661 Gravity Enduro RD3 Innerleithen
Innerleithen played host to the 3rd round of the 661 Gravity Enduro series. With the town hosting it’s annual Gala day on the same weekend the race day was shifted from Sunday to Saturday to allow the riders a wee party on Saturday night, unfortunately this did have a knock on effect on entries with some struggling to get the Friday off for practice & qualifying. Having been down at Inners the previous weekend I had practiced the course in dry and dusty conditions, while the weather in the lead up to race weekend had been somewhat wet, Friday practice dawned bright, if a little damp under foot.
The course was promised to be the toughest of the series and it didn’t disappoint. Stage 1 was Cresta Run from the top quarry to just above the bombhole, you were then kicked straight back to the top of the hill (ie. Right to the top of the push up track) for stage 2 which was a combination of Matdor, some unmarked natural trails (I am told part of the Alistair Lees memorial course) down to the quarry at the bottom of the fireroad climb to the top of the XC Red Route. You were then taken up the XC route to the top of Minch Moor before the fastest and most pedally of the stages down the XC course from the top of Minch Moor down the Enduro trail to the fireroad. It was a short hop to stage 4 which took in the Plora Craig Black XC descent, just after the rock garden at the treeline you were then diverted down an unmarked trail to the bottom of the uplift road. Stage 4 was probably the most challenging of the day, steep and loamy it had been a little hairy in practice but come race day it was a real case of hang off the back and hope for the best. After stage 4 it was all the way back up the top of the hill for a balls out finish of Make or Break into Caddon bank, 7 minutes flat out for the average Joe and even in the region of 6 minutes for the fastest. The course overall really didn’t disappoint, technical descents and plenty of elevation gain kept you on your toes in the timed and the untimed sections, a great combination of both technical and pedally flat out stages meant the winner really would be the best allrounder, which is really what the series is about.
Qualifying took place on stage 5, and in the sunshine……..and then came the night and the rain, it chucked it down something rotten overnight and come race morning there was floods galore on the roads leading to Innerleithen. Fortunately the rain did abate an hour or so into the day but it had already done it’s damage, with the trail conditions for the most part changing drastically from what most had practiced. The fresher cut sections on stage 2 & 4 suffered the most though compared to stage 5 at Ae Round 1 everything was still perfectly ridable by most, if a little damp.
Results-wise it was series newbie Chris Ball who took the win by 9 seconds from Crawford Carrick Anderson in 2nd and Chris Buchan in 3rd. Once again it was proved that it is something of a series for the more “experienced” riders with the top 4 positions dominated by Masters and Vets with the top Elite Scott Laughland being some 1:30 off the pace in 5th. In womens it was Helen Gaskell that took the win again from Sarah Newman 2nd and Carrie Pool 3rd.
All in all an awesome weekend despite the weather and the lower entries, hopefully round 4 at Eastridge on 6th August will be better on both fronts. For full results and more photos head over to Roots & Rain and info on the series at the 661 Gravity Enduro website. Oh aye, and the photos, awesome as always, from Mr Linton.