With the 2016 race season fizzling out after the final round of the Enduro World Series in Finale, No Fuss Events put on what must be the last enduro race of the year with the Champs Enduro at Kinlochleven.
Team Wideopenmag’s Chris Hutchens rounded off a podium-filled year with yet another step onto the box, piloting his Nukeproof Scout to first place.
Words by Chris Hutchens | Photos by Fraser Laing.
While many were sitting warm in front of the fire watching the X Factor, a brave assortment of creatures ventured deep into the highland glens of Scotland. Home to Europe’s largest indoor ice climbing wall, The Ice Factor was a warm and comforting venue to host the final Enduro World Series qualifier of the year.
November is a brave time for any event organiser to run a race and it might have been seen as mad, or stupid, for No Fuss Events to hold their last enduro race of the year in the Scottish village of Kinlochleven. Risk of snow, rain and ice didn’t put the team off. They might not have been able to avoid the above but they could promise there would be no midges. That f*ck for that!
I eagerly checked the forecast on the run up to weekend. A few bitterly cold days had rolled in while at the Scottish mountain bike conference in Aviemore and the thought of cold wet race was something I was hoping could be avoided. Although plenty of snow fell on the run up to the weekend the cold clear and crisp days graced us for the weekends riding. This did not mean dry trails but again as promised by No Fuss Events, no mud, just surface water and a few soft marshes.
Kinlochleven has a reputation, deservedly so I think, as one of the best big mountain race venues in the UK. It was apparent in the entry list with a rider from Paris driving all the way up the length of the UK to race it. Countless riders from deep in the heart of England made up the 200 rider line up. If you provide good trails the riders will come!
Stages 1 and 2 started high up after cycling past the Mamore Lodge and branching off at the head of Loch Eilde Mor. Using one of the old walking trails, visible on the OS map but rarely ridden, provided an incredible first stage. Steep, rocky and fast. It was everything a big mountain stage should be. Ronan Taylor stole the show on this one ahead of Joe Connell.
Stage 2 was a flatter trail featuring a couple of climbs as well taking you right to sea level. Water bars and rock features were a risk to everyone and unfortunately put Ronan Taylor out of the running after a tremendous start to the day. It was Hope’s Ian Austermuhle that took the stage win ahead of Joe Connell.
For me it was a weekend of chance. After a long season of racing I thought I would mix things up and take on the challenge of racing a hardtail down Kinlochleven. I grabbed a Nukeproof Scout 29er for the weekend and chucked on my Crankbrothers clipless pedals and went for it! It struggled on Stage 1 but I managed to finish 3rd fastest on stage 2…the wagon wheels worked there!
A climb back up past the Mamore Lodge climbing to almost 400m above sea level was an arduous one, especially in sub-zero temperatures with numb feet. I think 99% of riders had lost feeling in their toes. Correct me if I’m wrong!
The 5+ minute final stage was a maze! Lines darted everywhere, some leading you into dead ends it seemed at times. With views looking over Loch Leven this is why we race here. Stunning backdrops distract you as you try and string a race run together. My sources tell me there was crashes everywhere you looked with 1 in 4 riders going down somewhere in the top open section and start of the lower woods. It was a case of hang on, point the bike downhill and see where you ended up. This topped the weekend off and ensured everyone headed home wanting to come back for more incredible racing.
Joe Connell sealed his win for the weekend by taking the final stage and winning seniors. Along with this he secured a chance to enter the Enduro World Series in 2017. If rumors are true then we might not see him racing as much World Cup downhill next year! Ian Austermuhle took the masters win and 2nd fastest time overall. In Veteran over 40’s it was Dan Greenwood taking the win and finishing 3rd overall. I managed to take the Nukeproof hardtail to 1st in category and 9th overall.
Roz Newman again took the females win amongst a well contested female category. She’s also been scheming up plans for more arm wrestling fandangos. Watch this space!
Finally it was amazing to see all the riders competing over a cold and snowy November weekend. No Fuss put on an amazing race and ensured everyone had an incredible experience. Full results can be found here.
If you missed out this year then keep an eye out for race dates in 2017.