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Race Report: UK Enduro Series: Rd1 – Crychan

 

 2016 UK Enduro: Round 1 - Crychan
 

The 2016 UK Enduro Series kicked off spectacularly last weekend, as nearly 200 riders descended upon Crychan Forest to ride the testing, technical trails nestled within.


Crychan forest delivers

After briefly tasting the Crychan trails on the UK Enduro launch day back in February, round one promised to deliver steep, flowing, rooty, loamy and in places rocky terrain… Essentially, at some point there would be something to test every rider taking part, and the Crychan stages absolutely delivered (for some of us more than others – read on).

Riding for Team Wheelies were Ben Stallwood and Gavin Johnson, with myself as a (very much in-over-his-head) guest. Upon arrival at the tiered-carpark in the side of the hill, the event village was neatly held up on top with competitor/spectator parking elsewhere. The 5 separate stages were scattered around the surrounding hill in all directions, ensuring any riders suffering mechanical issues didn’t have to go too far to get back to the pits.

2016 UK Enduro: Crychan Event Village

 

 


Photo: Dan Wyre photography

Focussed: Ben on stage two | Photo by Dan Wyre Photography


 

UK Enduro race format

It’s hard not to sound a bit cliché with this, but the UK enduro series is very much ‘for the riders’. Compacting riders into boxes full of rules, regulations, restrictions and penalties is not the way to make a race series fun. The UK Enduro series is open, chatty, friendly and sociable, and very much emphasizes enjoying the time spent on your bike. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that the stages are a roll in the park. The UK Enduro is set to be full of tough and challenging stages all season, with lots of all-new trails to level the field and take away any local advantage.

Tuck and roll: Gavin on stage two

The racing itself is split over two days, with riders able to choose from Saturday + Sunday or Sunday only race entries each with its own results table. Riders taking part in the full weekend get a few hours on Saturday morning to practice the stages with timed runs in the afternoon, while Sunday riders get the full day to complete the course (stages can be completed in any order), but have to go at them blind. Riders get plenty of time to complete the stages, with no timed transitions in-between to worry about.


Stage one

Starting off with a brief fire-road sprint, stage one immediately dives into the woods with some tight, loamy turns and plenty of lumps and bumps to help you pump the bike up to speed, before a surprise mud-splash tries to swipe your front wheel out from underneath you, as many discovered the hard way. From here the stage undulates heavily with rooty switchbacks, before dropping down onto another fire-road for another short sprint.

Back into the woods for the main bulk of the stage there are plenty of roots to catch you out, plus a few super-steep roll-offs that demand you pick your line well in advance if you want to get down fast. By the time Saturday’s timed runs came about, the last 50m of the course had become quite boggy and impassable for all but the most determined riders, so for Sunday the stage end was brought forward to avoid this section.

Ben:

After tasting stage one on the opening day a few weeks back I was dreading this stage, but to my surprise on the Saturday morning practice I had no major dramas and had pretty much figured out my lines. Unfortunately the Saturday timed run went south when I hit the “boggy and impassable” sectionm as I tried to hop in to it but landed front heavym allowing the bog to happily absorb my forward momentum and send me hurtling over the bars… I wish I could say that was the end of my mishaps but it continues below.

Gav:

Dropping in to the stage it was obvious that the slick roots would determine whether you would stay on the bike. Keeping of the brakes and line choice was the main aim here. Not my favourite stage but definitely demanding, requiring full concentration.

 


 

Stage two

Whilst loamy throughout, by contrast to stage one stage two is a cheeky trickster, lulling you into a false sense of security with its easy start and mixture of smooth and rooty breeze through the trees. Soon enough, the stage crosses a fire-road with a dramatic triple roll-off followed by steep right-left turns.

Roots were everywhere just waiting to snatch away your front wheel, as were a few sneaky stumps and a fallen log or two to test your hopping at speed. After another fire-road cross and back into the woods, stage two opens up dramatically with some thrilling fast & flowing brake-free sections which you can really carry your speed on.

Ben:

One of my preferred stages for the weekend, some great lines and corners. I will certainly be going back to Crychan to section that stage.

Gav:

Being able to get off the brakes and allow the bike to carry speed through the turns was mint. Stage 2 was awesome and definitely one of my favourites. Line choice was huge and had a big influence on stage time. It was good that this stage was also used as stage 6, which just meant I got to ride it again.

Guy:

My practice run was clean and felt quick, particularly over the later part of the stage where I felt I could carry as much speed as I wanted. On my timed run I hit one of the stealthy stumps and went straight over the bars. I didn’t even notice that particular stump on my practice run, but there were two very clear lines going either side of it so I’m annoyed at myself for getting it so wrong.

