Gravity Enduro Round Three - Hamsterley Forest

Riders rolled into Hamsterley Forest,  Co. Durham for round three of the Gravity Enduro series. 
Last time out at Coed Y Brenin, riders battled strong winds, driving rain and freezing temperatures. This time, however, couldn’t have been more different with clear blue skies and hot sunshine all weekend, happy days! Rick (me), Ross, Russ and Ryan rode this round with Matt broken and Sidey unavailable

Arriving on Friday night, the rest of the team had already got there early and got Twelve50 pits looking pro as usual. Some BBQ lasagne (oh yeah!), a quick spin to stretch the legs and there was just time for a beer or two and look forward to the following days practice.

Looking pro as ever...

The loop at Hamsterley was shorter than previous rounds, which gave plenty of time to have a proper look at all the stages and check out at line choices. It seems a few riders had more imagination than others as there were rumours of some, er, creative line choice, cutting whole sections of track out. Thankfully by race day most of the blatant cheat lines had been taped out but this has been a bit of a hot topic since…
 Anyway, here’s a brief run-down of the stages.

Stage One
Starting out in the open, vultures circled overhead waiting to pick off dehydrated riders that didn’t take enough water. Those that made it had a flattish sprint filled with holes and criss crossed with roots which made it hard to get momentum at the start. There followed a 30 second fireroad sprint before the track dropped back into the trees. Stay left over the roots and drops and try to keep momentum for the flat whoop section before the track got a little steeper with some greasy corners and a nice off-camber section before the finish. Stage one done.

Stage Two
This stage used the Section 13 trail for the top two thirds. A fun trail with loose, gravelly berms, jumps and a pretty cool gully section. It was fast but pedally and the corners were tricky on the loose surface. Another fire road sprint (thanks) led you to the ace final section. This was a steeper natural trail with a nice, drifty, loamy surface, ruts and roots which became more exposed as the weekend progressed. A great end to the stage, more like this please!

Stage Three
I loved stage three. NOT! It used two trail centre sections with a road climb in between. Yup, that’s right, a ROAD CLIMB. That’ll teach me for not training then. The two trail sections were much like the music of Coldplay or Keane – nice enough but ultimately rather dull and forgettable…

Ross, S5 top section
Stage Four
Ahhhh, stage four, that’s more like it. One for the more gravity focussed riders, it started on the 4X track before quickly diving off into the woods on a rough, rutted track. Through a rock garden, round the tricky left hander which saw lots of crashes in practice, drop onto the road crossing and turn onto the old National DH track. This section was so much fun with lots of line choice, roots and jumps, you could really let it go here.

Stage Five
Big BMX track sums up this stage up pretty well. Fun to ride with jumps, berms and bombholes, but  tricky to race and push hard with the top of the track covered in a layer of dust and loose gravel. Another flat fire road sprint sent you into the mid section, briefly spitting you back out before the final drop into the arena. This was the longest stage and would be hard to keep on the gas the whole way. There was again some controversy about course cutting on this stage – you’re only cheating yourselves you know ;-)
There was something for everyone with these stages, with a good mix of tech and fitness. You’d have to be a true all rounder to do well here.
Russ, pinned on S5

Qualifying was on track five and was still fresh in everyone’s minds. Bit of a mixed bag here, Ryan went really well with a solid top 10, Russ also top 20. Ross struggled to get up to speed and Rick went off track after catching the rider in front, catching him again further down. As it was, seeding times counted only for running order as timing gremlins reared their ugly head again wiping the slate clean for race day. 

Quali over and time for a freshen up. There was rumour of a waterfall by the river across the campsite so we thought we’d check it out for a shower. Those of a certain age may remember that Bounty advert from the 80’s with the curvaceous lady washing her hair – well it was nowt like that. More pasty white man hopping about getting brain freeze from the cold water! Fit!

Russ (Twelve50 Chef, life coach and Vet ripper) was again cooking up a storm on the Webber BBQ’s. This weeks grill fodder was home made pizzas cooked on a pizza stone and of course a Beer Can Chicken. We know how to eat if nothing else! Quick track walk and there was just enough time for someTwelve50 beers and give Ryan some grief before turning in.

Race Day
Sunday dawned just as bright and sunny as the previous day, suncream and lots of water would be the order of the day here.
What followed is a bit of a blur really, the whole event seems to flow really quickly. With little time to rest in between stages, you just truck on to the next, swapping stories of the previous stage with the riders around you and trying to gauge how you were getting on. When you’re on track, you’re deadly serious but despite that it’s a strangely sociable form of racing really and I can only see it gaining popularity for it.
Ryan in full flight

Twelve50 riders got round largely without incident, all putting in solid stage times, save for me binning it and using my face for a brake on the final stage…

Ryan got the pick of the results with a great 10th place in the Senior category. He reckons he can go faster, so watch out for him at the remaining rounds.

Russ just missed out on a top 20 finish in the Vets category. There’s some fast old boys in that cat but he’s getting closer!

Ross put in some solid times and finished in the top half of the Masters cat. This category is massive with over 120 starters and super competitive too.

Rick, shortly before binning it!
I went ok with some good stage times (apart from stage three with that bloody climb) and was running in the top 10 Masters until a crash on stage five cost me dearly, dropping me down to 19th. Ho hum, that’s racing I guess.

In the men’s Elite and overall, Al Stock took a break from beating the euro's to take the win from Dan Atherton with Joe Barnes in third. Tracy Mosely took the womens win with a time that put her in the top 20 overall.

Thanks to Osprey Packs, Fox and Continental for keeping us hydrated, clothed and right side up all weekend.
Thanks also to our newest sponsor, Fibrax. The new brake pads were amazing.

Finally, cheers to Doc Ward for the awesome photo’s , The Billycan for the banana pancakes and of course to Steve and Bud for organising the whole thing.

See y'all at Eastridge.


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