Team Wideopenmag’s Christo Gallagher headed to the Lakes to meet Chris Hutchens and do battle in the mud at the PMBA Enduro at Graythwaite.

Always slated as the toughest in the PMBA calendar, and retaining its Enduro World Series qualifier status, the Graythwaite Epic lived up to it’s moniker with plenty of riding and some tough conditions to master.

Christo Gallagher reports from a tricky day on the hill in the Lake District.

Photos by Dialled In UK.

Last weekend we saw PMBA Events put on ‘the epic’ on Graythwaite Estate in the Lake District. With everyone unsure if the race was actually going to go ahead with Coronavirus restrictions, we all breathed a sigh of relief upon arriving at the event and not to be turned away.

So, first things first. Kev and the rest of the PMBA team have worked unbelievably hard over the last few weeks to have the venue ready to race. As the trails are closed to the public outside of the race, they required quite a lot of maintenance to uncover them from all the overgrown bracken and sort out anything that was destroyed from last year.

The team did an outstanding job with an array of tracks living up to the ‘epic’ name of the event. The trails that the 500ish riders were unleashed upon were everything you’d expect in the Lake District. Steep, rooty, rocky and with a lot of rain thrown in, sloppy.

Practice went by without too much issue. Understandably there was a bit more queuing involved this weekend as everyone did their best to keep their distance, but no major course holds, which was good to avoid standing around in the frequent heavy rain showers we experienced throughout the day. The tracks were already getting churned up ready for the absolute mud fest we were all going to experience on race day.

Race day came about and it looked like we were going to be in for a day without any rainfall, which was a nice change. With a stacked entry field it was always going to be a competitive race.

Merida Big.Trailtea

In the female category, up and coming pinner Polly Henderson took the fastest time of the day, despite being in the under 21 category. Not far behind Polly though and in the under 16 category was Leah Tulloch in second overall and rounding off the top three women was Jess Stone. It looks like over the next few years the UK is going to have some amazing female riders coming to the forefront of the EWS scene.

In the men’s category, it seems the tracks were more suited to the more experienced riders with the top three overall sitting in the masters or veterans category. Reece Langhorn took the top spot, beating last year’s overall winner Adam Brayton by 14 seconds. Rounding out the top three was Ian Austermuhle, who kept his good form from last year at this venue and also displayed some of the nicest riding I have ever seen at the very top of stage six.

Hutch and I set off as some of the last riders around midday and word on the street was the mud had started to dry and become very sticky and slow. Racing for Hutch went good for his second race this year and a fifth in the masters category and tenth overall. Whilst the tracks were definitely a bit of a mess come race day, I personally just found them really fun to ride once you started cracking on. I managed to take the win in the senior category and 6th overall, despite a big crash on the final stage.

I think the event certainly was enough to “scratch the racing itch” that had been bothering everyone for a wee while now. The race was very challenging for everyone and definitely had me puzzling a lot about line choices. I think the PMBA team did their best with the situation at hand regarding Coronavirus, but the lengthy queues were certainly not ideal and maybe a smaller entry number would have solved that.

Hopefully we can see some more races this year in the UK, because I think everyone just had a blast riding against the clock while testing their bikes and bodies too.

Full results can be found on the Sportident website here.

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