The second round of the 2023 Hope PMBA Enduro Series heads to Graythwaite for the last time but finishes in suitable style.
Words and photos by Jerry Tatton.
Last weekend was one hell of a weekend in the English Lake District for the Hope PMBA Enduro Series. This was “The Epic” across not only Graythwaite estate but also 4 stages across the stunning Grizedale Forestry England landscape.
It was however a bit of a bitter sweet weekend, as many of you will have heard now that Graythwaite will no longer be hosting the PMBA Enduro Series. The reason is simply due to the landowners deciding to rewild the land, and this cannot coexist with mountain biking events and many other regular activities they host.
For the 2023 event there was a relocated HQ, I hear they deemed this a bit of a downgrade from the regular fields, but come on. A Lakeside location on Windermere, a mostly flat field with access to permanent showers and toilets, and let’s not forget the utterly amazing weather through the weekend and leading up to the event.
The trails were bone dry and dusty with the exception of a few tiny features across the 8 epic stages. It must be said that Kev, the man behind the Hope PMBA Enduro Series pulled off some real magic and worked very hard and closely with the Forestry England team at Grizedale. What are considered as “wild trails” were used with a specific dig day on stage 4 is kind of unheard of these days in England.
The race weekend was the normal format, where riders arrived on the Friday and Saturday. Practice was on Saturday and the main race event on the Sunday. This was not a mash up format of a race, but all stages were ridden in order. There were 8 stages in total, with an approximate 35km loop and one hell of a lot of altitude gain and 2 tough hike a bike push ups.
Stage 1 – Charismatic Megafauna
One of Vinny’s creations, now packed with features although the “double drop” cliff A-line was taped off for the event. Seconds into the first stage the early “big drop” warranted just rolling in at a controlled speed, sprint at it and you’d have overshot the landing and ended your day 15 seconds into the event. 3 minutes top to bottom, with an epic fast blast through the Oaks at the bottom of the hill. What a start to the race this stage was.
Stage 2 – Loose Lips (at Bogle Cragg)
Straight out to the far side of the course and to a stage first used in 2019. Roots, rocks, fairly blown out in places but very “enduro” this was Grizedale at its finest. This was a stage that needed a bit of momentum and being easy on the brakes, go at it too slow and you’d have struggled.
Stage 3 – The Black and into Bluebells
This was the only trail centre stage, and had the big pedal sprint as well. The organiser had introduced a “Vittoria Sprint Challenge” so they could monitor ebikes for not having speed limiters on the sprint. This was the most obvious test that ebikers motors switched off above 15.5mph – anyone using a motorbike (chipped or derestricted ebike) would not just be DQd but would be banned from the series and their details shared with all other BEMBA organisers. It’s vital to be seen to make sure only legal ebikes are used.
Finishing with “Bluebells” a lovely short bit of tech, made even harder when your eyes are blurred and your heart pounding from a big fireroad sprint. And yes, Kev is evil but the Enduro handbook does state “multiple special stages which are designed to challenge the rider’s technical ability and physical capacity”. You can’t argue with that.
Stage 4 – Sat Track
I heard that many riders loved this stage. A 25 year old locals trail has been an enduro stage many times in the last 9 years, pure fun with a rooty start. As mentioned before, a big shout out to Grizedale Forestry allowed the team to run a public dig day on this stage last month. Refreshed berms and filled ruts meant this trail was running prime.
Stage 5 – Deerhunter
This stage I didn’t get to cover due to helping an injured rider on stage 4 later on the Saturday, but a short and fast one with a big rock garden in the middle, tight through the deer gate fences (gates removed for the event of course). Fast and furious this one was.
Stage 6 – Chelicerae
Completely reworked “Scorpion” to avoid the windfell they now only used the start of this classic track. Hence the name change to Chelicerae (mouth of Scorpion). This was the much talked about stage, probably too many features, chutes and A/B lines as much trials as enduro its very technical and feature filled. Even the final section in the oak woodland had been “Vinnied” with features and berms.
Stage 7 – Happy Ending
This was the original ending to “Scorpion” a lovely small stage in the beautiful oaks and flowing single track. It was there to also remind you that you can ride, after the technical onslaught of Stage 6 you’ll have done a few mins before.
Stage 8 – Nick’s Party Line
The classic Graythwaite ridgeline start with epic Lakeland views was the final stage, a good solid stage that wouldn’t leave anyone in quite the state stage 6 did, and a nice pedal/sprint to the finish after the stream crossing to reward those with a little left in the tank for the final stage
This was one hell of a race, 7 out of 8 stages were natural technical and in places steep, a massive skill up from the grassroots event the other month at Gisburn. But having said this, it was incredible to see young Izzy at age 11 years old take on the whole distance and stages. It reminds me of Katy 3 years ago also doing the 2020 race during Covid. This race is a test for all riders, but to see these two bright stars racing proves the future is bright for our sport.
Another huge achievement in mine and Kev’s opinion is that of Sam Barnet. 15 years old and took 1st place in the Hardtail category with an overall time of 17:40.12. This placed him 120th out of 392 racers across all categories. His time even beat 36 of the 59 senior men entered and on a Hardtail. For some reason, online results do not tend to acknowledge the hardtail categories, this is unfair since his real result was 1st place in Hartails and just put into the U18 category. So here you go Sam, massive kudos, you smashed it at the weekend riding one of the toughest Enduro races.
The fastest rider of the day went to Joe Barnes (30-39) in a staggering 14:31.36, but he was pushed hard by the other top 3 riders and certainly didn’t win the fastest times on each stage. Will Rowlands (30-39) came in 2nd in 14:47.25 and 3rd fastest was Henry Timewell. Cool literally breathing down Will’s neck. It’s great to see 3 vets breaking into the top ten fastest times, Sean Robinson, Ian Austermuhle and James Hughes, such incredible talent.
The women’s race was superb with 23 competitors on the day. Emily Ashwood took the fastest time of the day in a brilliant 18:14.76 and was close behind her in 2nd place and another young rider to watch out for, Charlotte Kay in 19:31.28. Third fastest (Non Emtb) went to Katy McGowan in 20:13.58. The 3rd fastest rider of the day and fastest woman on an ebike was the always solid performer Helen Gaskell in 19:57.42.
So there it is, the final race report from Graythwaite, one of the best venues for natural, technical and physically demanding riding there is. This “Epic” did the last event here real justice, with many riders still high on the post race euphoria from this venue.
Next up is the huge weekend at Ae forest in the borders of Scotland. Not only is this round 2 of the Hope women’s series, but also the Hope Academy kids race and the main event is one of the British National Enduro Series races, it’s guaranteed to be a mammoth weekend. We hope to see as many of you there. So not only has 2023 drawn the curtains on the great Graythwaite venue, but has opened up the future to Ae forest and the PMBA Enduro Series.
For a full rundown of the results head over to Roots & Rain here.