Team Wideopenmag’s Chris Hutchens gives us his report from the Graythwaite BEMBA National Enduro in the heart of the Lake District.

PMBA have been coming to Graythwaite Estate to race for a few years now and 2019 was the year of the Graythwaite BEMBA National Enduro in the heart of the Lake District.

The private land in the heart of the Lake District provides a truly unique place to race and with it come some fairly unique trails. Riders would face 8 stages over the two day event. Would the event’s ‘The Epic’ tagline live up to it’s name?

Photos by Dialled in UK.

In all honesty I was feeling zonked after practice. If you gave me the numbers of the race, 1200m of climbing and about a 23km loop, then I’d safely say this was doable in 3 hours and certainly wouldn’t be an Epic.

More of a morning ride before spending the afternoon with the missus. I wasn’t the only one feeling it after practice however. The short and steep climbs seemed to drain your energy pretty quickly. You were either grinding it out in top gear or pushing your bike.

Graythwaite BEMBA National Enduro

The loop ensured you got your technical fill for the year. Roots appeared, the moved and polished up over the weekend. A few holes also developed, maybe a little too close to the start for some. What was great about the loop this year, compared to 2017 was the compact area it used. You were never really that far away from the next stage, or the cafe at Esthwaite Water Trout Fishery.

The race attracted some 600 riders and with minimal no shows at the event (this is typically about 10%) then the full quota of riders were ready to take on The Epic.

Graythwaite BEMBA National Enduro

Riders would set off from the large paddocks of Graythwaite (there’s some excellent gardens here for any horticulturalists out there) which sits 4 miles from Hawkshead before hitting Stage 1. The climb to here would become very familiar taking you up to Stage 2 and 7 as well.

Stage 3 was a short one dropping you parallel to Stage 2 and would start with the most awkward right-hander on the hill. This caught me out and my Lyrics took the brunt of it. After this Stage 4,5 and 6 dropped you down towards Esthwaite Water and the narrow road which runs along it.

Graythwaite BEMBA National Enduro

Then no one will forget stage 8. A longer stage which really pushes your fitness. About ⅔ of the way down there’s an unrideable hill. I think there should be a bonus prize for anyone who got up this on the bike. Once you sprint to the top of this monstrosity then it’s all downhill from there into the finishing arena and right where you set off from.

There was certainly some stand out performances. Polly Henderson ensured a comfortable lead in u21 and put in almost a minute to her next closest female rider. She was one of two to break the 20 minute mark.

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Kate Wakely in the 35+ went two minutes quicker than her closest rival breaking 20 minutes by 17 seconds. Now residing in Bristol the Senior womens winner Sarah Gamsjaeger from Austria would just push out K.J. Sharp for top step and post a time of 20:03 seconds.

Racing in the mens’ categories was always going to be good. Lots of Northern riders attending and many from round 1 would make sure that competition for the series titles would be healthy.

The most impressive performance has to go to u21 rider Drew Armstrong. 2nd overall on the day behind a flying Lakesman Adam Brayton. The Irishman put time into 2nd place U21 rider and winner of round 1 Brady Stone.

Calum Johnson took the U18 with a comfortable margin of almost 30 seconds from 2nd place Ewan Calton-Whitaker.

Brayton would take the Masters win and put in time into every rider in all but one stage. I’m not sure where he found the time but he was on fire. This was even after catching a rider on stage 2 who didn’t appear to move out of his way. Could he have gone sub 14:10?

Ian Austermuhle would take 2nd in Masters and round out the top 3 overall. Round 1 winner Reece Langhorn finished up in 3rd with another consistent round. My race was far from what I knew I could do on the day.

Having finished 5th here in 2017 in seniors I knew the trails suited me. Stage 1 would set out how the day would go for me and then after a crash on stage 3 I would go down pretty hard at the top of stage 6. I took it easy from there on and admitted The Epic had the better of me or maybe it’s the lack of technical riding in the South compared to Scotland.

Matt Stuttard took the seniors win ahead of Ross Hancock. Both would go under 15 minutes. Matt won the British Champs here in 2017 so was always going to be a strong contender. Wideopenmags Christo G wouldn’t have the race he was hoping for and found himself in 4th, not matching his 3rd from Afan. He narrowly missed the top 3 but was denied by a flying Archie Box.

Enduro seems to bring back the veteran downhillers, and the Graythwaite BEMBA National Enduro was no different. Of late it’s James Hughes who seems to be stamping his mark. He put in over 15 seconds to Dan Bishop to take the win and break the 15 minute barrier as well.

Marcus Jones had a solid race ensuring he took the 50+ category with ease. 16 minutes 33 seconds would ensure a comfortable lead of over 1 minute from David Bentley.

Round 3 of the BEMBA National Enduro heads to Minehead for the Southern Enduro Series Championships double-header.

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