Round 1 of the 661 Gravity Enduro took place last weekend at Ae Forest in the Scottish Borders and what start it was to the new series for 2011! The
Gravity Enduro series sees up to 300 riders competeing against the clock on up to 6 timed stages, all of which are downhill. The person with the quickest accumulated time over all 6 stages wins - simple! However, you still have to ride back up to the top, no uplifts or chairlifts here and with a time limit to get to the start of each stage the event is a real test of both a riders skill as well as their fitness.
My friend Dave and I both loved the idea of this type of racing, so come Friday we set off after work and set up camp in glorious warm sunshine at Ae. That didn't last 5 minutes when it was soon followed by a torrential thunderstorm which set the mood for the rest of the weekend - very wet and very muddy!
Saturday was practice followed by a seeding run on the downhill course at Ae. For those that have been there you can imagine how slippy and rooty it is when it's wet, now imagine riding down it on trail bikes! If you haven't been before then this video will show just how hard it was!
People were crashing left, right and centre all down the course! Amazingly I managed to hold on and crossed the line without a single incident (unbeliveable - MC), all down to the trusty Maxxis Swampthing tyre on the front. I scraped a time of 3 minutes 47 seconds which seeded me reasonably high up in my category so I couldn't really complain too much, after that it was time to have a gypsy shower and grab some much needed food and beer.
Sunday came round and I woke up to rain bouncing off the tent, just what you want to hear on race day! After getting to the start of Stage 1 already wet through to the bone and freezing cold (did someone mention it was May in Scotland?!) I just wanted to get to the end of the race just to warm up! Stage 1 was a run down the Shredder into the final descent down the Omega Man, wicked fast and great fun, a great way to start the day. Up to the top of Stage 2 for a run down Rab's Slippy One which is normally ridden as a climb, this made it for a very interesting stage with plenty of flat corners and loose fresh cut off-camber sections thrown into the mix too. Back to the bottom again and then the long climb to the top of Stage 3, possibly the most peddally stage of the lot which really isn't my forte! Down to the river there and that was stage 3 over (thank god!) and then the long slog to the top of Stage 4, again a stage which involved too much pedalling for my liking! Fortunately it was all over and done with in what felt like no time at all, all that lay ahead now was the final climb to the top of the downhill course to the start of Stage 5, the last and possibly the gnarliest stage of the race. This was the 2nd time down here after riding it in seeding the afternoon before, it felt like I was going into the next round of a boxing match - will I stay on the bike? Will I crash? Will I even make it down in 1 piece?! I set off down pretty cautiously and wanting to just stay on the bike but that soon went out the window as I got into 'the zone' and that was it, I was on it! That quickly ended near the end of the stage when the front end washed out over the top of a berm and the bike spat me down the hillside... gutted. I managed to get back on the bike and make it across the line but I finished 18th overall in seniors, not great but not too shabby either.
All in all it was a well organised event especially being the first of it's kind, there were a few teething issues with the timing and sign-on but they've been rectified for the next round apparently.
All I can say is bring on Round 2 at Kielder Forest!