Race Report | One Industries Mini-Enduro at Bike Park Wales
It was a slightly odd weekend, with the unusual format of two race series, One Industries Mini Enduro and the Welsh Gravity Enduro sharing the same venue for their respective opening rounds.
It only seemed five minutes since our first visit to the amazing Bike Park Wales, (see here- http://enduro-mtb.com/en/scene-bikepark-wales-south-wales-uk/)and now they were holding their first ever Enduro at the park. The event was an instant sell-out with over 100 people on the reserve entry list, the excitement was obviously showing! So Coop and I took the two hour trip down to Merthyr Tydfil to race this much anticipated event
The format was as simple as ever with a Mini Enduro, three stages, practiced in the morning, then raced in the afternoon. Nothing too taxing on the climbs, but some very interesting stages were thrown in for racing. One Industries were present again at the event, after coming away from Atherton/GT sponsorship it would seem those guys now have a much bigger reign for getting involved in the smaller teams and events. The place was buzzing with excitement, from newbies to the sport to the hardened racers, many of whom were looking trimmer, proudly sporting their new 2015 rigs, anxious to see if that winter training had been paying off. Coop and I certainly fell into that bracket, Coop with his freshly un-wrapped Canyon Strive Team and myself with the little Marin Attack Trail racing snake of a bike, we had points to prove.
The weather was OK, even after the vicious cold and snow some of the previous day’s riders told us they had experienced up on the top, it certainly wasn’t warm, but the rain and snow held off as the muddier parts of the trails slowly dried out a tad during the day. Organizer Chris Roberts had had several options to choose from for trails, but had to bear in mind the park was still open, so he chose wisely with two red runs and one black. The uplifts were not running for the day and it did seem a tad weird riding up past where they were parked on the haul up the top. The full transition from the very bottom to the top was only necessary once, so fortunately the climbing was kept to a minimum, although to practice then race all three in one day was still a bit of a taxing jaunt for some.
This (the one black run) was the shortest, but by far the most DH of the three, when I say DH I mean the old skool kind of shit through the woods, with some big rock drops, slick rough turns, dodgy wheel grabbing roots and steep-ass turns to cope with. It was so much fun but really did keep you on your toes. After the exit to the woods the terrain was as far from Bike Park as you could get, deep wet clay ruts, huge boulders, drops, slick turns with a double to follow then it ended at the halfway point of most of the trails, short but certainly sweet!
As if to oppose the previous stage this was the longest stage (5-6 minutes for some!) It had real fast wide-open bike park fun stuff at the top, with corners that could be squared off and little step-downs and doubles littering the track. In the woods the terrain was simpler but certainly tight as it wound its way through the dense coniferous Welsh forest, corner after corner till it hit the fire road and the same point where stage 1 ended. But this time it was far from over, as you turned straight into a section of track aptly known as ‘Rim Dinger’ This took so many victims over the weekend, rough corner after corner, broken up by sections of loose and large square edged rocks, all crying out to kill a wheel or pop/slash a tyre. Not only was it rough, but also pretty damn fast in places, trying its hardest to knock you off-line, daring you to hit step downs and pin it through the tight berms. Although there were fast bits on this stage, there was still plenty of pedaling to be done and with the constant battering from the rough terrain it certainly was tough. This for me with my new found fitness was my favorite track, the little Marin popping and pinging with ease from rock to rock taking it all in its stride. On reaching the bottom of this stage, it was then the final drag up to hit the last one.
Of course there had to be one with a pedally uphill and flat section and guess what, this was it! This was pretty much like Stage 2 to start, through the forest, tight corners and tricky roots, but then it had a fast chute, straight down between the trees and over a small but lovely road gap. On hitting this on my previous visit, this had to be one of my favorite jumps, but come race time there was a howling wind racing its way up the track at a 90 degree angle to the jump. To say I and many other racers shat ourselves as the front wheel was blown leftwards in the air is a real understatement! After this was the big uphill-ish minute pedal till you hit the next section blowing like a set of bagpipes. Things now steepened up again, some fantastic tight and rough corners and tricky rock gardens to the end, what a ride!
Racing cracked on and riders did their thing. I saw Coop at the end of stage 2, he had double punctured, The Canyon looking as deflated as his ego, but I told him to sort it and get a final stage in, just to see; he still managed some incredible Elite challenging times, so not all bad. The Marin bought me home to 3rd in Vets, I was so pleased to start the season on a high with a podium. Winners were: E-Bike = Richard Butters , Super Vets = Gary Allen, Women = Robyn Walton, Under 18 = Ruairi Phelan, Hardtail = Tobias Pantling, Vets = Andy Sadler, Masters = Hywel Silvester, Seniors = Nicki Whiles. It was a fiercely fought Elite Male battle, with many favorites having mechanicals and tyre issues, but still the fast boys shone through, 1st place going to Sam Shucksmith (Pro Ride Guides) 2nd Leon Rosser (Bike Park Wales) and 3rd Rob Newman (Banshee Bikes) Rob doing his 1st race up in the Elites, Coop was chuffed to match one of his stage times!
It was a fantastic weekend, big thanks to Chris, Charlie and their full crew, plus Bike Park Wales for the use of such a terrific venue. Racers all went home with different views of their performances, either pleased, relieved or with the stark realization they still had ways to go with the winter training!
Words: Jim Buchanan