Enduro should be tough. It should be big, it should hurt and it should push you far away from the warmth of your van and from the fuzzy glow of your comfort zone. Round 2 of the Cannondale British Enduro Series didn’t disappoint!
Wideopenmag’s Chris Hutchens tells us all about the 40mile North Wales epic.
words by Chris Hutchens / images by Saskia Dugon
Almost 50km of trails and a leg destroying 1600m of elevation
If anyone can explain to me what the difference is between Dyfi and the town of Machynlleth then please drop Wideopen a message. For two Scots travelling to Wales there was some uncertainty to whether we were actually going to the right place! Sam Flockhart and I thankfully made it to one of the most scenic Welsh towns I’ve ever raced in on Friday. Greeted by double figure temperatures the weekend was set to be a good one.
Most riders were approaching a fatigue level on par with ‘The Crawl’ by the end of the two days of racing, which reverted back to the old UKGE format. The five-stage format took in almost 50km of trails and a leg destroying 1600m of elevation. The views were definitely worth it, especially at the top of Stage 3. The climb up to this might have been questioned by about 80% of riders with the track on Sunday being a challenge to get down without some form of crash, jammed wheel or excursion from the thickening gloop.
The weather gods
A late afternoon seeding on Saturday extended the practice day, which saw Tracy Moseley take the women’s lead comfortably. Jerome Clementz, made a star appearance ahead of the Enduro World Series in Ireland and narrowly took the lead from Nicky Whiles who put in a flyer of a run to finish 2nd in seeding.
Saturday saw the weather gods conjure their magic and send a front of weather across Dyfi. Nothing’s better than racing wet, muddy trails. Every one was keen for another big day on the bike! Well most anyway! A few called it a weekend choosing to hit the beach on what was promised to be a warm day. I did hear Mr MTB Stength Factory got his bikini on and sculpted sandcastles all day!
This was a big day out
Sunday started with what seemed to be a well-established trail. Sam Shucksmith took the stage win here, pipping me by 1 second. The long slog to stage three began, over an hour of climbing brought you up high into the open Welsh hillside. This was spectacular. Realisation hit though. We were over 2 hours into the race and had only raced one stage. This was a big day out.
“It’s a different kind of fun, it’s not a kind of riding you do unless you race. Battling your way down near impossible tracks, mud flicking you in the face, if you even think about touching the brakes it sends you sideways. Just to finish the loop of 6 hours, 50km, 5000ft climbing and 5 burly stages was brutal!”
Traharn Chidley, 2nd place elite female
Stage 3 was a controversial one and create a lot of debate over the subsequent stage transitions. It was definitely challenge and as the weather improved it began to dry and became a sticky, bike clogging lottery.
I set off well, cleaning a few corners, hitting the fast section nicely and into the woods. This didn’t last long before a domino of crashes and tripoding occurred. I counted four crashes that ultimately lost me a load of time.
Those who stayed on their bikes definitely deserve a high five … but they were few and far between. You could question whether it really is proper racing when the conditions of a track are so degraded that it makes it’s near impossible to keep the bike moving. I’ll leave that debate out here though, I’m sure it will get discussed enough over on the British Enduro Series facebook. Jerome Clementz narrowly took the win from Matt Stuttard. For me I lost 45 seconds alone on this stage, less than I thought at the time. The ruts were a lot of fun though! I know Josh Lewis was loving the challenge.
A shorter transition met us and we were smashing through the stages now…. Stage 4 was a sub three minutes track and was definitely my favourite. There were fast sections with a couple of tight, rooty and off chamber traverses. Matt Stuttard took this stage win, Clementz 3 seconds back in 6th and a number of riders sandwiched in the middle including Nikki Whiles, Saturday’s 2nd place seeded rider, and myself.
Fair bloody play!
Finally it felt like we were making ground and were heading in the direction of the pits. Up to this point in the race very little trail centre trails had featured … but stage 5 fixed that.
At almost 4 minutes long it was a physical track and New Zealander Joseph Nation took his first BES stage win. Having witnessed the most insane stage start, which I’m sure Woody Hole from Hopetech would agree with, it was hardtail rider (yes, I said hardtail!) Darren Evans who took second. Fair bloody play! Cubes Sam Flockhart took less than a second out of me to secure 4th in the stage behind Marco Osborne.
“Stage 3 was the most controversial. It was the same stage that was cancelled the year before for being too difficult. I respect Si’s decision to keep it in the race and agree with his sentiments that ‘it’s the national series, it’s meant to be hard, get on with it.’
I rode most of the stage completely unclipped and sat down, chainringing stumps hidden in the slop and trying not to go over the bars. I was just desperate to not put my hands down in the mud!”
Chris Keeble-Smith, 8th place elite men
Taking the win
The miles rolled on and on … and on. We were treated to a quick pit stop and it was back to stage 1 to finish the weekend’s racing. The track was running slower than on Saturday and Jerome Clementz took the win, about 4 seconds down on his stage 1 time but enough to secure the days victory. Matt Stuttard and Joe Nation, both who had consistency all day, took 2nd and 3rd respectively. Cannondale’s Marco Osborne finished up in 4th overall and Sam Shucksmith held things together and rounded of the five-man podium. I missed out this weekend but hit the road happy and stoked to get to Ireland for the EWS.
In the women’s category Tracey Mosely dominated, winning every stage of the day. The nearest female was Traharn Chidley over 2 minutes and 30 seconds back. Tracey may have retired from EWS racing but is still on top of her game. Amazing to see!
“I don’t think I’ve ever hit that many walls in one day but when people talk about the spirit of enduro I now know what they mean, we laughed and suffered together throughout the day. It got pretty emotional at times!
The transitions were long and tough and the tracks were technical and fun, stage three was pretty rubbish but that was down to the weather. It was tough but I’d do it all again.”