The 2016 British Enduro Series final, Innerleithen.
words by Chris Hutchens / photos by Ian Lean
Start at the start.
2016 was a year of change coming into the British Enduro race scene. The long established Gravity Enduro Series was finishing and a gap in the market appeared. Who would fill it was the big questions bounding around at the end of 2015. To cut a long story short two race organisers tried to compete face to face to deliver the series.
Fast forward to the end of 2016 and, unfortunately, only one survived. Si Paton brought his experience from running the British Downhill Series across to put the national series together, the British Enduro Series. In it’s first year it may not have gained the numbers it imagined, falling behind the likes of the Scottish Enduro Series, Ard Rock and PMBA, however the BES delivered a highly professional, vibrant and exciting race series. It’s only set to grow and the two day format mixes up Enduro even more.
The five race series concluded in the historic mountain biking village of Innerliethen, taking advantage of the established Traquar hillside and the Golfy trails. It’s impossible not to put on a good race on these hills and this weekend was no exception.
Five stages split over two days made for a relatively short weekend of racing. Day one took in the trails on the Golf Course with the well established Repeat Offender and Waterworld, past EWS stages, being used. Both were steep and challenging, a real leg work out for every rider on the hill. So much so most were suffering from cramp after riding Repeat Offender. This trail is basically a 4 minute downhill long pump track!
Sunday was a short loop, just over 12km and consisted of two short trails; Prospacker and Alasdair Lees. It was a shame no to see the full trails being used for the Sunday. The final stage of the weekend, and series, was Cresta Run. This is one of the classic trails on the hill; fast and flowing with a steep finish to close the BES seasons off.
Off the brakes and pump.
Racing on Saturday was a delight. Dry trails and a relaxed atmosphere. The long transition times weren’t an issue and the worries of waiting about at the top were thankfully dismissed with stages opening early. The evenings are quickly getting darker earlier and it was a challenge just to navigate down some of the stages with the light running low. I was surprised not to see some head torches out!
With series positions at stake there was a hunger from many to finish the series off with a strong race result and secure a British Enduro Series overall.
The trick to the weekend, given the lack of pedaling and short tracks, was to try and keep off the brakes and pump. The trails worked well for this given the undulating terrain and rough stages.
After day one Pete Williams, more likely seen on a DH race track, put his local knowledge to go use and positioned himself in first in front of myself and series leader Leigh Johnson
Bex Baraona was hauling after a strong EWS result last week in Finale Ligure and won both stages ahead of Becky Cook.
Short and Sharp – the seasons finale!
Sunday was a short 12km loop with 3 relatively short stages. Not good for those wanting to make up time either and I knew I had to push hard to make up the deficit Pete had over me on Saturday. There was a lot of criticism over the length of the stages on Sunday with options on all of the tracks to extend, and double the length in some cases.
Why the full tracks weren’t used and the opportunity to push the endurance side of things was a question on a lot of peoples minds. Maybe we’ll see a different format for next year which would support longer races.
Pete Williams maintained his lead in the Continental Elites and finished with a win on the final stage. I mad a few too many mistakes and then hit a root on the bottom chute on stage 4 which I believe took out a few others as well. Leigh Johnson leapfrogged me to take 2nd and I settled for 3rd on the day amongst a good field of riders.
Joel Chidley and Vini Crighton-Poli rounded out the Elite Podium. In the overall Leigh had wrapped up the series before the start of the weekend and Sam Shucksmith was guaranteed 2nd. With my 3rd on the day I closed the gap and wrapped up the BES in 3rd overall. Great being on the podium with you boys!
In the Elite femals the orders at the top didn’t change with Bex taking every stage with a convincing win. Becky fought off Martha Gill to take 2nd and 3rd respectively. Becky’s 2nd on the day was enough to jump in front of Tracy Moseley for the series title. Despite Tracy only racing 3 rounds she secured 2nd with Martha securing a 3rd in the Continental Tyres Elite Womens catergory.
Junior men showed a consistent pattern all weekend with Taylor Ian taking 5 stage wins and Corey Watson settling for 2nd on all the stages. Rounding out the final podium spot was Jake Gilfillan. The overall was claimed by Kyle Havard, who sadly not in attendance at the final round, however Jake Gilfillan and Adam Campbell both had strong seasons to finish 2nd and 3rd in the Overall respectively.
The Abys Masters men had a new man in town and none other than Dave Wardell. He’s a legend from the downhill days which I’m sure many of you will remember. He turned up and smashed the field by over 40 seconds in front of Simon Wakely and Welshman Ajay Jones. Good to see you back Bullhead! Hywel Silvestor wasn’t knocking on the podium door this weekend but took the series win in front of a charging Simon Wakely who narrowly missed the series overall title. Ajay completed a strong season in 3rd.
Seniors mens was an interesting one, more for the requirements to repair bikes for 2nd place man Lewis Summers. While Vivian Jones put in a superb ride for the win I take my hat off to Lewis for his mid weekend frame repair. ZipTies appear to fix everything and add in a little epoxy resin and you have a solid, solid back end again. Damien Ledgerwood completed the podium. The overall was in Lewis Summer head and his bodge secured him 2nd behind Charles Jones and in front of Vivian Jones.
Titley continued his dominance in the X-Fusion Vet Men making it 5 rounds from 5, securing the Overall and walking away with a big grin on his face. Dan Bishop and Darren Scott finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. Andy Sadler and Jonny Scott took 2nd and 3rd in the Series. Great racing in the Vet men category this year.
Grand Vets was a small field of 5 riders, with Hope’s Keven Baines taking the win but having to settle for 2nd in the series. It was 2nd place man Alex Cameron who took the series win. Mike Corkill finished the season 3rd in the overall and 3rd on the day.
A charging Polly Henderson took the biggest winning margin of the day and at only 15 years old is set for a good bike riding career I’m sure! She took the win and all stages over 2 minutes ahead of Lucy Follett in 2nd. Heather Kay rounded out the Flare Clothing Womens podium.
Youth Men was won by Jamie Edmondson with the battle for 2nd won by Harvey Rollason over Oliver Parton. Parton secured the series win in front of Rollason and Tom Wilson put together a ride good enough for 3rd in the series. It’s awesome to see some healthy competition in the younger catergories.
Last but not least, the Stanton Hardtail Catergory. Tom Dunn took the win here at Inners, along with the series. Sonny Baston chased Tom for 2nd and Alex Robertson jumped onto his hardtail for the weekend to grab 3rd on the day. In the Overall Adam Fieldsend of the RAF team took 2nd and Oliver Watson 3rd.
What next for Enduro?
With the first British Enduro Series concluded we’d love to hear what you thought? Si Paton wants a bigger and better series for next year so what will help Enduro grow in the UK? Can we start closing down the French at their own game?
See you in 2017 for another season of Enduro racing.
Huge thanks to Chris Hutchens, Ian Lean and Saskia Duggon for their awesome coverage this year – we couldn’t have done it without you.
And – of course – huge thanks to Si Paton and the BES crew for making racing happen in the UK. You guys rule.