Northern Downhill Enduro – Hamsterley Forest!

First Enduro Race of the season! Click the link to see how I got on riding the new Santa Cruz Bronson! Did I win it or bin it?

After recently getting the Santa Cruz Bronson and getting a good amount of riding time in over Christmas, I was excited for the upcoming Enduro season. Enduro Racing is crazy at the moment, events are so good and book up super fast so getting into some events can be pretty hard or seem impossible. Luckily I managed to get a couple of races booked early in the year which included the Ard Rock Enduro, Boltby Bash and the first round of the PMBA series at Gisburn. However before these events kicked off my season starting off at Hamsteley Forest, Northern Downhill put on an Enduro race every year. This was my first Enduro race I did 2 years ago and return each year as they’re such a great event!

For those of you who follow my blogs who are unsure what Enduro Racing is, here’s a quick brief – You have a set loop which you follow, within that are a selection of stages that you are timed on. Usually the stages are timed on the downhill sections but can differ depending on which race series you are doing. The only time that matter is your timed stages, so you go as fast as you dare from top to bottom .. These times then getting added up, the Rider with the best time wins! .. Comprende?

Northern Downhill always provide a relaxed feel to their events, simple and easy format.. Get there, sign on, practice, race, podium.. No stress, just a good day out on your bike. We got there nice and early, signed on and then heading up the hill to see what was in store. This year was a little different from last year, there were 4 stages.. 2 on the Downhill line – Danny Hart’s Descent Bike Park – The Edge, 4X to NPS and then 2 red route stages, Oddsox and TW*TS and 666 Climb in reverse.. This one was cool and it was red trail but backwards. The top half was exposed and really fun, popping off routes and in and out of the heather.. Then on to some pretty tight switchbacks, flat out..!!.. On the brakes then big effort out of the turn .. Took me back to Cyclocross. After riding all the stages I felt pretty confidence with the red trails, 70% confident on the 4X to NPS and the least confident on the Edge. All I have been riding over Christmas is piste, loamy trails nothing that really compared to the downhill runs, so wasn’t really sure how they were going to go.. I am a competitive person to say the least so although I wasn’t there to race for the top .. In my head, I was 😉

After a bite to eat and a PRP we headed up the first climb where we were starting on The Edge, at this stage the nerves were kicking in and that awkward nervous laugh started .. Ha .. Ha .. You all know the score! After a short wait I was next in line to drop in, this year I was taking a different approach, no silly wasting energy going XC race start in to every corner, just brake later, riding smooth and let the awesome bike I have get you down the trail quickly. It was all go and after a quick acceleration I was into the first corner, braking late and holding on .. The top half felt quick, maybe could of held off the brakes in a few area but I was feeling good, there was a board walk half way down the course where I caught a rider up, having to brake lost me a small amount of time and flow but nothing too major.. The swift overtake felt mint.. And boosted my confidence I let off the brakes and let the bike do the work for the bottom section, finishing on a big rock section, stepped rough rocks all the way down to the bottom. I got to the bottom feeling very satisfied with my first run, which was the one I was the most concerned about.. Onto the next one ..

You could do the stages in any order, so our next stage was 666 Climb in reverse. I was excited for this one, it suited my style of riding and had a good open pedal bit towards the end of the run. GOOO ONNNNN, flat out off the start on this on into a huge cross wind – mega fun.. Until you hit the 180 degree switch back corner 100mph to 1mph rear quick … Those corners took a lot of energy out of me, the routes and rock on the exits didn’t help either, however there were a few cheeky inside lines which were pretty fun! After the turns it opened up into a straight fast pedalling section where I turned up the pace but managed to slip a pedal nearly loosing it .. Luckily I held it up straight and managed to charge on to finish the stage. Finished feeling satisfied, other than loosing time towards the end of the section .. Next ..

After a short pedal we were at the next stage – This was a red descent which I felt pretty good on in practice. Attacked the start with a lot of speed as it started out quite mellow, after the first few corners I was carrying good speed, laying off the brakes and feeling fast.. Towards the end of the first section there was a corner into a split, which led into a 2 way option separated by a row of rocks .. Which I was heading straight into .. The line took you into a section of 3 big sweeping berms. I managed to hop the rocks carrying the same speed into the first big berm .. Out of line but pretty quick, thought I’d try and ride it out and lay off the brakes, managed the first corner, increasing my speed out of the corner .. FLYING into the second berm .. Rode the second berm nice and fast .. Still increasing my speed and then the 3rd berm I rode far too fast, back wheel went over the top of the berm and BYE BYE BEN!!! .. Cocky Bu*ger Heading straight down the berm on my front and my bike following! Got too clever didn’t I … I soon bounced up, feeling very winded but the adrenaline was pumping and the clock was ticking, collected by bottle which was 2 miles from my bike .. 😉 Jumped back on and cruised the rest of the line, that crash lost me a massive amount of time and I wasn’t even half way down .. That’s racing though! Got to the end of the stage and had a proper moan! Ripped clothes, winded, lost time .. You can imagine, I wasn’t a happy lad! At that point I felt I’d ruined the race with only one more stage and I’d be feeling really good up to then! But the show must go on … Next and final stage, LET’S GO … !

As we were queuing at the top of the last stage – 4X4 to NPS I was feeling nervous with a loss of confidence from the last off.. Getting your mind set back into the race is always difficult after a crash but I thought, all or nothing .. ‘remember it’s only a non-competitive race’ .. 😉 Yeahh righhttt! The stage started off on the 4×4 track going straight into a double which felt perfect, carrying lots of speed into the woodland so started back on a positive note, which kept my spirits high throughout the run, nailing lines and feeling good on certain sections boosted my confidence levels .. Got to the bottom without any mistakes, so I was happy with that.. But in my mind I still felt I’d lost the race by making the big mistake on the 3rd stage..

We headed back to the event area where we handed our timing chips in, I wasn’t too excited about seeing my result.. However that soon changed, after seeing that I was sitting in 4th place in my category (19-29) .. And there were lots of riders back so I wasn’t just the 4th rider to hand their timing chips in! We then headed back to the van to load up and get changed, giving the rest of the riders time to get back and return their timing chips. We then went for a coffee and big burger .. Beaut! Proper race fuel! Then walked back over to see what was happening with the results .. Danny Hart still sitting comfortably at the top which was cool! All the riders were back and I has been pushed back to 7th place which I was really happy with considering I has the off on stage 3 .. My aim was to get inside the top 10, which I’d achieved with a crash .. Mint .. But frustrating .. Stage 1 : 6th place, Stage 2: 5th , Stage 3 : 3rd , Stage 4 : 41st .. So would of been on for a good time if I’d of kept it consistent, that’s the fun of Enduro Racing though!

Overall had a fantastic day, great stages, happy with the Top 10, good company and the bike was awesome! Looking forward to my next race in April, Which is a PMBA at Gisburn Forest.. Can’t wait!

For now, hope you enjoyed the read.. Ride safe and have fun!

Thanks for reading,

Ben.

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