Ollie Hooper reports from the Bike Park Wales One Industries Mini Enduro

You know we love racing here at Wideopenmag. We’ve teamed up with young gun Ollie Hooper to bring you the action from loads of grass roots enduro events this year.

Here’s Ollie’s first repo of the season!

The first race of the year is always a daunting one. Who’s done the most training? Have I done too much training and not enough riding? Have I sat around on my arse too much?!

Bike Park Wales gave me my first chance of the year to answer all of those and – of course – enjoy the first enduro race at Bike Park Wales. Yep, it was the One Industries Mini Enduro.

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One thing that I like about the Mini Enduro series is that it has a really chilled vibe which makes for good racing. It always seems that the riders are there to have fun and that’s how racing should be! We started the day with a coffee at BPW’s Forest Cafe and got on with some practice.

The 10 mile route consisted of 3 stages and took in the best of the bike park – include technical rocky chutes, steep switch backs and some mean pedally sections. There wasn’t huge amounts of line choice and no off-piste sections … so it was all about getting the tracks dialed in and just going for it.

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Dai Hard was used for Stage 1 and although it wasn’t my favourite stage I had a decent run and managed to get down the hill in one piece putting me into 5th place. It was the only black run used throughout the loop and kicked off with a fast pedally section before diving into the darkness of the trees.

Once you got into the trees the trail turned gnarlier with boulders and roots which you could easily catch your pedal on. The trail then went back out into the open and traversed down the hill onto a very boggy section which you had to nail to keep your momentum into the finish.

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Stage 2 was easily the most physically demanding stage, starting with a sprint across the hill making it twice as much effort with the head wind that whipped up for race runs. Once you had the pedal out of the way the trail finally went into the trees and away from the freezing cold wind.

The top section was a mixture of tight single track weaving through the trees with polished roots that sat waiting to throw you off course. After getting out of the trees the trail went into the bottom section ‘Rim Dinger’ and it lived up to its name. Taking out some top Elite riders such as Vini Crighton-poli getting a puncture on this critical section putting him out of contention of a podium finish.

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I felt really good on the top section of this one but just like Vini I got caught out by Rim Dinger – smashing my wheel on a rock, taking a trip OTB and into the medic’s tent. Bent bars, broken mud guard and a sick note from the docs telling me not to carry on.

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Another victim of the rock garden was Mason Pritchard (Team Skene). Looking for the win, Mason was on a flyer. He took poll position on Stage 3 and second on Stage 1 but unfortunately puncturing on Stage 2. Even with a puncture Mason still managed to get a respectable 4th place in the Under 18 category. He told me:

“It was cold, windy and a bit of a wait to start the race after practice! But with three wicked stages marked, I had a great day having a laugh with all the boys! Yeah I’m happy to only be 17secs off the win after splitting my sidewall on the front tyre before even getting into Rim Dinger! Fair to say I felt every rock on that stage!

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Last but not least (for everyone that made it that far!) was Stage 3 and the longest of the trails. It started with flowy single track and some roots that could catch out riders of all abilities. Then a small up hill into a few rollers that you had to keep your speed over to transition to the second part of the stage. The second section was a great way to end the race consisting of steep switch backs and ending over a small drop and a sprint into the finish. It was great fun in practice … but thanks to my tumble I missed out on hitting it in race runs. Next time!

I got back down to the finish area to see everyone comparing times and seeing where they came with their fellow friends and racers. From the vibe around the finish area everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves having fun and racing with their buddies.

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At the finish line I caught up with Team Keek rider Ruairi Phelan who took the win in the under 18 category.

“The tracks they put together where sweet, they had a good mix of pedally stuff and typical Welsh steep rocky stuff. The first stage went well for me and I was buzzing after … maybe a bit too much!

The 2nd stage did not go so well with a crash at the top, I had twisted bars for the rest of the stage to be met with a puncture at the bottom (the same fate as every other person to come down!). Stage Three I had to pedal my lungs out – breathing out of every orifice to make up for time lost from the second stage and in doing so got the fastest junior time but only by the skin of my teeth. I totally loved it, it was  such a sweet weekend!”

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The overall win went to Sam Shucksmith who beat second place Leon Rosser’s local knowledge by 5 seconds. It was also great to see a strong 10 women deep field with Robyn Walton taking the win. An honorable mention goes to Anna Walters who scored 3rd place – as one of the key players at Bike Park Wales it was great to see her on the podium!

For me it was an annoying end to the day but you win some and you lose some. However I still thoroughly enjoyed myself, racing with all the lads and had a great time. Hopefully I will do a better job next weekend at the first round the of Welsh Enduro Series!

Big thanks to Chris Roberts, Bike Park Wales and the rest of the One Industries Mini Enduro team for a cracking race!

More from the Mini Enduro on their website.

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