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POC Scottish Enduro Series Round 4: Innerleithen, The Boot Camp Of Champions.

It’s perhaps easy to work out who raced the fourth round of the POC Scottish Enduro Series, they will be the person slumped over their desk, half asleep and gibbering incoherently about midges and 10,000m of climbing, with occasional outbursts of ‘Rider’.

Held at the legendary venue of Innerleithen, Round 4 was always going to be a tough round, with some of Scotland steepest and toughest trails to draw from, racers knew they were in for a treat, and some pain. As soon as the course maps dropped everyone starting looking for extra energy bars and a second coffee, it was going to be a mammoth day. 1800 m of climbing, 6 tough stages, over 20 minutes of timed descents and a 40 km loop – big numbers in anyone’s books.

Innerleithen, a legendary destination on the Scottish mountain biking map.
The first port of call for any travelling rider.
With over 300 riders in attendance, the local B&B’s were full
This machine worked the hardest all weekend, perfect every time.
Amen to that.

The weather was being kind, and racers were delighted to see a light breeze spring up in the morning, forcing the army of midges to stay at home and watch Netflix. First up was Caberston forest, where organisers No Fuss had worked with the Forestry Commission to reopen some legendary trails from the past – it’s been a long time since Old School Dh has been raced, and those that did will still have a nervous twitch today – it takes nerve and a certain lack of self-preservation to hit the rutted gully flat out, more than a couple came down knuckles white and with their eyes firmly closed. Hauling back out, riders were treated to more epic views of the purple heather before plunging into Repeat Offender, a stage so dark that it’s resident nocturnal forest creatures hunt in the day.

Caberston forest, or the Golfy, is a destination steeped in history, gold lies hidden under those trees.
An explosion of pourple heather led riders to the summit of stage 1 and 2
Gary Forrest was the favourite, been riding here since 2002 apparently.
Dropping in, before the lights go out!
Old trails had been rescued from the clearfell
Nicki Moore was on fire, taking the win in the Senior Ladies

At this point, many riders were wondering if they would even make it round the course at all, but the SES rounds have never come easy so the big pedal to the Innerleithen DH stages began. A testament to the series’ variety, this was to be a gravity round, a round that would play to the strengths of those who were happy going warp speed through the tight trees. The 4 stages on Plora Rig took in some of the finest legendary DH tracks, throwing in some cheeky taping to stop the locals dominating too much. You could see the scars on the trees from a thousand bar hits, there was not a second of track you could switch off, 100% concentration all the way. Standing at the bottom of the final stage there was the usual mix of swearing over seconds lost, high fives and hugs of survival before taking on the busiest 7th stage, a race to get a coffee from the rammed No1 Cafe.

Light and dark defined the wood sections – eyes on stalks for all.
Polly Henderson, 16 years old and smoking the entire field.

When it came to the results, there was a tough battle in the Elites, Gary Forrest has been riding these trails forever and wanted that top step. However, with a host of DH specialists in the field he would have to work to take the crown. With only 10 seconds separating 1st and 4th after over 22 minutes of racing, it was tighter than a midges whisker, but Gary had done enough to take the win, and to take the series lead, with Christo Gallagher in second and Pete Williams in third. In the women’s category, series leader and favourite Janey Kennedy took a big crash on the step down jump – get well soon Janey – so it was wide open. Nicki Moore took the win in the Seniors, but what about those juniors?

Those with 800 mm bars were in for some action.
Local Calum Grant throwing down on the DH tracks
Corey Watson is unbeatable in the juniors, 10th overall and has won every round.
G’aaaaaan Gary Forrest – smooth and fast for the win.

EWS Director, Chris Ball recently posted on his social media “All 5 British men in the top 55 were Scots at EWS Aspen Snowmass! Lady Winton jumped up to 2nd in the overall in the Women’s. Proof a strong and sport focussed national series back home is crucial for development. Keep up the good work back home SES.” Looking at the ranks of the junior racers entered into this round, it’s no surprise. With an age limit of 14, the POC Scottish Enduro Series has become a bootcamp for future champions, riders like 14-year-old Coran Carrick-Anderson on his first enduro, with a time of 26:11:60 took 30th overall! Incredible. Check out f-Riders-inc Polly Henderson too, just 16 but setting the fastest women’s time of the day on a 130 mm Transition Scout, and putting over two minutes into the senior ladies, two minutes! This is where the future of the sport lies. For these kids to line up on the same startline as international racing heroes like Katy Winton, Lewis Buchanan and many more can only be a great thing for the sport. A strong national series is more important than ever, I know the elites are starting to look a little more nervous at every round.

What it’s all about.

So another round in the bag and some big shifts in the overall standings, the series now packs up and heads back to the huge slabs of Laggan, and with only two rounds remaining, this is where it gets serious.

Once again, the event would not run without all the friendly marshals who cheered on each and every rider, and thanks must also go out to the local businesses who welcomed riders in with open arms. See you at the next round.

For more information on the POC Scottish Enduro Series or to sign up, check out the series website