With Red Kite Events supporting the team this year we were invited along to their first enduro, with racing across 2 days in mid Wales. Mid Wales is renowned for its perfect natural trails and the chance to race on them sounded perfect.
The weekend started at 5.30am Saturday morning with a fellow MBSwindoner to pick up before the journey across the border to meet the rest of the MBSwindon Gravity Team. A quick sort through of the camping gear and we signed in at race HQ. Aside from the usual sign on table we were met with tea, coffee and toast – what a start!
The format for the weekend was practice stages 1 and 2 in the morning followed by a race run on the stages in the afternoon, then Sunday would bring stages 1 and 2 followed by a long transition to stages 3 and 4 and back for stage 5, a rerun of stage 2.
Numbers affixed to the bikes we set off for practice. Long winding fire roads met us up to stage 1, a fast natural track which would have the fastest riders daring themselves to stay off the anchors in a hope for those vital seconds with rutted straits and bedrock sections with a fast chute to the finish. The guys along with myself came out the bottom with whoops and grins a plenty – what a start to the weekend! A quick discussion on lines and it was up to stage 2. This was an open track that consisted of a quick rooty section out the gate into some very high speed slate surfing with hairpin corners as you quickly lost altitude, a blast across a fire road into a very new grassy traverse, tricky corner and a sprint to the finish. Pumped with adrenaline we made our way back to race HQ to collect timing chips.
2pm came and after the usual faffing off we went for race runs. The usual nerves set in and smiles disappeared. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Sprinting from the gate I felt strong and got the speed down and into the first dogleg corner talking out loud to myself ‘no brakes’! The rest quickly turned into a blur and with no hassles the finish quickly came into sight. After the marshal scanned my number board I felt good. The team were happy and it was stage 2 time. Out the gate and into the techy roots went well, a corner, then flat out slate, first hairpin and sprint time – wait – the chain is off! After I got it back on and to lose it again at the next section I knew things weren’t going great. I made the rest cleanly – a few more fast straights and tight corners, a fast bedrock section and a muddy singletrack – and then troubled the team for the rest of the day about how this never happens to me normally! Racing over we returned to HQ.
That evening we had a complimentary pasta party laid on for us and to check in on day 1 times. Stage 1 – 2nd fastest of the day, I was chuffed to say the least. Stage 2 and I was 20 seconds back from my team mates. Still, the team had a 3rd, 4th and myself in 5th even after the issue we shall never talk about again! Brilliant day albeit a bit disappointed I knew Sunday had my work cut out!
Sunday came and so did more rain. Stage 1 again and a frantic run in wetter conditions led to being a bit untidy but felt quick. The timing kit didn’t scan me out quickly but was worked out eventually. After Saturdays stage 2 I wanted a clean run and kept the chain this time with a clean but safe run. Stage 3 was pedally with nothing too technical. Out of breath we scanned out and up to the carnage of stage 4. This was the most technical of the weekend with mud and off camber roots down to the finish line. With this over we pedalled through torrential rain back to stage 5 (which was a re run of stage 2). The skies cleared for what felt like just the race run. After riding this a few times now most had their lines sorted. What felt like my cleanest run on the track and a solid sprint to the finish I had done all I could to pull back Saturdays mechanicals.
A full weekends riding with 100km covered over the two days meant this was pretty tough physically as well as technically – exactly what the new breed of Enduro racing should be.
The team were pretty happy with their race and with a 3rd, 4th and 5th between us we were in the right part of the leader board! I’d even managed to pull back my loss from Saturday, so to be back in the top 5 felt good.
Big thanks to Neil @ Red Kite for what was a great weekend with some of the best timed stages we have ridden.
Red Kite are well known for their Devil mtb races but this was their first go at an enduro (of the gravity variety, not the endurance variety) so no-one was too sure what it was going to be like. In the week or two before the race I’d said that with the terrain in mid Wales the stages were guaranteed to be fun. It took until 1/3 of the way down the first stage on the first morning of practice to confirm this theory – SO MUCH FUN! There ended up being 4 individual stages (due to destructive clear felling the best stage was removed) and you were timed 7 times in total.
The format was the same as the Mondraker Gravity Rally and what I’d consider the best way of doing these races. With no transition times and being able to race stages with whatever gap after the previous rider you want gives a much more social event, you spend all day chatting and encouraging your mates.
How did it go? Practice went well – we were all grinning ear to ear! Saturday racing for me was all about getting wild on a skinny rear tyre, pinballing the first 20m of stage 2 was scary.
Saturday night was the best addition to the weekend – Pasta Party! Included in the entry was a free pasta meal in town at the Drovers Rest which was hugely welcome, great addition to an already social event, there is talk about films being shown next time.
Sunday racing with a tyre swap and the weather turned with mild rain and drizzle all day, standard Wales but it really dampened my spirits. Just couldn’t get it together all day, braking too much and not letting it go on the fast straight descents, and don’t talk about that inside line on stage 2! I kept missing it and having to brake heavily round an off camber corner that set you up all badly for the flat out bedrock section.
As every enduro organiser knows the timing is a real pain, luckily as there were limited riders at this first race a manual backup was easily done for stage 4 and there was only one mishap with mikes stage 2 time. There is talk of changes to improve the timing further but for a first go it all seemed smooth from the rider side of things.
So how did we get on? Taking into account mikes timing issue on one stage it looks like both him and Phil Allum were on almost identical times overall! So personally I’m giving them joint 3rd behind an elite downhiller and a racer who’d been to Chile for the recent Enduro World Series – super fast riders by all accounts. I was pretty happy to slot into 5th behind them.
I’ve thrown together a quick edit of the chest cam footage – keep watching as the view does clear up!
See you all on 26/27th July!