Race Report: The Kirroughtree 2024 opener

NewsPosted on 17th April 2024

Last weekend the Hope PMBA Enduro series kicked off their 2024 season at Kirroughtree. This year there will only be 2 race weekends, but as you will see through this race report, for 2024 Kev and the team pack in a full weekends racing suitable for U10s right through to seasoned World Enduro elites. It’s what we’ve come to know as “Enduro for all”

For some time the vision for the Kirroughtree races has been a 2 day race weekend, with practice on the Saturday and racing all day the Sunday. But for a yew years now they have entertained young riders and women to race on the Saturday with great success. Furthermore, Kev’s longterm vision of having a huge 1000ft descent stage at approx 2km in length was born this weekend. Let’s see how things unfolded over the weekend.

Starting off the weekend was the Hope Academy and Women’s Enduro across 4 stages within the forest. This was more geared towards the grassroots racing the Hope PMBA has been promoting for many years. Getting young racers and women more involved in a more socialble and accessible way. The stages were a taste of well developed trail centre stages with a mix of some spicy natural off-piste trails. Watching everyone coming down stage 4 was brilliant, as this stage had become a bit of a slippery challenge with all the prolonged rainfall, but even though the riders were relieved to get down in one piece, the vibes were good. The good thing about the Saturday Enduro was it was a mash up, so you could go back up and try for a cleaner run if your legs permitted.

Following the main Saturday event was the U10s one stage enduro. This is utterly brilliant to watch. From balance bikes to full on full suspension junior bikes, parents running behind the kids and grabbing them before they spilled off the course, what a spectacle. It’s this type of race that could have us seeing future world class racers, you never know. The course for the U10s was one of the well established trails, nothing too fiesty apart from this tree gap and huge root for the tiny ones to negotiate.

The Sunday event was a big one for many reasons. One of the biggest contributing factors that made this such a challenging race was the weather. They call it “April Showers” for a reason, but according to a local’s knowledge, April showers doesn’t usually mean it rains for 150 days out of 180. Much planning, thought and marketing of this event was all about the big stage 2, an utterly epic 2km stage descending down 1000ft. Glorious Granite challenged even the fittest and most accomplished riders on the practice day, so much so, it was fed back to Kev how challenging the conditions were, so a further assessment of the stage was carried out late on the Saturday evening and it was decided to go ahead with the stage, but a significant chunk cut from the top, which had become a boggy unrideable mess. Having ridden down the entire stage on Friday, it is very clear the enormous efforts and vision for this descent have been. Once it has had a chance to bed in and dry out, this could be a trail worth visiting to ride just on its own.

But enough about stage 2, for this was not the stage that caused the most controversy, that was down to stage 5. A far shorter stage but one which had suffered much of the bad weather leading up to the weekend. Stage 5 was also part of the “lite” version of the main Sunday race, where riders chose to race a mash up of stages 1,5,6 and 7, missing out the farthest stages 2,3 and 4 of the Enduro. With 2 very steep chutes, many riders struggled to smoothly get down them due to incredibly slippery conditions.

The forest had quite recently suffered from wind fell with many trees down across many of the previously popular race stages, so Kev had to adapt leading up to the event. Race organising is a hugely dynamic and often needing adaptation even the night before the race commences as was seen the night before with the alteration of stage 2.

No chance to warm up to this stage, with the shortening the night before, you were straight into OB Berm. Adam Saunders first rider of the day on some sort of bike "if you know.....you know"

I’d normally go into a good bit of detail over the results here, but with 4 separate races with men and women, there’d be far too much to go through. For a full run down of the results, head over to roots and rain here. The overall fastest rider of the day went to Joe Barnes (30-39) in a staggering 21:45.41. But it was not plain sailing for this top spot. He was beaten by David Houston on stages 3 and 4 and by Jake Ebdon and David Houston on stage 7. Joe took the win on stage 6, even though he slipped a pedal right in front of me. His power and speed across the huge stage 2 worked very well in his favour, up by approximately 30 seconds from the top rivals. The fastest time of the day on stage 2 was Shaun Holmes on his ebike.

The fastest woman of the day went to seasoned racer and PMBA ambassador rider Polly Henderson. Polly took stage wins in all but 2 stages, being pipped by Emily Ashwood on stages 3 and 4. I have to mention a name for the future here, the youngest rider to take on the full loop and only 11 years old, Izzy Blackman. Utterly fearless and utterly inspiring.

So that’s a wrap from the of the Hope PMBA Enduro Series opener , and believe it or not now half way through their season. Next up on the weekend of 17th and 18th August 2024 will be another enormous weekend, and definitely not one to miss. We head back north of the border and back to Scotland and another of the superb 7 Stanes, Ae Forest. This weekend will host further Hope Academy and women’s Enduro racing to cater for the #EnduroForAll, a free U10s race, free basic camping and the British National Enduro Championships. For further and up to date information head over to the PMBA Facebook pages here. Finally, if you had an absolute blast at Kirroughtree and don’t want to delay any further hit this LINK to get entered into the Ae Forest round, the 5th round of the British National Enduro Series and the British National Enduro Champs!!

Here’s a few more images from the weekend. See you all at Ae forest!!

Words and images Jerry Tatton – JWDT.photography