It’s fair to say that Muckmedden don’t do your standard races and their Fair City Enduro is certainly one of a kind.
6 stages around Perth’s Kinnoull Hill might not seem too unusual until you see the clientele. As the race approaches Halloween, racers are encouraged to dress up.
Pete headed over to what was, in his opinion, the best edition of the Fair City Enduro yet.
Words by Pete Scullion | Photos by Ian Potter/PK Perspective.
The Fair City.
Perth might not be the first place you think to hold a race, but Kinnoull Hill, on the eastern bank of the mighty Tay River has been hosting races since forever. One of the Fair City Enduro’s 6 stages would use parts of the race track used by the Scottish Downhill Association many moons ago.
As always, Muckmedden bring a supremely relaxed, yet well organised and executed event. This year’s event did away with the standout stages, previous years had a stage 1 hill climb and a stage 6 special stage. Rather than power spew and slick grass for the 2016 edition, 6 stages that took in the best of what the hill could offer. Bike park jumps and berms would be interspersed with fresh-cut trails and some Perth classics, all with a copious dollop of Scottish rain. The wettest kind.
Queues were better managed at this year’s event, with no horrendous climb to wait for and a sheltered top to stage 1, there was plenty a happy face despite the deluge as riders headed out. After picking a start time of waves going every 10 minutes it was time to don your frock, face paint or fancy dress and spin up the long, gentle climb to stage 1.
The first stage was essentially stage 2 from previous years. A narrow tree slalom brought you into some of the slickest off-camber traverses ever. Up top you had grip to play with just as long as you could keep your bars and elbows clear of the trees, below the fire road, it was just a case of holding on for dear life.
Stage 2 is the recently-felled top section of the old SDA race track with the addition of the newly-built bike park sections. It was all about going with the flow and keeping the power down where grip allowed on the mellow, undulating slopfest that was the upper reaches. Into the trees, the pine needles concealed roots that were as slick as you like, before the bike park saw all the mud you’d collected on the way down come flying off your tyres.
A short pedal back up the fire road brought you to familiar territory. Stage 3 started in much the same vein as stage 2 albeit with a much steeper and trickier start. This stage might have been the best stage ever. Once out of the slop, a series of gripless corners, glassy bombholes and loamy ruts shouldn’t exist next to each other, but provided a smile I could not get rid of.
By now, the lack of grip had become very apparent and you could either deal with it or not. Stage 4 did not disappoint. Beech and sycamore leaves are always indicative of low grip for some reason, and this short, sharp gallop to the road was mostly spent trying to stop the rear wheel from exchanging places with the front. Blink and you’d miss it.
Stage 5 upped the ante with more speed and a false-sense of security. Many got too excited by the rock content early on and would have to nurse a wheel lacking any wind to the finish. Blind, rocky drops changed things up enough to keep it interesting and the high grass quotient meant that grip would come and go all too quickly.
Then it was the finale. The cliff run. 4 minutes of rinsing the tank of what you had left for stage 6. This stage would have the eyes wide, the legs burning and the heart running into the 200s. With only a few real braking points, this was a stage for the brave and the fit.
Beyond the timed mountain bike madness was the background buzz. For many this was their first race ever, or the only one they do each year, and that’s not really surprising. This race had everything from the pinned and serious, to those who just needed an excuse to dress up.
Waves went in 10s and you had no say who you’d be riding with, or any requirement to stick with that group. As long as you were off the last stage by the cut-off, all was well. You know a race is good, when the marshals aren’t just blowing a whistle every time a rider passes. There’s far more to this race that can’t quite be explained without racing it yourself.
Let’s not forget the countless riders that donned their best fancy dress and set about racing their hearts out despite the heinous quantity of nylon.
Not even the weather could dampen this one.
Ruaridh Forrester took the fastest overall time of the day, and the fastest male overall. Isla Short, known better for her XC whippetry took the fastest lady gong.
Outside the fastest lady and gent, there were more categories than you can shake a stick at. Full results and image gallery can be found here.