Last weekend saw the return of the PMBA Enduro series after the long summer break and what a return it was.
After what seems to have been an endless summer of blistering heat, sunshine and the PMBA Enduro having an extended break, the crew returned to Kirroughtree, one of Scotland’s incredible 7 Stanes mountain bike trail centres. This was clearly the quiet before the storm. With only 140 riders signed up 6 weeks before the event it was looking like it was going to be only half full. Kirroughtree is, after all, one of the furthest races to get to, tucked away far west in the beautiful Scottish borders of Dumfries and Galloway. However, after quiet sales initially, over 300 riders had an entry, with 100 entries being bought in the last 2 weeks alone. Over the weekend 272 had signed on and 271 starters and finishers on the day. That’s almost unheard of for any race these days.
The race itself consisted of a 12.5 mile loop with 5 stages of varying difficulty, surface and style. Stage 1 warmed you up and included a new section of flow trail recently built. Stage 2 was a classic, but the final third was all-new fresh cut stage to mix it up. Stage 3 added the miles as you looped round the "black" to get to the start and contained that classic Kirroughtree bedrock. Stage 4 started to up the technicality on the off piste start, but made sure racers knew how to pedal; and then stage 5, which could be missed out for "lite-loop" riders went full bore steep, off piste and contained multiple drops. This was the 5th consecutive year PMBA Enduro has hosted an Enduro here with a very supportive forestry team enabling new trails getting cut to mix in with trail centre sections. This race course has everything, mud, roots, rocks (big rocky sections), trail centre super-fast sections as well as super steep chutes and lots of pedalling. With a great café, permanent showers, large flat camping field, great walking trails and set in a "Dark Sky" park this is one of the very favourite venues for racers to bring the family along. No surprise that many riders turned up Friday night, with the full family, and made the event a weekender, despite the race only being a one day Sunday event.
During the podiums; Kev highlighted the fact that it was great to see the younger stars coming through. With 10 U14 boys entered, it’s obvious to see that the PMBA still has its philosophy of a grassroots type of race series, even though some of the races this year have been aimed at more experienced riders like the EWS qualifier at Graythwaite. With riders this young, they race around with a chaperone, and those chaperones were either grimacing at the techy stages or laughing out loud. We can't skip by the Under 14s without a mention of George Hemmingway, our youngest competitor ever (we allow ages 11+) but as a multiple moto-trails British champ has some bike handling skills, only a minute behind his podium-standing dad, beating his older brother on Stage 5 and finishing 76th overall ... with that talent watch out for him and remember just where he did his first ever enduro!
The under 16 boys posted fast times which delivered a shake up to the podium order seen from the last round at Graythwaite. New to the PMBA podium, Zak Harrop’s combined fast xc legs and skills put him on the top step whilst Gabriel Seabridge, still sporting his surf style and newly dented helmet (which he promises to replace with a yellow one), took second place. Matti Baptista who was also on the podium at Graythwaite in his first enduro, took third this time round. PMBA ambassador Martha Gill was very proud to see the two lads she chaperoned on the podium – it shows the fun and friendly side of the sport of enduro when the up and coming youths are happily escorted by EWS regulars Martha, Bex and Abi – they all had a great laugh! In fourth, 8 hundredths of a second off Matti’s time was one of the local trail building team for this event, Douglas Copeman, and 2 seconds behind him in fifth, was Adam Wilson.
Edward Earle recorded some fast times in all but 1 stage (stage 4) not sure what happened there – as he was certainly on for a podium otherwise - his stage 5 time was impressive at 2:00.91 – next fastest was Matti Baptista!
The U19's have been competitive with the overall's, and with PMBA Enduro ambassador Tom putting himself in Elites Under 19’s that left it open for Harvey Clacherty. He has got the speed and skill to challenge the elite times too, he won 3 stages and was always in the top 3. Josh Noble (fastest on stage 4) was closest to him in 2nd, 12:47 secs away, Eli Wright rode consistently well for a third place in the category; Ewan Calton-Whitaker took the stage 5 win and finished 4th and Calum Johnson claimed 5th place on the podium.
