Mondraker Gravity MTB Rally – race report

Mondraker Gravity Mountain Bike Rally
Holnicote Estate, Somerset 15th and 16th September 2012
Joel Teague @ Whackjob brings us the storm last week’s enduro action 

Rally? Really?

Well you’re not allowed to race on these trails, you know. That would be, um, irresponsible. And against some public access rules or something like that. However, setting up a 30k loop around the stunning trails of Exmoor and installing timing systems down four of its hairiest downhill sections, then publishing the results? Of course – no problem. Just as long as you don’t race. Having Gallic deity Fabien Barel turn up to show everyone how it’s done may help matters, too.

This event was billed as the “chilled DH enduro”, and you have to take your hat off to Toze and Co at Spike events for getting the balance between partying and racing (sorry, ‘rallying’) spot on. The fact that only a handful of riders started in the first wave at 9:30am was testament to the fact that most stayed up and made the best of the music and excellent bar the night before.

The mix of people was perfect, the long-travel-bike-porn was everywhere (Mondraker’s bikes appear to have had design input from Snoop Dog), and while some had the next day’s exertions in mind, many just accepted that it may sting a bit and hit the bar. This is mountain biking as it was meant to be. Well – as I mean it to be, anyway.

One section was opened up on the Saturday, and as a non-participant, I headed up to take a look/ride once the official session was over. It’s not the gnarliest stuff you’ll ever do, but if you like fast, tricky singletrack that invites insane speed, this is bike heaven. Any decently skilled, fit rider could do this event, and that seems to have been the message: have a go, have a laugh, don’t take it too seriously… but by all means go like hot, greased bat crap off a kashima-coated shovel and try not to die.

Good riding in Exmoor is pretty much guaranteed and the grins of the riders crossing the finishing line confirmed that this had been several hours well spent. Not one rider I asked suggested that things would have been improved by an early, sober night.

SQ LabsLeaderboard

It was that balance of effort across the riding and partying sides that made the event. The skid compo through the bar, the excellent beer (Exmoor Ales, natch), the steady stream of increasingly pissed, friendly people who came to chill out in the Whackjob Lounge and get even more pissed – and the guys at Gravity Bikes, who brought out several bottles of champagne to celebrate their hugely successful launch, just as the single malt scotch supply was running low.

When Sunday morning eventually forced itself between peoples’ eyelids, the idea of getting up and racing must have seemed about as attractive as my old geography teacher – the one with a face like a bucket of smashed crabs. Thank gawd that Ian was there with the Luff Bus full of perfectly prepared caffeine and lard, to follow up on the amazing food the previous day. The enthusiasm among the riders at the start line was undimmed.

Suitably revived, I headed to the last corner, camera in hand, watching rider after rider hit the same rock as I had the night before and do various interpretations of a pre-stack panic as they crossed the line. The style prize had to go to Mr Barel, who decided, along with his mates, to go chainless for the last descent, and arrived over the line two abreast, moto-stylee, grinning like Whackjob Jim on meth. (He still managed fourth place, which is verging on annoying…)

Wanting results? Podia full of people holding cups? Nope – that would suggest they’d been racing. So instead, how about giving out a ridiculously good mound of bike stuff as a prize raffle, based on race numbers and random other stuff? Who came 34th in the timings? Good man – do have a Fox 34 fork on us. You get the idea. The sponsors did not skimp on the prizes.

The word is that the event will be back, even bigger and madder, and that there will be extra prizes for those partying beyond midnight before the race. If that doesn’t tell you how these guys think, nothing will. Count me in.

Thanks to Joel @ Whackjob for the words and images. Check out his site at http://whackjob.co.uk/