The 2005 Specialized EnduroPlus very nearly didn’t happen. While organiser Pat Adams had secured an agreement with the owners of the original venue at Trentham Gardens to hold the event there for the next three years, development work at the site limited the available terrain to such an extent that a suitable course couldn’t be laid. It was either find a new venue in a hurry or can it, and fortunately regular NPS venue Catton Hall was able to do the honours.
The days leading up to EnduroPlus were spent looking at weather forecasts and crossing fingers. Our spies were telling us that the course was drying out nicely, but would it last? Apparently Saturday’s XC races were held in reasonable conditions, but by the time we arrived it had rained a not inconsiderable amount, and riders coming in from exploratory laps were looking fairly well splatted and commenting unfavourably on the levels of grip. Ideal for a bit of nocturnal time trialling, then. As freshly-minted tradition dictates, we sent David Arthur out for the dark stuff:
“We started off for our single timed laps at short intervals, giving everyone chance to pass (or be passed) on the way round. I managed to get close to the Halfords tiger-lookalike rider ahead, then later passed him as he had a malfunction in the lighting department. I was even able to pass several more riders around the lap, but could only watch with envy as several pros blitzed past me.
“Their speed was even more impressive than usual given the soaking that the course had got from an afternoon of rain. In all the singletrack my tyres were sliding almost uncontrollably left, then right, two wheel drifting through every twist of the trail. The course didn’t have any major climbing, but boy, did the mud on the flat sections make up for the lack of altitude.
“To see where I was going, I borrowed an Edison 4 from the Lupine guys. The whole package weighs less than a banana but throws out 65watts (with a 45watt mode), an easy to operate switch, and a perfect spread of light on the trail. Is 65watts overkill? No, like brakes you can never have too much power. We’ll be putting a set through a more rigorous test in the future, so watch out for that.
“I thought I was riding quite fast, but it turned out I was about 10 minutes behind winner Ian Wilkinson. Not that that should really surprise me. A low turnout did mean a 9th place finish though, woohoo! And no, there weren’t only ten entrants!”
The assembled multitudes retired for the night hoping for the rain to hold off and the course to dry a bit for the Enduro 6 the following day, and lo and behold a dry night and a bit of a breeze meant that the camping field at least wasn’t too squishy come the morning. And then the sun came out during the all-important “cart a load of random spares and bags of food to the pit area” stage of the event. Enduro 6 is possibly unique in having a “parc fermé”, a closed pit area that has to contain absolutely everything you need. Plenty of people go to town on this – some people had a gazebo straddling about three pit areas and there were plenty of tents and spare bikes in evidence. Dave was going for the “carry everything” self-sufficient approach, while being a paranoid sort I had a stack of High 5 bottles, a second Camelbak bladder, a plastic crate with about 3,000 calories of various sorts in it, six spare tubes and enough tools to completely strip and rebuild my bike. There was no way I was going to actually carry all that lot round, but I was hoping not to stop all that often.
The traditional running start got underway, with the front row of the grid containing none other than XC legend Ned Overend, racing in pairs with his 14 year old son Rhyler. Thankfully most of the run was on grass, which was a lot easier on race show-clad feet than the harder surfaces we’ve had in the past. And then it was into the pits, on to the bikes and away for six hours of pedalling (or a proportion thereof for the pairs).
The course turned out to be not at all bad. It’s not as hilly a spot as Trentham but it seemed to go up and down a lot more, with plenty of short, sharp climbs and a couple of steep drops. The course went in and out of trees and lay on slopes facing in various directions, so it was all drying out at different rates. The final descent through the woods was distinctly slippery at first but eventually got nicely run in, but some stretches only got as far as sticky plasticine and stayed there. All in all, though, it was a pretty decent course.
Nocturnal time trial winner Ian Wilkinson couldn’t quite pull off the Pro Men double despite knocking out 13 laps – Nick Craig was 18 minutes ahead. Over in Elite Women it was a close race between Jenn O’Connor and Rebecca Webb, both on 11 laps. Jenn eased out an eight-minute buffer to take the win, though.
It was even tighter in the Female Pairs, with just nine seconds separating Abi Handley/Janet Clarke and Kate George/Sarah Carter. There was a considerably bigger margin at the front of the Men’s Pairs category, with Greg Althom handing over to team-mate Geoff Beetham just a few seconds before the 4pm finish, thus allowing them to get a whole extra lap in ahead of nearest rivals Stu Bowers and Dave Collins. Overend Snr and Jnr came in 7th. In mixed pairs it was Oli Cox and Jules Toone who took the win. Andrew Cockburn won Fun Men and Debbie Cooper won Fun Women.
We like EnduroPlus. It’s well organised, it’s a fun format, it’s a little bit different and it manages to be very slickly run and attract proper professionals while still retaining an appealing low-key, grass roots feel. See you next year…