Racing kicked off last weekend in the Emerald Isle with the opening round of the 2019 Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup heading to Ravendsale.
The opening round of the 2019 Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup headed to sunny Ravensdale for riders to open their accounts. The boss man Glyn O’Brien penned us a race report.
With a bright sunny day in Ravensdale, Ireland welcomes the opening race of the enduro season, the first stop of the Vitus First Tracks Enduro Cup. For some years already, the Vitus First Track Cup has been together with the Irish Gravity Series, the main events to get some exposure for enduro riders on the Emerald island.
Greg Callaghan, Kelan Grant, Killian Callaghan, Dan Wolfe, Jack Devlin, Leah Maunsell and others, usually participate on these series. This year, 4 rounds: Ravensdale, Bigwood, Rostrevor and Castlewellan. Rostrevor will be also the Irish Enduro Championship and part of the EWS Qualifier series for 2020, so expect tons of action for that day.
This year the Vitus First Track Enduro Cup has some changes, been the most important one the introduction of an overall category, King of the Mountain and Queen of the Mountain. Pro Men/Women class have been removed and for 2019 there is a chance for any rider to lead the season overall and become the series champion. Anyone can fight for the overall title, a junior, master, senior or veteran.
On the first race in Ravensdale the top 20 riders on the overall at the finish line will be the last to depart on next race in Bigwood. Another change is the introduction of the ebike category. It will be a separate class that will not of course compete for the King of the Mountain or Queen of the Mountain.
Back to the actual race, approximately 270 riders will get into the trails tomorrow and seems that the current sunny conditions will continue on Sunday, meaning less muddy roots to deal with. The actual track, slippery 19km with about 700m of climb and same descending, with 4 stages to decide who will win. On today’s training day the first half of the day was a constant struggle with the mud and slippery roots on the SS1 Holy Grail and SS2 Red Alert, that traverse deep woods and take more time to dry out.
SS3, Old timer, on the contrary, is open and fast, by midday was almost completely dry and with loamy perfect conditions. Due to the rain the days before, organizers decided to cancel the stage 4 from the initial 5, so the original 5th stage will be SS4 on Sunday, Born Slippy. And Slippy you should not my friend as this is considered to be the most DH like of all the day, with tons of switchbacks to play with, jumps and step sections with plenty of scattered rocks and roots, making it even more technical. Physical stages for everyone, let the quickest and smartest through the woods win.
What an amazing day for racing folks! After several days of raining, Friday night stopped and after a full Saturday of Sun and wind, Sunday morning the riders had the best conditions possible. Although the first riders to start at 9:30 still found some mud on the first 2 stages. Top seeded riders departed at 12:30 so they found almost perfect trails to ride.
Starting with Holy Grail rider Kelan Grant (CRC) made it seem easy winning with over 4s over the U21 Harry Byrne and 5s over the also U21 Drew Armstrong (Vitus First Tracks Race Division). Next was Red Alert with some tight switchbacks and pedaling muddy sections. On this stage was Kelan again to grab the win, extending his lead. Second at 3s James Mac Ferran (Cycleology Racing) and third Ben Irwin (Mech Monkey).
Next, the stage that many considered to be the best one of the race, stage 3 Old timer. Fast, almost dry and where the riders could enjoy more speed and loose the brakes. Kelan Grant fresh from the first 2 EWS rounds came first again, almost cementing his overall win. Harry Byrne and Drew Armstrong repeated 2nd and 3rd with 2sec and 4sec respectively after Kelan.
Last but not least, Born Slippy, with some DH features, jumps and doubles, to end the day with a big small on everyone’s faces. No need to say it, Kelan won with a comfortably 7sec over the youngsters Harry Byrne and Drew Armstrong. There’s some good fresh blood on the Irish races that stand out, generation shit-out is secured with this young lads.
In the womens’ category current Irish champion Leah Maunsell had almost a clean sweep win, a crash impeded her to win the last stage, grabbing 3rd, but enough to win the overall. The battle for the 2nd and 3rd places was in between Hannah Harvey (CRC) and Meave Baxter that exchanged positions on almost each stage. Hannah won the last one and Meave was second, Leah coming third losing almost 20s but was enough to keep the first place.