Ben Reports From the National Enduro Champs in Minehead.

The 2021 British National Enduro Champions would be crowned in Somerset this weekend and our Ben got between the tape too.

Our man Ben Plenge got himself between the tape at the British National Enduro Champs at Minehead this weekend gone, and was at the sharp end until a fairly hefty crash on the penultimate stage took him out of the race.

Hope you’re not feeling too run over Ben! His hands still work though, so he gave us a run down of how the Southern Enduro-organised event went.

Coming off the back of a heat wave, riders were greeted with ominous skies and threats of torrential rain storms as they trickled into the race village located just on the outskirts of Minehead in Somerset, this weekend. For years this area has been used for smaller, regional races and it has a decent network of natural trails. They were put to maximum use by Scott and the Southern Enduro team who taped out 8 separate stages of varying lengths, each with its own unique character and challenges.

Sam Shucksmith on the charge. Photo by Dave Price.

The format for the weekend would be as follows:

  • Friday night and Saturday morning: Track walk only.
  • Saturday afternoon: Race stages 1-5
  • Sunday all day: Race stages 1-8, giving 13 stages of total race time over the weekend.

The ‘blind’ racing format is unusual in the UK, but was put in place to minimise COVID risk as people bottle neck on the trails during practice. Some riders loved the new challenge whilst others clearly preferred a more conventional format. Either way, the event was well run and it was the same for all and we should take out hats off to any organiser brave enough to put an event of this scale on in the current climate.

Our man Ben keeping it rubber side down. Photo by Lewis Gregory.

Despite the biblical weather that was forecast we escaped with just a few thunder claps and a decent rain shower, turning the dry loam and dust of track walk into a lovely slippery paste that covered the roots littering the tracks. Even with the rain, most riders reported that it was surprisingly grippy and despite the blind race format, nobody was holding back.

Day 1 ended with everyone pouring over their results, telling stories of near misses, “French” lines taken, and inside lines missed. After so many cancelled events over the past year, it felt good to be back amongst friends and the atmosphere was great.

Jess Stone on her way to the Senior Women’s title. Photo by Dave Price.

Sunday was a bigger day out, with 8 stages to be raced, including 1-5 from Saturday. This let you ride a bit harder and faster as you had already done them once and could commit a bit more. On paper, the race did not seem like much of a physical challenge, with only about 800m of vert on Sunday, however the steepness and stickyness of the climbs had a most people pushing up and sweating. A lot!

The hills around here tend to have flat tops before dropping off and this was how most of the stages were laid out as well, starting with some dirty pedalling and flat turns before getting into the good stuff. There was decent variety in stages as well, so there really was something for all riders to enjoy.

At the end of Sunday, the National Champions would be crowned in each of the age categories for men and women.

Your 2021 Enduro National Champions…

  • U21 Women: Polly Henderson
  • 21-34 Women: Jess Stone
  • 35+ Women: Katy Wakeley
  • 10-14 Boys: Oscar Griffiths
  • 15-17 Boys: Dom Platt
  • U21 Men: Alex Storr
  • Senior Men: Lewis Ranger
  • Masters Men: Sam Shucksmith
  • Veterans Men: Ian Austermuhle
  • Grand Vets Men: Dan Bishop

After a tough two days of racing it is fair to say that everyone was buzzing about the tracks and about life getting back to normal. Bring on more racing.

Full results from the National Enduro Championships in Minehead can be found here.