Hope Endurance Downhill, The Wideopen Report

 Words. Steve Larking
Photo’s.Michael Bonney@ Orange Bikes.
  

 
James Shirley. Pinning in, on his way to winning it.

Preparation, or at least lack of, defined the Wideopen experience at this years Endurance Downhill race. No Fuss Events put months of work into setting up an event like this. The sponsors and serious racers are thinking about the race weeks in advance. (Preparation fail #1) Pete and I picked up a van on Saturday morning, hurriedly threw bikes and kit in the back and drove to Fort William with about an hour to spare before the race. This is not very professional, neither would I recommend it to anyone wishing to be competitive at any sporting event.  

3-2-1 RUN!

An hour of bike fettling, feeding and setting up our wee pit area flew past and before we knew it everyone was heading to the far side of the car park to line up for the Le Mans style start. A 100m sprint to your bike was the first challenge of the day, followed by remembering where you actually left your bike and then you began the up hill slog to just below the wall ride on the track. This gives the field a chance to thin out a bit so there’s not a massive queue for the first gondola to the top. Some shady looking zip tie/ wooden stick lock out arrangements helped a couple of riders get up top a little quicker than others but for most it was ten uncomfortable minutes of hauling a heavy bike up a hill in a full face helmet and body armour.  

Upon reaching the top of the hill inside the top 10 I felt pretty pleased with myself, only to go over the first drop and… oh sh** ! (Preparation fail #2.) My forks blew and just sat at the bottom of their travel. This is what you get for trying to swap springs around in the car park 30 mins before the race start. It took me the best part of an hour to realise what I’d done to the forks but eventually I got them working again and hit the hill already three runs down on the race leaders.  

Iain 'Ace' Woodley - Hardtail Nation

 So sat on the gondola for my first run it suddenly dawns on me that I hadn’t yet ridden any of the new sections on track this year (fail #3). However a quick chat to the nice chap sharing my gondola and I have some idea of where I need to be on course. Turns out the nice chap is Guy Martin, who normally cheats by having an engine mounted on his bike, but I’ll forgive him for that as he very kindly let me tail him through all the new bits of track so I could work out where I was going.  

Guy Martin - Quick with or without engine

Right, one run down and who should I find in the pits having bike issues but Pete. After accusing him of just not wanting to race I promptly offered no help and headed back up the hill for another run. Big thanks has to go to Iain ‘Ace’ Woodley (Hardtail Nation) who, despite telling me he had almost no spares, managed to find Pete a working QR skewer and got him rolling again.  

Now I could try to tell you how my race went run by run but I honestly can’t remember. After 5 hours you sit on the gondola with someone and they start asking you how many runs you’ve done then quickly realise they’ve no idea what they’ve managed themselves. That’s not to say this race is not insanely enjoyable. As the day went on I started to enjoy the bike, the track and the banter on the lifts and actually starting to race people more.  

Big Trail
Naomi Williamson - Winner for the ladies

At the end of the day I managed to jump on the gondola with two minutes to go before the 6 hours was up, meaning I managed to sneak in one more run finishing on 11 in total, which ain’t bad for having lost an hour at the start. Pete joined me at the top for the final run, bagging himself his 10th run and hitting his goal of double figures.  

The real hero of the day was local man Jesse Wigman. Now Jesse is no stranger to the track at the Nevis Range, however 13 runs and 4th overall on a hardtail(!!!) is just ridiculous!  

Your title sponsors!

Your top three though were James Scott in third on 13 runs, Huw Oliver on 14 runs in second and James Shirley in first, also with 14 runs overall but just that little bit quicker than Huw.  

The real racing at this race though won’t be obvious on the results sheets. Loads of people I spoke to over the day were desperately trying to put a few runs into their mates or in the case of the Orange Bikes or Hope guys it was a battle for work place bragging rights.  

Steve Larking - In unfamiliar full-bounce teritory

Massive thanks must go to No Fuss Events for organising the show for the third year running now, and to Hope for backing the race once again and to Orange Bikes for their support in the pits. I’m sure the guys from Orange were very happy to see a huge turn out of Orange bikes at the race, if you were one of those riders (or if you just want to lust after the bikes) check out the Orange facebook page for all their photos from the weekend. All photo’s here and on the Orange page come to you thanks to Michael Bonney of Orange Bikes. 

Next up on the No Fuss calender is 10 More at Moray, followed by the Tour De Ben Nevis which will be the final installment of the Allround Mountianbiker series. As for me I’m off to the Selkirk MTB Marathon this weekend for 100km of trail riding round the Scottish Borders, fantastic!


  1. Lol – Ace looks really weird in that photo – he looks like a hunch back.

    what the heckers is going on with your number plate?!

  2. I went so fast the wind ripped it off, honestly! I had only used two ties on the bars so it flipped up and ripped off on one side on my 2nd last run, last run it disappeared completely.

  3. I had the right hump from 3 nights wild camping before the race, thats my very mouldy inside the bladder camelback… Team HTN was almost as well prepared as Team wideopen, i took beer, bribed Ran from 2pure for food for the race, it worked :)

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