If Scotland is the beating heart of UK enduro, then Fort William, the outdoor capital, must surely be its clenched fist. Delivering a big-mountain punch there could be no better arena for the final showdowns of both the 2018 POC Scottish Enduro Series and the EWS European Enduro Series.
Certainly one of the most exciting UK races of the season, all eyes were on the grand finale of the POC Scottish Enduro Series. Not only would Fort William be the host for the final round of the POC Scottish Enduro Series 2018, but also the final round of the EWS European Enduro Series. With the EWS team in attendance, it was clear that organisers No-Fuss had to pull something very special out of the bag. Fort William is legendary in the DH scene, and as the ‘Outdoor Capital of the UK’ everyone was expecting something very exciting indeed. Teasers filtered out over social media, calls were made, plans were set, and with support from Event Scotland and the Nevis Range, Fort William’s big-mountain experience grew a whole lot bigger. For the first time in UK enduro racing, the Nevis Range Gondola was opened to whisk riders up the rugged mountainside. A connecting chairlift would take riders higher than ever before, delivering them to the very summit, and above two gnarly fresh stages, cut in specifically for the race. This would be the highest enduro race in the UK, a true big-mountain experience.
Leading up to practice day, the weather had been decidedly Scottish. As storms battled for ‘meteorological top dog’, No-Fuss had to keep a number of backup stages up their sleeves in case the weather went from wild to biblical. With the hillside taking a lashing, puddles filling and ruts deepening this was a day for waterproof everything. However, the rain did nothing to deter 350 excited riders, who donned jackets and took the battle to the mountain. The five intense stages certainly raised some eyebrows, a real mix of high-speed bike park, rooty sufferfests, potent rock gardens and full-bore charges down the high mountain ridge-line dodging microwave sized rocks and ruts that threatened to swallow riders whole, this was pure mountain-biking, a true test of both rider and machine. But what would the weather do?
There must have been more than one weather dance performed on Saturday night as on Sunday morning the sky looked lighter and brighter, it was going to be a good day on the mountain. The final round of a series is always an exciting one, for some, it marks the culmination of a season of dedicated racing, training and focus; an opportunity to stand on the overall podium. For others, it offers the chance to experience one last day of hanging on while praying for mercy before the race plates are hung up for the winter. There were new international riders in the mix too, competing for the EWS European Enduro Series title, a series that had already visited Italy, France and Switzerland. One thing was certain, Scotland was going to put on a mighty show in its own rugged style.
During the day, racing at the front of the pack was intense. The Nevis Range is Canyon’s Joe Barnes’ home turf, one of the trails is even named after him, the iconic Top Chief Black, so everyone expected him to claim the top step. However, it seems DH superstar Ben Cathro did not get the memo, taking victories on the first three stages, and building up a 14-second lead that Joe could not pull back. In the women's race, the fastest lady on the day was Junior racer, and EWS champion, Ella Connolly, taking a confident win. Huge credit should also go out to Alastair MacLennan, Euan Thomson, Jamie Edmondson, Roz Newman, Chris Ball, Louise Fergusson, Ross Hancock, Neil Young, Dan Bishop, Fiona Finnie and Mark Hughes for winning the Grand Vet Male, Hardtail, Junior Male, Master Female, Master Male, Senior Female, Senior Male, Super Grand Vet Male, Veteran Male, Short Female, Short Male categories respectively. Full results can be found here
Fort William proved a standout end to the season, not only giving riders a taste of big-mountain racing but also showing the dedication of organisers No-Fuss to push UK racing to new heights. Already iconic in the DH scene, Fort William showed it has world-class credentials in enduro too, the perfect stage for bigger international races in the future. The Scottish Enduro Series may be over, but there is still one special race on the calendar before the winter kicks in. The Scottish Championships will be held on November the 3rd in Kinlochleven, Scotland's most beautiful riding destination. It’s a bonkers race and one last chance to get rowdy! Spaces are limited so get signed up quickly
.Derek Laughland’s legacy
Another very special event happened this weekend. Marking the one year anniversary of Derek Laughland’s sad passing. Derek was a beloved member of the Scottish racing community, always full of kind words and championing enjoyment and fun. In memory of Derek’s influential presence to the Scottish Enduro Series, the Laughland family has kindly offered the most promising junior racers a support package that includes a Nevis Range season pass and extensive coaching with DirtSchool, race entries and support throughout the season. The successful candidates were Fraser Kelly and Polly Henderson. We are sure that Derek would have admired Fraser and Polly’s dedication and he would have been the first to offer support and encouragement in their bright racing future. Good luck in 2019 Polly and Fraser.
Photos: Trev Worsey