Team Wideopenmag’s Chris Hutchens reports from his old stomping ground of Pitfichie for the fourth round of the Scottish Enduro Series.
Since the Scottish Enduro Series first ventured up into the North East of Scotland to Pitfichie has quickly become a favourite of many and a rider-pleaser.
Photos by Martin Kennedy.
The trails at Pitfichie are short and pack a real punch. Hence the appropriately named Macchiato stage. It was time for the venue to host the 4th round of the Scottish Series and keep the smiles rolling through 2019.
Coming into the weekend the weather across the country wasn’t looking great. In fact yellow flood warnings were issued in places and as I write this I’m glad not to be heading back to Ayrshire where there’s been some road closures as a result of the heavy rain. Saturday would in fact be a scorcher hitting temperatures in the high 20’s, something which some locals had never experienced.
There were a few individuals melting on the hill and even willing to offer over significant sums of money for water. While the weather’s behaviour was a little unexpected this was another unusual occurrence, a Scot willing to pay over the odds for something. While practice day might have left every rider with severe dehydration and sunburn Sunday would be a different story all together.
All the riders, some 250, would head off from the village of Monymusk in dry, slightly humid conditions to tackle the six stages at Pitfichie. Of course, it had been sunny all of Saturday after breaking out of the clouds. Why would Sunday be any different?
Some riders got round most of the tracks but this was in very isolated cases. Halfway down stage 1 things changed and changed in dramatic style.
A wall of white hit me as I navigated the rock-strewn trail. Hail? It couldn’t be.
The roots would quickly slick up with the trail becoming increasingly hard to ride. The next 2-3 hours would see the rain come as the 35km loop and 1250m vertical altitude was ridden. The sun finally appeared for the last two stages.
What was noticeable on the trails was the huge amount of work the Aberdeenshire Trail Association have put in prior to the event. Climbs to the stages had been improved and many sections of the trails were in excellent condition. It’s superb to see a group work tirelessly to maintain and improve their local trails. Nice work.
The trail that seemed to catch people out the most was in fact the Devils Staircase. This trail centre stage, which has been there since the early 2000, was definitely the least technical but riders would struggle to navigate through the narrow heather corridor that winds down the hillside. A job for a good strimmer.
The level of rider at this event was refreshingly high. It was great to see many of the Scottish Factory pros turn up, something the Scottish Enduro Series doesn’t always see. Having Mark Scott and Katy Winton, who I practised with on Saturday, attend really added to the event. These are both riders who are hugely admired amongst the riding community. Throughout Saturday I would try and keep with Mark but my eyes, shaking about, just couldn’t focus on the trail. Clearly I’m getting old.
Katy would go onto win on Sunday and post the fastest female time ahead of Jess Stone. 3rd fastest female of the day was Junior rider Polly Henderson who put in another outstanding performance.
In the Elite male category it would be Lewis Buchanan who would steal the victory from Joe Connell. Mark Scott would settle for 3rd after a crash on stage 3. Clearly the wet conditions caught him out. Behind them there was a 20 second gap and a bunch of us battling around for positions. I couldn’t do better than 8th on the day, certainly not my finest performance but a lot better than Kinlochleven. I finished.
One of the standout performances for me had to go to Junior winner Calum Johnson who would win by over 1 minute in his category and also post a time good enough for 4th in the overall times. Impressive stuff.
There’s a big gap now until the final round in Fort William in October. Keep an eye out for my preview before the event for a little insight into what to expect on the day.