Team Wideopenmag’s Chris Hutchens gives us his preview of the Kinlochleven Scottish Enduro Series in a few weekend’s time.
The British Enduro Series heads to Scotland, tying in with the Kinlochleven Scottish Enduro Series round on the 15th and 16th May for a mammoth race.
Now heading into Round 4 of the British National Enduro Series there’s going to be a colossal shift in terrain. Moving from the rolling hills of Exmoor where Round 3 was hosted by Southern Enduro on the north coast of Somerset and the arcade filled town of Minehead the series jumps north to some real mountains.
The village of Kinlochleven devours you in more ways than one. Passing the ‘dragons tooth’ as in known by some or the Pap of Glencoe, you enter into the long loch filled glen on route to the once thriving aluminium producing village.
Kinlochleven sits at the head of Loch Leven with towering Munros above making even the most biggest person feel insignificant. With these mountains, you have a landscape similar to the Fjords of Norway or New Zealand, the 3000ft peaks rise from sea level and promise a significant elevation drop for an enduro race.
The event is being run as the 3rd round of the Scottish Enduro Series and doubles up as a British National Enduro Series round as well. This will no doubt attract a whole host of riders who have never experienced the trails at Kinlochleven. The trails split opinion but are, without question, the closest to true mountain biking you can get.
The Series So Far
Our man Christo G leads the Senior series, Hutch sitting fourth in Masters despite a shocker at Graythwaite, with Reece Langhorn leading.
In the Female Category while Beck Cook has only raced at two rounds dominating in both Afan and in Minehead she sits at the top of the leader board in front of Kirsty Adams who’s the only other female to have attended all three rounds.
Kinlochleven sits south and east of Fort William at the head of Loch Leven, under the northern slope of Glencoe’s Aonach Eagach ridge, and the southern flank of the Mamore range.
As usual there’s a fairly relaxed approach. Sign on Saturday morning from 8am as the Ice Factor opens its doors with wafts of coffee. Stages opening for practice from 9:30 onwards. Practice will close at 1600. No mash up at this event so don’t worry about stressing about jumping from stage to stage and waiting for stages to open.
Racers sign up for their start time on the Sunday with the first riders heading off at 8:30. Elites typically leave from 11:30 as a group depending on the final entry numbers.
So what should you expect?
With the venue having hosted a round of the EWS Qualifier Rounds in 2018 it’s a venue which can punch with the best. The race bases itself out of the old smelter which was repurposed as The Ice Factor over a decade ago. The beer here’s pretty good too.
Expect some long climbs as you head out on the Mamore Lodge track past the lodge itself and onto a rough fire road which circumnavigates Ben Nevis and eventually leads you to Spean Bridge. At this point you break out of the limited tree line and where you’re met by the most spectacular views to be found on the west coast of Scotland.
Most of the riding here is on open rocky hillside with multiple lines and loose trails. Make sure you pack an inner tube, or maybe two. Inserts are recommended and I’ll be ensuring to put a Nukeproof ARD in for the weekend.
If you’re looking for some options of inserts then check out the recent article here.
Typically stages here are limited in numbers (3-4) but the length of tracks makes up for this and you’ll know you’ve had a big weekend of riding once you’re finished on Sunday evening.
If you take a look at an OS Map you’ll spot Loch Eilde Mor. Stages often start around this point dropping in from below the dam which spans across the valley. These will lead you into rocky and physical tracks, tight switchbacks and a few sharp pinch climbs. You’ll have sore hands, burning legs and hopefully a massive grin as well. Just watch out for those drainage ditches.
Who’s in contention for the podium spots?
Of course Christo will be looking to extend his series lead but Sam Shucksmith is right on his tail and will be eager to contend for the overall British title. His strength could come in well for these rocky and brutal stages, but then could Christo’s finesse work in his favour?
Interestingly, despite the strong starts for Matt Studdart and Leigh Johnston their names appear to be missing from the start sheet at the point of writing along with a few of the other UK EWS factory riders.
After her win at the Scottish Enduro Series in Innerleithen in May, Jess Stone is looking like the favourite just now for Kinlochleven. While she might not have raced any BNES I’ve got a hunch she’ll stand on top of the podium if things go her way. Kirsty Adam leads the series and will likely extend her lead further.