When the gate drops, the bullshit stops: British Enduro Series Rd1 Ae Forest

When the gate drops, the bullshit stops.

Round 1 of the 2016 Cannondale British Enduro Series from Ae Forest, Scotland

words by Chris Hutchens / images by Ian Lean

This is a race that had a lot of conversation behind it. Months of big promises, big talk and big expectations. When Si Paton and co. pronounced that they would deliver the UK a National enduro series in the same veign as their downhill series it was never going to be any other way.

Ultimately, all the talk in the world doesn’t mean a thing on a windy, rainy hillside in Scotland. It was time for the British Enduro Series to stop talking and start delivering. Did round 1 deliver the UK a national enduro series to be proud of?

Let’s find out with the help of Elite enduro racer Chris Hutchens…

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Kicking off.

The British Enduro Series, the new premium Enduro series in the UK, kicked off at Ae Forest in Dumfriesshire.

A week previous saw the Scottish Downhill Association blessed with double figure temperatures and the first signs of dust for the riding season ahead. The BES weren’t gifted such conditions, much to the dismay of most riders but probably welcomed by the local farmer cashing in on the numerous stranded cars in the field. We Scots are great at spotting a money maker!

The new format was a definite talking point of the weekend. Three stages were raced on the Saturday and three on the Sunday with morning practice and then afternoon racing. The six stages at Ae were a real mix between trail centre and some technical downhill stages which used some of the trails raced in downhill events. The already challenging trails were made even tougher by savage head winds and deep sticky gloop.

With almost 30 male elites in attendance it was going to be a hard fought race. I knew a lot of the riders would be a real threat for the win. It could be anyone’s race …

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Day one – battling the weather

Day one consisted of two trail centre stages and a technical downhill from the top of the main downhill track. Stage one was subsequently not included in the final results, I’m still sure I had a good time on that stage as well!

The pedal to stage two was more enjoyable than racing this stage, which was a hard surfaced trail and a battle from the start. The wind and rain constantly tried to drive you back to the starting blocks. I am 100% confident that no one enjoyed this stage! Sam Flockhart came out strong on these stages but later suffered a puncture and mechanical ending his race.

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Day two – dog fighting for stage wins

Going into day two the times were tight. After 3 stages just half a second separated the top 3 in Elite. I was in there thankfully and it was all to fight for on Sunday.

Leigh Johnson had the lead and Kelan Grant sat in 2nd, with some crashes on Sunday putting him down the overall.

Stage four went well for me and I got the stage win ahead of Leigh. He responded in turn with a phenomenal stage 5, putting 5 seconds over anyone else. This stage was a long trail centre pedal with some incredibly deep ruts to finish. How he put 5 seconds into the field on this stage I have no idea … but what a ride!

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The final stage was downhiller Adam Brayton’s. He took 6 seconds out of me here with Sam Shucksmith finishing up in 3rd on this stage. This was a real downhill track and Adam pulled out his pedigree to show us all how to do it.

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Moseley dominates.

The Elite women had a strong turnout but it was retired rider Tracey Mosely who swept up over the weekend and showed most of the men how to race Enduro. An overall position of 28th was impressive to witness in a strong field. Tracey might be winding down her racing career … but she’s showing no sign of slowing down!

Second place went to Martha Gill and third to Roslynn Newman. Martha is an incredible rider and definitely one to watch. She was just two minutes behind Moseley and has only been racing enduro since 2014. She’s well on track to a top overall position this year.

Megan James (TMo Racing) also deserves an honourable mention – she raced open women but would have scored 3rd in Elite. She’s another fast female with a bright future.

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Marin Stans Racing’s Martha Gill. 2nd place in Elite female. Big things to come.
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And showing no sign of slowing down … it’s Tracey Moseley. 1st place in Elite.

“The weather was harsh but I loved the variety of the tracks and I think the British Enduro Series guys put on a great event. I loved the steep, natural stuff … ”
Marin Stans Racing’s Leigh Johnson

Leigh Johnston held onto the lead taking the first ever British Enduro Series win, I finished up 2nd in front of Adam Brayton in 3rd. Sam Shucksmith and Joel Chidley closed out the 5 man podium in 4th and 5th.

Ultimately it wasn’t stage wins that won the race for Leigh, it was consistent solid riding. Leigh punched out a 2nd, 2nd, 1st trio on stages three, four and five which was safe enough to win him the overall. It was a battle of bike riding, keep warm and keeping your goggles clean – Leigh was the man for those jobs!

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Your author and 2nd place in elite, Chris Hutchens. Welcome to Team Wideopenmag Hutch!
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And the man of the moment, Leigh Johnson.

The verdict?

So … did the British Enduro Series team deliver the goods? For the most part, yes they did.

The timing could have been better and there were some pretty big wobblers with stage times over the weekend. There were also a few delays getting people down the hill – no problem on a sunny day but add minus temperatures and a howling wind and it starts to fall apart. There will be a few riders grumbling.

That said, the race gets the thumbs up from me. The new format worked well, the event had a great buzz to it and the stages were varied and challenging. It felt like a national standard race.

As a first ever attempt by the British Enduro Series crew they couldn’t have faced more brutally tough conditions and they did a pretty good job. Hats off to them.

Roll on round 2 at Dyfi in Mid Wales in May.

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