Race Report | Chris Hutchens at the ‘Ard Rock Enduro.

Nestled in the North East of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is Reeth, a quiet and remote village home to more sheep than residents, and also the home of the Ard Rock Enduro Festival.

Chris Hutchens swapped the north east of Scotland for North Yorkshire to sample the rocky goodness on offer.

Words by Chris Hutchens.

This is the largest Enduro event in the UK with over 2000 competitors and it comes with a festival set up and a host of incredible stages. There’s no denying that the event lives up to its ‘Ard’ title and the number of DNF’s might be testament to that.Ard Rock Enduro Maxxis Tyres Reeth North Yorkshire Chris Hutchens Team Wideopenmag Nukeproof Mega Wideopenmag

The Festival.

Spread over 3 days the festival hosts 3 events. The Enduro, the main event, with over 850 competitors riding the 45km loop and racing the 5 timed stages. The Enduro Sprint which had over 200 riders taking on the 3 stage 30km loop and is the perfect introduction to stage racing. Sunday’s event pulls in the numbers with over 1000 entries for the Sport event, a mountain bike sportive taking on the 5 stage, 45km loop.

It’s easy to run straight to the results but I think this event needs credit to the continued growth and offerings to a wider level of rider than just those at the sharp end of the sport. This is a festival and more than just a bike race. There’s no denying that the event caters for the fastest UK enduro riders but there’s not really any other event in the UK which brings together thousands of riders, in such a unique location, to thrive for mountain bikes over 3 days in quite the same way. Huge congratulations to Ard Events who have seen the event grow since its incarnation in 2013.

The majority of those riding travelled to Reeth for the weekend set up camp to enjoy the riding and also the live bands and amazing food being served at the race venue. A huge cowboy style circle consisting of food stalls (even a stand called Oatopia!), the main stage and bike brands including Crank Brothers, Hope, SRAM and Mojo surrounded a large seating area and helped produce an electric atmosphere all weekend – something I don’t think many other events have been able to match this year.

While speaking to the owner of the wood fired pizza van, a daily highlight I’m sure many found, she, to her surprise, expelled, ‘You’re actually quite a civilised group of people’. Exactly what she was expecting I’m not sure but it struck me that the mountain bike scene is really a collective of amazing individuals who have a huge amount of respect for the privilege to ride in such a protected and special part of England. I certainly consumed my fair portion of food and beer that was to hand during the three nights camping.

Ard Stages.

The stages were unique, completely different to those found in the South of England and not even comparable to Scottish trails. Due to land access laws many of the stages can’t be ridden outside the event so it was a rare opportunity to point your bike down the side of the Yorkshire crags.

Practice allowed riders to gain a feel for stages 1,2 and 5 which all descended off the side of the valley towards Reeth. Rocks ripped peoples’ tyres and riders were littering the trail side all weekend fixing punctures. The trails didn’t have a man-made feature in sight and stuck to the natural feel of the event using the contours of the worn moorland and rock-littered chutes. Stage 3 and 4 were blind stages for race day and began on a lunar setting which provided a wide vista across the mesmerising and barren landscape. I even think I spotted a mirage on the long climb to 3 with the weather being so generous to us!

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‘Arder than Ard Rock

The main event, the Enduro, was fought and won convincingly by Leigh Johnston, Marin Stans Racing and Tracey Moseley, Trek Factory Racing, who both won all their stages respectively. Tracey was recovering from a broken sternum only 5 weeks ago and was on great form once again.

Biting at Leigh’s 1st place was team mate Nicky Whiles and James Carr in 3rd. These guys put in some great rides and were ahead of me all weekend. I couldn’t find the speed and aggression needed on these stages somehow and even without my stage 5 mechanical wasn’t able to put in the outstanding times Leigh was consistently putting in.

Sally Allsop won the female seniors race battling hard with Erica Moks in 2nd, rounded out by Mary Carr in 3rd.

It was a successful weekend for those names Sally; Sally Buckworth cleaned up taking every stage win in the Veteran women.

Stu Hughes, clearly lying about his age won Veteran ahead of Aidan Bishop in 2nd and Davy Ledgerwood in 3rd.

Master male was graced by the legend that is Jamie Nicoll, but Ian Austermuhle of Hope Factory Racing and Phil Shucksmith kept him on his toes in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

Full results can be found on Roots and Rain.

The next Ard Event is in September at the Lord stones Country Park on the Edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Sadly it looks like entries are already closed for this one. There’s always next year!