round of the series at the Dyfi Forest on the 8/9th September.
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For further shots of the event, head to Roots & Rain…