 


 

Stage three

Much like stage two, stage three is loamy and technical, but with a bit more pedalling needed to get you through the first two sections, before a deep, intimidating-looking roll off takes you through a pair of smooth and great fun berms, feeding you into a sharp, sudden yet super-grippy right hander.

Rolling, off-camber turns and a couple of steep switchbacks rounded out stage three, punctuated by a short log-drop which gradually wore in and became more of a wheel-stopper as the day went on.

Ben:

Again, this was a stage I would have rather forgotten on the Saturday. I came in to one of the steep corners and wasn’t able to drop enough to speed to make it between some tight trees, and ended up clipping my bars. With Sundays botched brake fix, I was 20secs quicker through the stage.

Guy:

The steep roll-in caught me out on February’s launch day, sending me over the bars after I forgot to unlock my rear shock, but by race day it had worn a groove that was super grippy and so much fun to ride – it went from being my most-dreaded to my favourite trail feature of the weekend.

 


 

Stage four

Lots of pedalling to start with through the trees before a short fire-road sprint, and then the option to either fly over some fallen logs back into the woods, or (if you have any sense of self-preservation) a rolling right-hand berm, followed by what is possibly the steepest couple of corners of the weekend which insisted on turning my bike the opposite direction to where I wanted to go. What remains is technical, tight but flowy if you get it right and excellent fun to boot. I’ll make it my mission to go back and conquer stage four… someday!

Ben:

The first sections of this stage were leg burners. I spent a lot of time pedalling, pumping and hopping roots to be rewarded with a climb out on to a forest road sprint. Once in to the bottom half of the stage the track completely changed and was home to some of the steepest sections of the weekend. Unfortunately I suffered another crash on the Saturday, and similar to stage three I was around 20secs quicker through the stage on Sunday.

Gav:

Amazing stage with some super line choices. The sections where pedalling was involved were pretty demanding but still super fun. With some testing turns and quicker line choices stage four was definitely for the racers out there.

Guy:

If someone asked me to name this stage, I’d call it “My own personal hell.” With my hands held high, I’ll admit that my cardio fitness is somewhat lacking. In a race to get up and put the kettle on between myself and an asthmatic badger who’s undergone a double pneumonectomy, deciding the victor would go to a judge’s decision. I had hoped that my bike-handling ability would be enough to carry me through the weekend, but stage four stomped that idea into the dirt.


 

Stage five

Ridden blind without any practice runs, stage five started with a great loamy section through some tight trees, with a few little roots and stumps to hop over. Once clear of the first tree section, it’s in to a straight fire road sprint before turning up on to a high banking covered with drainpipe size roots, making it awkward to maintain any momentum.

Out of the trees again on to an inclined fire road sprint and then left in to a muddy single-track flat section – the middle section of this stage was fantastic! Tight trees, tacky mud and steep bomb holes created by downed trees. The stage ended with a long rocky sprint to the finish.


Stage six

Re-run of stage two (Sunday only).


 

Team Wheelies results

Ben:

A shocking weekend for me, spent Saturday struggling through the stages with a brake that was squirting oil on to the pads and disk. Luckily the Drovers Cycles mechanic lent me a front brake for the Sunday which allowed me to improve on stage times (over a min on 2 stages) but was still not at home behind the bars and had two brakes which felt completely different. I came away from the weekend with 19th/28 in category and 53rd/86 for the weekend. Overall, the trails were challenging and the atmosphere fantastic. I will need to practice some super rooty stuff to prepare for the rest of the season.

Gav:

The UK Enduro is something else. I had an absolutely amazing weekend and enjoyed every second. Meeting up with old friends and making new ones is what it’s about, the fact that you get to ride together is a bonus. I was buzzing to have taken 3rd in Masters and 13th overall.

Guy:

Having thoroughly beaten myself up over the 8 combined practice & timed runs on Saturday, I had to throw in the towel and bow out of Sunday’s racing, joining a handful of ‘non-classified’ two-day riders at the end of the event. Round one of the UK Enduro Series has been a real wake-up call as to how much I’ve let my fitness go in a few years off the MTB, but I’ve put my name down for round 6 at Revolution Bike Park in September, so that’s my target.


 

Thanks to: Series organiser Neil Delafield for the invites | Salop Medical Services for keeping an eye out for us | Dan Wyre for the photography | All the marshals + everyone involved

View the full results and event photos over at Roots and Rain.

 


Written by: Guy Brooke | Ben Stallwood | Gavin Johnson