In the words of organiser Kev Duckworth, “what an absolute belter! It was hard work to bring a new venue to life but we smashed it!”
So he thinks it went well. And indeed, there were naysayers by the bucketload: “We got told we were daft putting on a event that clashed with Fort Bill when 25,000 gravity loving mountain bikers were up there – yet we filled the entry slots to the maximum and people were desperate for slots being sold on.”
So what made this race so enticing? Well, the weather clearly helped, but more than that – was it the 5 fresh cut tracks? There was a lot of pushing up rather than the usual fire road grind, but many perhaps preferred this more sedate way of ascending. But Kev reckons there were great views – and, crucially, great trails.
“The race arena was a awesome spot, with camping, in a scenic estate, and stage 5 was a downhill finish right into the heart with riders boosting down our “KSDrop” feature.” This last was new. Kev explains: “I have had praise in the past for not taping out jumps, but this is the first time we have specifically gone and built a massive sender to tape into an enduro stage.
“Racers are all fully behind the direction we are taking the enduro series with a mix of grass roots events and stepping it up for others and especially for this championship event.”
So without further ado, let’s digest a rundown of the weekend with your hosts, Joe Flanagan (Trippin Fellaz/Hope Technology) and Claire Bennett – newly crowned Womens Sorthern Enduro Champion:
Joe Flanagans ingredients for a good time:
- Bikes! Anything with two wheels is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
- Sweet tracks to ride bikes on. Ribbons of dirt, gardens of loam, berms and booters guaranteed to make you fill your pants with excited juices.
- Sunshine! Sunshine is warm and being warm is nice this often produces a smile on the faces of people involved with sunshine.
- Friends, family, close ones, pets. Where would we be without them? The answer to that is on our own and being on your own is no fun unless your have a good wi-fi network and are familiar with websites of ill repute.
These things (apart from the wi-fi and the websites) were all found in abundance at the Hope PMBA northern Enduro champs in the grounds of the Graythwaite Estate.
Hope PMBA Northern Champs Enduro R4 – Claire Bennett
The weather forecast was looking primo! As I made the journey north to Graythwaite Hall in the south Lakes for round 4 of the PMBA series I was excited at the prospect of riding new, dry dusty trails!
“The stages provided a good mix of technical tree weaving and balls-out berm blasting with some of the finest loam I’ve ever had chance to set wheels on!” – Joe Flanagan
Saturday afternoon’s practice was soon on its way, with a short ride out along the road we were soon into the woods hiking up to the first stage.
Stage 1 was tight! Trees everywhere, trying not to shoulder barge them I made my way down, stopping at most of the caution arrow signs to scope out the line.
It was hot, so hot! With sweat dripping down our faces we made our way after a short push to stage 2. This was where the flow was at. Loved it, super flowy with fast chutes in places, over cooked one corner and went straight on! That’s the best thing about practice, to hopefully get the silly mistakes over and done with before racing!
Stage 3 started with awesome views across lake Windermere and the surrounding peaks, a stunning location. After a couple of fast bermed corners it was into the steep stuff: one corner, two corners, third corner and off! It was a little steep section with soooo much powdery dust!
You’d think I’d be used to it after racing in Chile but I got caught out, picking up more and more speed but not wanting to commit to the turn, I blew straight through the berm into the undergrowth!! Back on track I continued on, luckily mate Si waited at the top of the next feature, a rock drop with a wooden roll out. I approached to hear ‘it’s rollable, it’s rollable’ so smashed on through! Had I’d not heard that I think I would have freaked out at top of it and not done it! That’s the second best thing about practice, doing things you might normally not do but having the right people with you push you on.
Stage 4, the other steep one, very enjoyable! Lots of tight turns, steep techy sections and a dusty fast off camber chute to finish.
By this point in the afternoon I think we’d sweated out our body weight in water. Onwards to the last stage, stage 5, with a fast start, and straight onto some awkward pedally sections, in the wrong gear of course. Scooting myself up the course gravity took over again but was shortly stopped by the impending short steep off the bike climb! As we stopped at the top to gasp some dry humid air into the lungs we realised this stage was going to be a bit of a killer come tomorrow’s race day. Fast and flowy tracks continued to the finish arena, but first was to decide which drop to tackle. Left or right? I walked down to take a look, right it was for me. Rollable if wanted or just push off the top clearing the down ramp.
With practice done it was time to get the BBQ fired up and cool down with a cool beverage.
With a start time of 12.35pm we were keen to get out and practice some of the tracks again, and to just go ride them again because they where so much fun!
I opted to ride 1, 3 and 5 again leaving enough time to have a bite to eat and relax before setting out on the race lap.
The PMBA format of races is great because you can head out whenever you want, with who ever you want at a pace to suit you -a super relaxed way of racing!
Taking it steady on the climbs was a good idea, as it was probably the hottest and most humid day of the year. And so we arrived at stage 1.
“Stage one was like navigating a maze in an Egyptian pyramid a blur of changing corners angles and narrow tree sections kept you on your toes. If you pulled it off you were rewarded with a perfect feeling of flow, on the other hand if you clipped your hips on the first tight tree it seemed you were scraping bark all the way down” – Joe Flanagan
The nerves were a little high, I was struggling to remember the sections I needed to go round and which sections I was jumping over! All went well though, steady away, staying on the bike was key!
After a bit of trackside repairs to Si’s front brake lever that was dangling down by his front axle we were soon on our way down stage 2.
“Stage two was a fast flurry through some magical woodland – I kept expecting to be held up by fairies crossing the track” – Joe Flanagan
It felt fast! With trackside whoops and cheers from the enduro family that is Ready, Nikki and Glenda we popped out at the bottom of the stage absolutely buzzing! With a brief rest at the top of stage 3 due to a red flag, talk of the ‘corner’ started! How blown out was it going to be? Was I going to make it? Or go straight in again?!
I made it. Just! With a foot out dabbing away at the right hand side of the track desperately trying not to fall too low of the side of the track I kept momentum to keep going. Happy days.
“Stage three was the dog’s f**king bollocks” – Joe Flanagan
We didn’t hang about at the top of stage 4. In amongst the trees the midges soon found us and started to feed! Off down the stage chasing Mike I went, catching up dust clouds as I went but I never saw him! Spurred me on though! And out the bottom of the stage with a huge grin on my face.
“Stage 4 I would rather not talk about because it tried to remove my rear mech” – Joe Flanagan
Onwards to last the last stage. Feeling pumped and happy with how I’d ridden all day I was keen to get the last done without mistakes. The pedally section came and with it the leg burn. A short roll down to the off bike climb, pushing as fast as I could to the brow of the slope I was soon back on the bike, lungs heaving after air! Onto the finish field drops and a sprint for the finish line.
That has to be the toughest, shortest race I’ve ever done! I think the heat added to that too! Definitely the most amount of pushing my bike I’ve done on a race but that didn’t matter. The standard of trail building was amazing. 5 really enjoyable, testing tracks, and a fab mix of flow, steep, technical, flat out fast, jumps and drops. Great work PMBA team and trail builders!
What a great weekend riding bikes with mates In the sun and to top it off I managed finish on the top step!