Round 3 of the Hope PMBA Enduro Series was hosted at Lee Quarry; one of the key venues that the PMBA has a large stake in promoting and maintaining. The two-day event took in a big loop through the Havok bike park and with limited parking (50 people) at this venue this is one of the few chances riders get to go up against the clock on the steep fun trails. Enjoy the video and read what series regular Mathew Woodall thought of the course on his way to a senior podium.
Pulling up in the Carpark on Saturday morning really hits home how big the PMBA series has become over the last couple of years with the Carpark absolutely full to bursting point with riders fitting number boards to the sound of rider chatter and fettling. The ride up to the quarry really revealed the extent of the work these guys put in and with all tracks taped out and ready for what was to be a rad weekends racing in perfect early summer weather.
With most of the Hope PMBA Enduro series being a one-day affair, this round was the odd one out. Two days were needed to fit in a big loop on the moors and stages at multiple venues - this was not going to be your average enduro. Saturday practice was a tough day featuring a 23-mile loop, a heatwave and six stages to practice... All with sections requiring multiple attempts, and a serious amount of big hills to climb which all combined, ensured we felt like we had done a lot of riding and knowing all too well that we had to do it all over again tomorrow!
Lee Quarry basking in the sun, KS jump section pictured
Stage 1: Singletrack DH is a classic stage first routed for the Singletrack weekender back in 2012. Delivering a good mix of well-used trail center sections at the top linked in with some really fun and challenging 'schladmingesque' off camber turns, then onto the lung-busting bottom section of the trail center, with an added landslide crossing just to keep you on your toes. I heard about the landslide and the floods that had closed part of the Lee Quarry trails and wondered if that would effect the event, however we just went straight through it the closed section opened back up for the event and just anpother technical feature to navigate.
Halfway down Stage 1, no shade in the quarry
The transition that followed would then take riders well and truly into the middle of nowhere. For the 2nd Stage, we would encounter the off-piste valleys of the moorland behind Whitworth quarry. This stage, MotoMoors, was very challenging with plenty of big rocky chutes, ruts from Moto's and hidden rocks to punish any rider who deviated from their chosen line. There wasnt really a racing line as this stage was so open down the little valley that you could go in whichever rocky rut, or huck off whichever slab you fancied. Polished off with a few very cheeky technical climbs to keep it enduro, but this was a crazy and unique stage...
So with a little bit of a chat about every riders near death encounter with one rock or another, we carried on. The beautiful views distracted most of us as we rode along the side of Cowm resevoir and then up the steep grass track transition to Stage 3. Dubbed "janduro" this is a real rider favourite with an amazing flowing top section with smatterings of doubles, step downs, and hip jumps to keep the aviation fans amongst us happy. It wouldn't be a challenging race stage without a punchy technical climb, and this one saw many riders dismount to run before back into the woods for an amazing final with a smattering of rocks and roots befroe blasting into the finish. The shortest stage of the day but no shortage of smiles.
Taking the inside line, overtaking on Stage 3
With every rider absolutely bouncing with excitement about the previous stage, it was now time for the business of getting all the way from Whitworth quarry... Heading over the top to the next two stages in Havok bike park, a gruelling climb made bearable by the 23-degree sun and good company of the other riders in the group. Just before dropping down into the Havok bike park, it was time for a quick break to give our tired legs a rest and to check out the live timing feature we had all heard so much about... As the page loaded people around me went from, "I'm not that bothered about knowing" to all huddled round the nearest smart phone to see how close you were to your riding buddy's and to those in the top 10 and 20, or what ever there goal was for the weekend. This feature was awesome and spurred everyone on going into the remaining stages.
Now, the Havok Bike Park these guys have put some real effort into there trails and it showed, especially on Stage 4, The red, which was a mind bogglingly fast, ran through the trees and was filled with some good sized doubles and big bike park berms, only with the odd greasy rock and root to try and catch you out...
We have lift-off, massive table on Stage 4
A welcome respite to the heat was welcomed as we hit the United Utilities water station and rehydrated - the sun is always welcome in England but it had been a long way over the moors with no shade to get to Havok from Stage 3.
Then onto stage 5; The Beast! This had a slightly more natural flavour with the same rocks and roots as the last stage but in much larger quantities and catching a good few riders out with the slippery rutted corners forming as the race went on. Those who survived were then met with a nice steep loamy section and just to finish them off and give a spectacle for the many hecklers and riders hanging around this boisterous final section.
The steep push up to Stage 5 was tiring in the heat
So having survived this section and with all limbs and bike still intact, we made the long hike over the hill and down the road back to where it all started for the final stage... The final stage was a tough one and if the 22-miles of riding to get here hadn't tired your legs, the short punchy climbs and punishing head wind on the top section would surely finish you off properly. This took you into what can only be described as a tricky steep and grassy chute, dropping you into the final jump and a sprint filled goodness that would conclude another epic PMBA race weekend.
Dropping into Hecklers Chute on Stage 6
All that was left then was to check out final times, have a good chat about the ups and downs of the day's racing, and in my case, wait for the podium.
Mathew on the way to a senior podium. Pic Stage 6, Hecklers Chute