With a race billed as “The Epic” this report may end up being like a game of superlative bingo. The PMBA team have a reputation for delivering awesome (there’s the first!) events, attracting a host of talent from around the UK and much further afield. The first weekend in May is a UK bank holiday, so gives the team the opportunity to host an all weekend race event and offer an opportunity to ride some of the finest, all-natural trails in the UK, on the private estate of Graythwaite Hall.
This was Round 2 of the PMBA Enduro Series, also doubling as Round 2 of the British National Enduro Series. With EWS qualification points up for grabs this was a must-attend event for many of the country’s top riders, as well some incredibly talented internationals as well.
The Graythwaite Estate is entirely private, with absolutely no access to the trails outside of the event. This serves as great field leveller. There’s no local knowledge or advantage. With the PMBA trail diggers putting in several new stages each year, previous race experience here counts for little. There’s no kitty litter trail centre tracks at this event. It is billed (cautioned!) that these are some of the most technical trails on the race circuit and should not be underestimated! That being said, the team have this year looked to build trails designed for more flow and speed to mix up the racing. This year there were 8 stages, approximately 15 miles (24km) and 3500ft (1100M) elevation which on average took the racers five hours to get around. After a full day of practice the Saturday, the average rider then had a total 20 mins of adrenaline fuelled racing on the Sunday. This was one tough event, leaving many exhausted but absolutely buzzing at what they had just experienced and achieved. After all, they had just ridden, conquered and in some cases, destroyed an EWS Qualifier!
All the stages and some of the transition climbs had been built by the PMBA Enduro team since the first event here in 2016. This made for some tough climbs, with half the stages having the final part of the transition as a push up to get to the summits. But once there you were rewarded with fantastic views. Stages 1,6 and 7 had views over Windermere, the largest of the Lake Districts waterways, while from stage 2 you could just about see Coniston Old Man to the East; if stood atop the highest of the rocks by the start. However the view to the North was the best here, a vista that is pure lakeland with Helvellyn right in the middle. The weather all weekend could not have been better. Clear skies most of the weekend with a cool breeze, ideal for racing. The majority of the stages were dry and dusty in places.
The race arena was perfectly located at the bottom of the final stage and provided great facilities which included bike repairs, food and beers as well as a huge and spacious camping area that also included showers.
Stage 1 was a brutal introduction to the event. Steep chutes, greasy roots, rocks, loose loam and some tasty drops.
Stages 4 and 5 were brand new for 2019. Fast and flow in places, these were a welcome break after the earlier techy fest!
Stage 6, Nicks Party Line saw a return to the roots. The top section is incredibly technical before dropping into the woods for some very fast trails.
Stage 8 was nothing short of brutal. After a not insignificant transition, the riders drop into a wood section, tall pine trees with a covering of needles obscuring rocks and roots. There's no hiding the frequent peddly sections and the aptly named Sadists Suprise, a nasty push up, before the final drop into the finish paddock.
So, how did it all of that Epicness shake down? The fastest man on the day was Ad Brayton (30-39). It had been 2 years since Ad had raced a PMBA Enduro and back then he also took the win in the elites. In a blistering time of 14:18.97 across the 8 stages he was closely chased by Drew Armstrong (U21) from Ireland in 14:45.14 and 3rd fastest on the day went to Ian Austermuhle (30-39) in 14:46.99. Looking at the top ten fastest times the field was dominated by the more experienced riders than the younger lads. Huge shout out has to go to James Hughes (40-49) who recorded a stunning 7th fastest of the day in 14:58.01, absolutely outstanding effort there James!
The fastest woman of the day was young Polly Henderson (U21). Polly is no stranger to the podium and is one of the PMBA ambassador riders, she's certainly someone to keep an eye on. Her time 18:30.59 was chased by Katie Wakey (35+) in 19:43.17 and first in her category. 3rd fastest was Sarah Gamsjaeger (21-34) all the way from Austria in 20:03.87 and winning her category also. It was great to see another PMBA race stacked with female riders, clearly not put off by Graythwaite's draughting reputation.
For a full run down of the results and to see how you fared against the fastest head over to roots and rain
For some, this wasn't just about racing another PMBA, or EWS qualifier, this wasn't just about the 2nd round of the British Enduro Series. The armed forces were out in force competing against each other and in their teams. Here's a rundown of how their race fared. There were a total of 43 armed forces races through the weekend, plus a few DNSs or DNFs. Their results go like this. Military standings were 1st Buzz (Army), 2nd Jordan (Army), 3rd Craig (Royal Navy/Royal Marines), 4th Ian (RAF), 5th Martin (REME/Army). That's a pretty respectable number of forces competitors over the weekend and it was great to witness the camaraderie and banter amongst them.
So that's it from Graythwaite 2019. The biggest race in PMBA history was truly an Epic. Tough and testing stages that tested even the best of the racers, transitions that gave even the fittest of racers the shakes (Alex Holowko). The racing was fast, it was furious but the post race euphoria is still out there strong. DID YOU SURVIVE THE EPIC? COMMENT BELOW.
To enter any of the remaining races head over to the official PMBA website
. For more information on how the year is unfolding head over to their FaceBook
for more information.
A final big shout out to Kev Duckworth and his huge and dedicated team for bringing this event alive, but also to the amazing team behind the Graythwaite Estate, what an amazing location for the PMBA to host a yearly Epic.
Jack Ackroyd is the man who can "Just Press Send" The #KSDrop
being the final feature of a huge day out on the bike.
Race report photos and words by @DialledinUK (Adam Sherratt, Jerry Tatton and Carol Solomon)
Video by the one and only @HDDNmedia and Ben Gerrish