For 3 years in a row, the Hope PMBA Enduro Series has hosted the Hopetech Women's Enduro at Gisburn forest. With each year the event has become bigger and better, starting with 219 women turning out for the 2017 race, to 263 competing for the title at this year's event. Whilst this years event was a sell-out it has grown beyond a simple numbers gain, becoming more of a festival of mountain biking, a celebration of women in sport. This year the Saturday featured bike demos, clothing stands, bike components and MTB coaching from the likes of Tracy Moseley, Helen Gaskell and Katy Curd. Hopetech had gone all out to make this one weekend on the race calendar not to miss.
On the whole, this is more of an introduction race, with a total loop of approximately 11 miles, a total climb of 1,700 feet (including Cardiac, that beast of a climb) and 3 stages on well-established trail centre stages. This race is therefore accessible to any level of rider, but once you put the gas on and start going race pace, then the technical riding comes into play. Stage 1 was "Home Baked". This is a great trail, not super steep, but pretty technical in places as it is tight and twisty with some speed sapping slimy roots to negotiate, polished through years of wear, placed to catch you out any time you let your guard down.
Stage 2 was the furthest point away and the longest stage. This started just below the legendary Whelpstone Crag and along the trail to a grim sharp up-road sprint into "Long Way Down", a trail that opened in 2017 during the first-ever Hopetech women's race. With legs burning from slamming the pedals, the racers threw themselves in the big berms, going full gas and large over the rocks. This was another stage where you could take some serious time from your fellow competitors.
Stage 3 was the popular Hopeline trail. Narrow, fast with jumps, drops and tabletops. This stage always attracts spectators to cheer and heckle the riders. With the addition of fairy lights, the atmosphere was certainly "electric". (I apologise). This is by far and away the loudest, best supported and most supportive crowd on the UK race calendar, with everyone buying into what Hope and the elite riders that they have supporting them are trying to achieve: getting more women into Mountain Biking, even if this is the only event they ever race.
This race, though not part of the Hope PMBA Enduro Series, always seems to feel like the final race of their calendar. Always in October, it's always a risky time of year to run races, but this weekend, though cold was mostly blessed by the weather. A few lighter showers through the practice made way for a rain-free race. But that's not to say the trails were dry. But not to be deterred, the riders descended upon Gisburn en masse.
The overall winner and successfully defending her 2018 title was Martha Gill (Elite) in an incredible 6:02.27, taking the fastest times on stages 2 and 3, and second fastest on stage 1. Second fastest of the day went to Harriet Harnden (U21) in 6:06.26, only 3.99s behind Martha. Third fastest went to Tracy Moseley (Elite) in 6:06.45, 4.18s behind Martha. Tracy took the fastest time on stage 1. This was some tight racing between these 3. There were only 12 seconds separating the top 5 riders of the day, with Polly Henderson (U21) in fourth and Chloe Taylor (Elite) in fifth fastest. For a full rundown of the results head over to either roots and rain
One of the most inspirational moments of the entire weekend was listening to Tracy's words during the podium presentations. Tracy needs no introductions as not only a world champion but also a huge supporter of MTB racing. Her recognition of the young talent coming through the racing scene was simply inspiring. The U16 category in particular, with the likes of Rose Tempest who took the U16 title and has won 5 out of her 6 races entered in 2019. Ellie Jones U16 who was less than 0.5s behind Rose, who also has an outstanding record throughout 2019 taking podiums in 12 out of 13 races. Leah Tulloch U16, who's first-ever race was the Hopetech Women's in 2017 took third on the day, she's also the PMBA series winner and ambassador rider. There are so many upcoming stars in this category, it's hard to mention them all, Phoebe, Amilia and Hollie all pushing hard for top spots. As Tracy said, it is an amazing time for this sport and the strength of the women coming through.
With so many wonderful moments over the weekend, the one that stands out was watching Martha, fresh from her podium, being accosted by a young girl, maybe 7 years old, who wanted to hold the winners trophy. This little ripper then went on to tell Martha to watch her back as she was coming for her title! I'm sure I saw a flash of worry in Martha's eyes!
For more information and a bucket load of photos and information, head over to the Hopetech Women FaceBook
pages or the Hope PMBA Enduro Series Facebook
took a mass of photos which are on the PMBA facebook pages and roots and rain
So that's a wrap for the 2019 Hopetech Women's Enduro. Record numbers of riders turned up 3 years in a row at Gisburn forest to competitively race, to socialise with mates, to experience racing for the first time and to take away some great memories, massive prizes from the podiums and raffles and some pretty spectacular flapjacks from the Good Egg
This race report and photos were brought to you by @JWDTphotography
and photos by @DialledinUK and Adam Sherratt