The Hope/PMBA Enduro Series got underway in the rolling hills of Gisburn forest with 340 racers turning out. Novice rider Nicola Whittle gives her report from the five stage race…
Stage 1: LoaMUDeddon
This is a very muddy natural trail with large slippery roots ready to catch a novice like me off guard. Enjoyed swooping through the trees in this dark forest section but wished I’d listened to the marshal when he told me sunglasses were not advisable. I must admit that this stage surprised me on the practice run as I didn’t expect the sheer volume of mud and kept getting my tyres caught in the grooves caused by fellow racers (lack of experience in these conditions didn’t help). At the end I came out of this run with a feeling of relief that it was over, but at the same time couldn’t help but smile. My first stage was complete.
Stage 2: Home Baked
This was a classic Gisburn trail; one that I’ve ridden a few times before. This time round would be my favourite. It feels slightly different when taped off though; more enclosed and faster somehow. For the first time, I went down the staircase where the Orange banner was (I’d never attempted this previously). I’m sure it made for a slightly faster time, or at least it felt like it! Swooping down across the fire road and straight back into the dark trees was a good feeling. The tyres were always scrabbling for grip on the myriad of rocks and stones. Then as I came out of the bottom, down the last few stones an a little jump finished my run.
Stage 3: Whelpstone (Infamous Slab)
This was a bit of a nemesis of mine. Previously, I’ve only ever looked over the top and bottled it, only to come back down pushing my bike. I’d already conquered previous obstacles, so why not this?
My turn came to start and I heard someone say behind me “She’s gonna do it”. I just swallowed, got on the pedals and went for it! Most of it was psychological as it’s smoother than it looks, but you pick up speed fast! It’s pretty easy to carry too much speed round the following berms (or at least for my level). The Marshal on this stage was full of encouraging chants! Even the guys at the bottom with the sirens on the megaphone were cheering me on as I skidded to a halt on the fire road.
Stage 4: Hully Gully
This is my favourite section of all time and was really looking forward to this one. I’ve been thinking about the drop at the beginning for weeks! Drop-offs were a particular weakness of mine, so I’ve been spending a bit of time practicing where I can (high curb in front of the local shop is a favourite). I shot off past the starting line, rolled down the fire road to a hard left, sized the drop up and then… nose dived right off it! I did stay on the bike after some interesting noises came out of my mouth, then it was business as usual. High in the berms, fast out and holding on for dear life is how I started and finished this Stage.
Stage 5: Gas to Flat
The final stage came and I was happy this was the last one! I’ve never done this line before and didn’t have time for a practice run. Even the start was a bit of a shock as it was straight into a steep rocky/rooty section before a few twists and turns had you out in the open. Then came the dreaded drop-offs! I skipped them all, stopped dead at one point with confusion. This section was a tough one for me due to the previous confidence shaker and unfamiliarity of it. It was a relief to hit the dark canopy of the forest back into the pit of roots and mud! At least if I fell here, it would be nice and soft. I took my time as by now, I just wanted to get to the end in one piece. The final corner approached, sweeping right next to a wire fence. I jumped off the bike and joined my Husband and Friends for a group hug and a sit on the grass!
The day was a blast from start to finish. Everyone who I spoke to was informative, friendly and helpful. Everything seemed to run smoothly and there were no delays or confusion. This made it stress free and comfortable.
As a first race and probably the first event of it’s kind I’ve ever been to, I don’t think it could have gone any better!
Next year, I’ll be trying to convince more to join us, even if it’s just for fun, because you really can’t go wrong, oh, and it was a refreshing change to find Dottie’s Tea Trailer to have great prices with a warm and friendly service.