Words by Kelan Grant, photos by Mick Kirkman and Ian Lean
I’d heard great things about Ard Rock Enduro festival up in North Yorkshire. I’d spent the month leading up to the race out in the dusty Alps and all the hype around the race made coming home to the UK a little bit easier!
I ended my month of #vanlife with a flight home to Ireland. I had just enough time to use the washing machine before hitting the boat over to the UK (cheers Sea Truck, you guys keep us Irish boys racing!) and on to the Yorkshire Dales. I’ve been to a few beautiful places this year already … and I was surprised to find Ard Rock was one for the list. It was a stunning piece of countryside, filled with wildlife.
I was even more surprised when I rolled into the Ard Rock site. I’ve never been before and had no idea what to expect … but that place was buzzing! 3800 folk had entered the race and all had friends and family tagging along. I’ve never been to a race like it.
Friday morning found me and team mate Chris Hutchens stoked and riding in the sunshine. We winched up a steep 30-minute Yorkshire climb to practice stage one. We found a 3ish minute stage that started on fast, rocky stuff then dropped into rooty woods with some tricky lines to get right. We also dipped into Stages 2 and 6 and were again, buzzing. We got a solid day of practice in and left the other stages blind for race day.
Saturday was race day and I unzipped the tent to sunshine and fresh legs. Loads of teams had gone for accommodation away from the race but we’d kept it real with camping and a chance to catch up with some mates. There’s such a good festival atmosphere to the race it felt like a would be a waste to head away from the crowds, the beers and the bands.
Race day went pretty much to plan. The legs felt great and the stages suited me down to the ground. All of the stages were fast with loads of open hill sides and plenty of hard packed dirt and rocks. Keeping the head up and the pedals down was the key.
The race takes you round a big 45km loop of the Ard Rock valley. There’s some big climbs between stages, a nice pub stop and some great transitions that are fun to ride. When you arrive at your stage you can ride when you like and with who you like – so there’s no pressure like you’d get at an Enduro World Series or something. It’s easy to see why so many people come along and enter the race, it’s just a great weekend out with your mates and a ride in some great terrain.
With the exception of a puncture on stage 3, the whole day went to plan and I crossed the line in the lead. I had a tense couple of hours waiting to see if I’d made it … and when the last of the riders rolled in I got the news that I’d taken the win.
My wing man for the weekend, team mate Chris Hutchens, didn’t quite get the result he wanted. He’d been struggling a little with the lurgy and was off pace but charged on regardless. He took a pretty decent 5th place overall.
Thanks Ard Rock – that was another solid weekend in the books. A great venue with some of the finest trails I’ve ridden. I’ll definitely be back for 2018!
Thanks to the Ard Rock crew for putting on a great event and to the Nukeproof guys for looking after us all weekend!
Thanks to the these guys for making Team Wideopen happen: