Rachael Gurney's Forest of Dean Mini Enduro Race Weekend Report

07 Nov 2014


This weekend I have been astounded by Mother Nature’s ability to change the environment to extremes. Unless you were there and experienced the disparity between the two days of racing I’m not sure you will believe me. Saturday was dry, perfect conditions to ride and race, there was loam in the bucket load, ruts created in just the right places and with enough grip challenging you to try that crazy line or push that bit faster! It was an absolutely perfect day of riding with the sun beaming down through the canopy of the last remaining leaves in the Forest of Dean. Chris Roberts and the Mini Enduro crew had created some new sections to each of the stages keeping those of us familiar with the forest on our toes and interested. This would be my first race after breaking my hand and also my first race on my new test bike for Enduro Mountain Bike Magazine. I really wanted to do well and ride to the best of my ability, then I could be satisfied with the end of my season seeing as the middle went so awry!

The Mini Enduro races are comprised of 4 stages, 3 different ones and then stage 1 is repeated as stage 4. A quick overview of the stages goes like this:

Stage 1 – A very flat top, with a lot of pedalling involved to maintain the speed, once across the fire road the track dropped into fresh off camber turns. The track was taped wide and open with plenty of room for interpretation. A long, off camber traverse took you down into tight and step singletrack with plenty of opportunities to catch your bars on trees and have and early meeting with the ground! The stage finished with a fire road sprint, a climb and then a singletrack chute to cross the line.

Stage 2 – Again a fairly flat start to the stage, due to the shape of the hill this race is run on there is little chance for anything else! Turning right into the woods there are a few tricky corners with roots popping out seemingly from nowhere before a very steep drop down to the fire road. This roller also employed a diagonal root, ideally placed for a back wheel squirm just as the brakes are let off the for drop in, nice! A flat fire road sprint took you to another fresh cut piece of track. The brakes needed to be hauled on here before another steep but fairly straight chute taking you to those off camber corners I mentioned above! A cheeky straight line through the fern saw you at the finish line.

Stage 3 – Yet again, a flat start but this one had much more  flow, crossing the fire road it was easy to maintain the speed into a left hand corner with plenty of strength to hold you and the bike up. This stage is run on an old natural downhill track and therefore was the most worn in. It took you down the hillside quickly to a steep hairpin and a plunge into a gully with another very supportive corner at the bottom – great fun! The track finished with singletrack on the edge of the hill and another long and bumpy run down to the fire road, whatever you do, maintain the speed and don’t look down!

Photo Credit - Doc Ward

We left the forest after Saturday practice in the evening as the daylight called time on our fun, pleasantly tired and looking forward to the next day. Throughout the evening though as we ate dinner in the pub with our racing buddies we all fervently kept an eye on the weather forecast. The rain was coming and when it did it was going to do it style! Of course, I awoke to the sound of rain hammering down and water running down the road outside. I consoled myself with the thought that the forest was so dry the day before how could it possibly be that bad? It was that bad. I have never seen 3 stages change so much in nature and appearance! We rode a loop of the race on Sunday morning just taking in the carnage and the mud, the stages were simply nothing like the ones that we had ridden the day before! About half one in the afternoon the rain eased and I set off up the hill to stage one. I was first to go out of the 15 ladies racing and set off pedalling along the flat section. I couldn’t maintain any speed and had to ride with my saddle up to be able to keep enough weight over the back wheel to keep it gripping and moving forwards, otherwise it was a wheel spinning disaster! The off camber traverse was a soul destroying run (read slip and slide) across the hillside, finally hitting the single track ankle deep in mud after 400 racers prior to me! The fire road resembled a thick, lumpy soup, getting moving in here was a nightmare! At the bottom of stage one I was pleased to see that there was still the allotted 20 seconds between me and Sally Evamy, a racer I knew would also be looking for the win. The next two stages of the race were awesome fun, I felt relaxed, the mud was a great leveler for everyone, just like blind racing we were all on a level playing field having fun sliding around in the mud! Spirits amongst the girls were surprisingly high, especially so when we found out the final stage of the race was cancelled due to the poor condition of the track! Covered in more mud than I have ever picked up over 5 stages of a UK Gravity Enduro race I was glad to finish! It wasn’t until I had washed my bike and scrambled into dry clothes I found out I had won! I was super pleased and not to mention a little relieved! Despite the conditions I had had a brilliant day on the new bike, it was perfect for that sort of UK event, excellent in the sprints and with geometry perfect for these tracks. It had also been great to see a lot of faces from the summers UKGE events, the Mini Enduro’s always bring in a good crowd! Rounding this random, changeable weekend off on top of the podium was brilliant – I am back and hungry for more racing!


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