Epic Enduro Weekend with a Touch of XC
Last weekend saw one of the biggest, busiest and most important to dates in the Female Riders Race Team calendar. Ellen (14) competed in her first ever Enduro and Polly (14) was racing in the National XC Series at Dalby. Meanwhile Bex, Elena and Roz were all heading to Wicklow, Ireland for the Emerald Enduro the third round of the Enduro World Series.
Bex Baraona, having competed in round 1 in Chile and round 2 in Argentina, desperately wanted a place in the top ten elite females, which had eluded her in South America. After two rounds she was 12th in the overall standings, just outside the top ten.
Kit and crew were hauled over land, sea and air. The emerald isle was truly verdant and drenched with sunshine. No rain until Monday the locals said, but surely that was too good to be true?
Six women, two girlfriends, two mothers, one ten-year-old, one boyfriend – all sharing a house for five days, what could possibly go wrong? However, the views from the house and it’s big wooden decking were superb, greens and fairways of a pristine golf course overlooking the sea with Dublin and the mountains in the distance – it certainly looked like a good place to chill out after a day’s riding.
In the event village our pit at the race happened to be opposite the Commençal Vallnord team, who’s rider Cecile Ravanel, was leading the overall women’s standings. So we were sort of hoping a little bit of magic might wear off on us - but, Cecile had other concerns because reigning champion Tracy Moseley had turned up to win as well. Tracy had decided not to race rounds 1 and 2, focusing on events in the UK and other projects, but had chosen to race here in Ireland.
Stages 1 to 4 were open for practice on the Friday and stages 5 to 7 on Saturday, with all 7 stages being raced in one day on Sunday. Our riders chose to session the more challenging parts of the tracks, but we heard that Tracy Moseley and Katy Winton had managed to do three complete laps during their practice on day one.
As Friday drew to a close it was clear that the event was going to be really challenging. Riders were feeling tired after doing half of the stages, but all seven needed to be completed in just one day for the actual race. The rocky section at the top of the longest stage, stage 2, had scuppered Roz and her ankle had ballooned – lucky we had a doctor in the house then! While Elena spent time hammering her chain ring back into shape after hitting a rock.
After the first day, it was time for a 10th birthday party back at the house, protein shakes and one swollen ankle to be packed in ice.
With some tough rocky sections at the top of a few stages, we were really hoping it wasn’t going to rain and get slippery for the race. However, dark clouds loomed in the north on Saturday morning. I guess it was too much to hope that it wouldn’t rain until Monday. Despite these negative thoughts, the rain stayed away during practice and it was dry all day. But even with the weather onside it was going to be a really tough race. Even Bex got back from stage 7 utterly shattered. Were they really going to get through all seven stages in one day?
So back to the house for some carb loading, regardless of whether you were a rider or crew.
On race day it was back to blue skies and sunshine. The format for Enduro is riders set off individually at the 30 second intervals. They have a set time to get from the bottom of each stage to the top of the next stage, these sections of the race are called transitions. If a rider exceeds the transition time limit they get eliminated from the race. The technical downhill stages are timed, and similar to downhill racing, riders set off individually at intervals. A rider’s times for each stage (excluding transitions) are accrued and the fastest rider over all of the stages wins. It might seem that the transitions don’t matter to much, but the tighter the time allowances are the fitter you have to be to get through it before time runs out. This is especially true if a rider picks up a puncture or other mechanical during a downhill section, because the time allowance for the transition time ticks away while the rider carries out repairs, so they have to sprint to the start of the next stage to avoid being excluded from the race.
Roz was struggling with her sprained ankle and again came unstuck on the rocky top section of stage 2. This time was an over-the-bars, no damage, except to pride. The locals had made good on the #fillthehill call to action from the race organisers and spectators lined the stages, especially at those technical rock sections. On top of that, she had to race the whole of stage 5 ‘blind’ because she was in too much pain to practice it on Saturday.
As the riders rolled into the pits for a short lunch break half way through the day the strain was showing. Both Roz and Elena said that they were only just making the transition times and both looked shattered (sorry girls) despite still having three stages still to complete. Roz even commented that she was trying to ease off on the timed stages just to get a bit more rest. Elena was so fearful of not making the transition times she barely had time to swallow an energy bar for lunch before she was off again.
It’s quite difficult to understand the riders’ overall positions until every rider has finished each stage, and because of the rolling process of the race, plus updates coming over the tannoy all the time, we weren’t sure who was where in the standings at lunchtime. One thing was clear though, Tracy Moseley was dominating the women’s event.
Elena was in trouble. With her head down trying to climb the first transition after lunch she missed the signage and ended up at the start of stage 2. She should have been at the start of stage 5. With just fifteen minutes of transition time left she began a mad sprint across the hill to the opposite side. She got there with less than a minute to spare.
The course was gruelling, even Tracy Moseley slowed in the final stages, and it was Cecile Ravanel and Isabeau Courdurier who finished first and second in the final seventh stage. However, Tracy had done more than enough over the full seven stages (having won every other stage up to 7) and took the EWS Round 3 victory.
As riders came home there was a massive amount of shear relief at simply finishing the event. Bex was over the moon after breaking into the top ten, grabbing 9th place in the round 3 results AND 8th in the overall EWS standings so far. Elena beat off the challenge from Abigale Lawton to take 3rd spot on the podium. While Roz managed to finish the race, even with her sprained ankle.
Performance of the day had to be shared by two supremely impressive riders. Seventeen year old Leah Maunsell absolutely smashed it, taking a commanding victory in the women’s under 21s, in a total time that would have given her 9th place in the women’s race. Also, the fantastically named Richie Rude, winner of rounds 1 and 2 delighted the crowds with a legendary comeback. After clocking the fastest time in stage 1, he suffered a mechanical on stage 2 and dropped from 1st to 70th, but fought his way back to 3rd place on the podium. Ireland’s Greg Callaghan still took the win in the men’s race, with the legendary Sam Hill in second. FULL RACE RESULTS
Meanwhile, back in the UK, Polly Henderson fought her way to 6th place in the National XC Series at Dalby despite having an awful cold. And on the south coast Ellen’s first ever enduro resulted in a 3rd place for her and sore knees the next day.