For the second year running the PMBA Enduro Series has been the crew behind the Hopetech Women’s Enduro. Hope being one of the major sponsors for the series, it’s an obvious collaboration for this event.
This event is the biggest all women mtb race in the UK, and is a key event in enticing women into what is perceived as a very male orientated sport. With complete novices, past & current racers; 11 year old's to those in their late 50's a complete mix of 320 women had signed up to this unique event. Hope put in a lot of work on the "extra's" goody bags for all racers, finishers medals, enticing a huge array of trade displays, free Crepe's and marshmallows to toast on a roaring fire pit; the sign on area even had fairy lights to add to the relaxed atmosphere.
The event takes place at Gisburn forest, one of the super 6 trail centres in the north of England; Grizedale, Kielder, Hamsterley and Chopwell Woods being the others. The PMBA Enduro Series is no stranger to Gisburn forest, its where it all started in 2013 and has hosted the opening round of the series at every year since.
The purpose of this race is to attract as many mountain biking women to come along and either race for the first time and experience the race scene with like minded riders. This race also attracts seasoned racers too, loving the opportunity to see so many women racing together.
The spirits were high for the race day. Even though the weather was ruthless leading up to the race, with heavy rain storms and hefty winds forecast all weekend, it did not materialise, the temperatures were reasonable and the rains kept away. It really could not have been more perfect.
The race itself consisted of an approximate 11 mile loop going far out into the Gisburn forest to the rocky crags. 3 differing style stages were timed within the loop. “Homebaked” was the 1st Stage, a tight stage, with slippery roots and a superb rocky staircase feature that had many tackling it for the better times. The alternate line was longer and added much time to those not keen on the techy rocks.
The second stage “Long Way Down”, started near the infamous Whelpstone Crag and crossed rocks before an evil little fire-road uphill sprint to the new trail, with big sweeping berms and off camber trail centre gravel.
Finally to stage 3, “the Hopeline” a bit of a gravity stage with jumps drops and tight berms, with also the biggest group of hecklers (sorry supporters). Talking of the supporters, there were loads. Especially on the rocky steps on stage 1, when the women rode the tech, they got the cheers from the crowd! On stage 3 the supporters gathered on the three tabletops, and a good rock drop. Take on the rock drop and the cheers got louder and louder.
The atmosphere was electric, not only from the riders, but also the supporters. DialledinUK has been to plenty of races, but nothing compares to this atmosphere.
247 women raced on the day, with the elites recording some of the fastest times. Martha Gill (Elite) was the overall fastest and elite winner of the day. Winning in 6:09.21 she was very closely followed by Katy Curd (Elite) 5.19 seconds behind. 3rd fastest of the day was not an elite rider but Megan James (U21) in 6:21.30. Well worth noting that the fastest four U16's were also in the top 32 overall, and in fact the fastest 3 of every category including the Grand Vet (50+) finished in the top 36 overall! It was a tight race for the 3 fastest times of the day and an epic battle between Martha and Katy. Looking through the results, it’s great to mention the result from the amazing Karen Van Meerbeeck who not only came 1st in the veterans (40-49) but also came 8th in the overall out of 247 women, a star of 90's MTB racing showing she still has the skills and speed to mix it with the best. For a full rundown of the results head over to roots and rain
This was another superbly run even by the PMBA Enduro Series with the Hopetech team. The atmosphere all day was incredible and many people are already saying they cannot wait until next year. The dates for the PMBA races is out now, with an average of 10% women entering each race, it would be great to see some of these women enter. The stages are more technical in the main enduro series, but take the plunge and you can have Enduro fun more than once a year; and there is always the "lite" option that misses a hard stage if you prefer.
See you next year, 20th October 2019 to be precise. For more information on the PMBA Enduro Series head over to the website here for updates