It was great to see so many women racing in this event. 28 women had pre-entered and 26 women signed on and completed the course. This number may seem small, but 10% of the racers being women is a good percentage for enduro, and as some of who were racing the PMBA for the first, but not the last time we still hope to grow this figure. Hollie Vayro trying enduro for the first time ever, Hollie was the only U16 girl on the day, but out of the 26 women she came in at a superb 10th overall, her mum said "My 11yr old daughter beat me by over a minute ????????♀️ can’t decide if I’m proud or devastated. Proud as hell of course! She’s a little superstar!! We’ve all fallen off and all been scared shitless and laughed like mad. Bring on the next one!! "
. Stories like that show that we are achieving our objectives of encouraging women and kids to race and provide the future superstars of the sport. Of course, in just 5 weeks time we'll have over 300 women at the Hopetech Women enduro in Gisburn Forest, an event that sold-out back in April and if we had parking room for more could have easily been 400 entries!
Here's a selection of the women, who not only put on a great race, but came in their numbers!
On to the results and it's no surprise these days to see the elite riders taking the fastest times of the day. The fastest elite on the day was James Shirley with a total time of 10:07.93. James was racing the PMBA enduro for the first time. Second fastest time of the day was Reece Langhorn in 10:13.18, literally only one second on average slower across the 5 stages. Third fastest was ambassador rider Tom Wilson (who has put himself forward to race elite at the PMBA series) in 10:14.01, less than one second behind Reece. What a battle these 3 elite riders had, literally a fraction over 1 second over the 5 stages separated them. The top ten fastest riders of the day were a mix between elite and U19 and less than 45 seconds separated them all. We have to mention Chris Dixon (40-49) who just missed out on an overall 10th fastest time of the day by less than a second, top effort from the veterans! Chris did take the win in the vets, which was also a hard fought battle between the top 3 riders.
The women also had an outstanding race. Bex Baraona taking the overall fastest time of the day in 11:23.74, and winning each of the 5 stages. Hot on her heels was young Polly Henderson in 12:07.23 taking the second fastest time, and winning the U21 women category, it's just 2 years since she did her first ever enduro, with us here at Kirroughtree, and enjoyed it that much has been staring at events countrywide, often posting times ahead of the pro women; at the National Champs this year she posted a time capable of the bronze medal in the elite women's, she's just that rapid! Third fastest in the women's race was Bex's "Gowaan gals" cohort and PMBA Enduro Ambassador Martha Gill in 12:23.62.
For a full run down of the results head over to Roots and Rain
and see where you compared to the rest of the field.
It has to be said, the atmosphere throughout the whole weekend was electric. The wait had been worth it. Even though leading up to the race the weather had been good, the forecast could have dampened (sorry for the pun) the spirits, but the mixed weather and rain showers just seemed to add to the trails and race.
Next up will be Lee Quarry, a 2 day series finale on the 6th/7th October. Places are still available, but will fast fill up after the success of the Kirroughtree round. Signing up early also enables us far more scope and flexibility to organising a spectacular event, order the right number of toilets for example. Do not hesitate or wait it out, sign up at the official PMBA Enduro website
. One week after that on Sunday will be the Hopetech Women's enduro at Gisburn forest, but that filled up back in April!
So that's it for now, a big shout out to the sponsors of the event. Break pad bike shop for being round sponsor; Hope Technology are the series title sponsor backed up by Orange Bikes, Datatag, Sixth Element, Box components, Vittoria Tyres, KS Dropper seatposts, Mudhugger, Saxx Underwear, Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery and Ride Slovenia. Without them we couldn't have 13 x 5 person podiums to encourage all these racers to take up enduro, 65 potential podium standers at each event !
I'll leave you with more images from the weekend.