Round five of the 2019 Hope PMBA Enduro Series headed to south west Scotland to enjoy the sheer variety of trails Kirroughtree has to offer.
Kirroughtree is a stone cold favourite amongst racers, regardless of the discipline and it certainly drew a packed crowd for the fifth round of the 2019 Hope PMBA Enduro Series.
Words by JWDT Photography | Photos by DialledInUK
The first weekend of September, the feel of an Indian Summer. Warm sunny days, cool, cloudless nights. The weather, wet to drying. Perfect conditions for Round 5 of the Hope PMBA Enduro Series. Whilst Kirroughtree is probably the furthest event from the PMBA base it is certainly one of the more popular rounds. The distance certainly did not deter the 300+ riders from making the trip, with tales of some epic journeys two a penny.
With a great café, showers and well equipped and supportive bike shop, Kirroughtree is justified in its position as a favourite venue. This year many riders arrived on the Friday night knowing the weather was on their side and made the event into a weekender, despite the race only being a one day event. And why not? The miles of trails and amazing views of the Scottish mountains combine to leave you frequently breathless. As a Dark Skies zone, Kirroughtree offers more than just daytime views.
Not only does this turn into a weekend of riding and racing, but this year Kev (Duckworth. Organiser) put on a free to enter kid’s race . This was aimed at much younger riders on whatever bikes they had. Balance bikes, single speeds and no suspension. This was incredible to see, and an amazing way to entice younger riders into the sport. There was a huge variation in the youngsters ages and skills, but all of them had a brilliant experience and taster. A great introduction to racing, with full timing, marshals, and plenty of noise.
Loads of the PMBA key staff gave up their time to support the event and marshal it. Two year old Little Rippers on balance bikes through to 13 year olds attacked a trail full of features (a 300m section of a blue route) with gusto, in a mash up style, completing laps to beat their own times and hopefully snatch a spot on the podium. Events like this are what makes the PMBA Enduro Series tick. A deep seated philosophy of a grass roots racing, with a steady progression through to the more advanced events aimed at more experienced riders such as the EWS qualifier at Graythwaite or the steep downhill stages at Llangollen.
The main race itself consisted of a 14 mile loop with 5 stages of varying difficulty. Four of the stages were within close proximity to each other and the event base, the other (stage 2) being a brand new stage further out. The PMBA have hosted their Enduro here for 6 years in a row and with The Scottish Forestry being supportive of the event there are many course options open to the team.
There’s always a great mix of natural trails mixed in with trail centre. This race course has everything, mud, roots, rocks (big rocky sections), trail centre super-fast sections as well as steep chutes and lots of peddling. One thing that comes across during this race was the progressive difficulty of the stages.
Stage 1 was a nice warm up. A bimble through the woods along a red trail gently lifted the riders to the top of the forest, before releasing them down a fast and flowing trail.
Stage 2 far out into the circuit, was very much trail centre compacted gravel, but with some larger rocky sections to negotiate. Out in the open, the riders were treated to those views.
Back into the forest for stage 3 and some more natural trails with some technical rocky sections which had become quite slippery throughout the day. With no clear/easy line down, many of the riders chose to hit them hard and fast and let gravity guide the bike.
Stage 4 stepped things up again, with a more natural and steep start through the mud and loam, disguising some hidden granite and drops. The stage then dropped into the woods, another change in conditions bringing grass and mud trails, before finally dropping on a fast trail, with a sneaky climb and plenty of peddling.
Finally, Stage 5. And the difficulty is raised again. Steep and muddy. Huge drops, muddy chutes. Very tight corners and huge senders.
“It’s a wild one!!” Again, much more natural with steep sections, off camber roots, the #KSDrop and more technical chutes. This stage is where most of the spectators turned up and gave out some great heckling and atmosphere.
The overall fastest woman on the day was PMBA ambassador rider Polly Henderson. Polly is no stranger to the podium and has recently come 3rd (U21) in an EWS at Val di Fassa. In a staggering time of 12:45.01, she was nearly 2 minutes ahead of Melissa Pearson (F 35+) who recorded a time of 14:26.00 and came a commanding first in her category. 3rd fastest woman of the day went to Leah Tulloch (F U61) in a time of 14:44.10 and also smashing her category by 3 minutes.
The men’s race was super tight for the overall fastest time. This went to Josh Noble (U21) who has been pushing hard for the top step since the beginning of the year where he took first place at an NDH race at Hamsterley. In a time of 11:01.83 he looked on fire on Sunday. Second fastest went to Archie Box (21-29) in 11:10.57 and 3rd place went to Matt Crewther (U18 ) in 11:17.18. Barely more than 15 seconds separated the top 3 times of the day. That’s tight racing in this venue where fitness and technical ability are both required.
So that’s it from Kirroughtree. Another sell out event in a supreme location that is turning into an essential weekend. Next up is Grizedale and the final round of the series, this could be the one that decides the series winners. Grizedale is yet another sold out event for this ever popular series.