After the biblical rain on Saturday night it was back to warm sunny conditions for the race @linton_photo
It was rather fitting that the first ever Scottish Enduro Championships (AKA Whyte EnduraScottish Open: King & Queen of the Hill) was met with the most Scottish of weather patterns; one of the hottest days of the year, accompanying wet, wild and muddy conditions underfoot, sending riders home with the heady combination of mud in every orifice and a touch of sunburn.
Enduro racing is all about being prepared for the day, spare tube, energy drinks and a banana. @linton_photo
Others are not so prepared @linton_photo
The long climb to stage 1 has it's good points with stunning views back down the valley @linton_photo
For the previous 2 years the King & Queen of the hill (aka Scottish Open & Scottish Champs) had split itself between Glentress & Cademuir, but with most of the latter hill still out of action following forestery works earlier in the year it was always inevitable things were going to be mixed up a little. That mix up came in the shape of Caberston aka the Golfie, which shared the race with Glentress for this edition, it’s trails no longer a secret thanks to 2 years of EWS action on the hill, it offered a somewhat different challenge to Cademuir; tighter, steeper, taller. With the shift in locations came a change in start, moving from the green in Peebles out to Glentress, and a little closer to Innerleithen for the Caberston stages. So all in, a pretty big mix up in the event.
Classic Innerleithen bright sunny sections into tight dark woods @linton_photo
Greg Callaghan is a bit of an adopted local these days, still recovering from a broken hand and knee damage but didn't seem to slow him down that much over the weekend taking the win from Mark Scott @linton_photo
The stages themselves were all regular favourites on each hill, with Caberston offering up New Wolf as S1 and Community Service into Final Fling as S2, while Glentress offered a couple of classics in the shape of a full run from the mast, down the black, into Hush Hush and all of Deliverance as S3 then a short sharp blast from the old Ewok and ending at the pond as the final blast. For the most part there seemed to be few grumbles of the course overall, with any quibbles from the couch potatoes unable to turn the pedals enough for Deliverance being offset by the mincers struggling with steep roots and chutes of Caberston, all in it was a pretty good all round mix, befitting the Scottish Champs tag.
Top 10 in the world at the moment and loving riding her new steed Katy Winton took the win here this weekend @linton_photo
The only legitimate complaint (aka my own one, and I’ll take advantage of this virtual soap box to make it) was that detaching the final stage from the event HQ never makes for the best setup for spectators and atmosphere in general, especially when time limits are tight (and they were much more so than expected this weekend) there’s no time for riders to congregate and take in the action/heckle, it’s straight back to the finish, by which point the idea of a slog back up the hill for the final stage is pretty unappealing. Glentress has a cracking descent used for the GT7 event that drops into the field and HQ area for this particular event, while not the most technical trail on offer, it’s a shame it couldn’t be put into action here as a means of getting the action closer to the event hub.
Iain Nimmo weaving his way down through the tight slippy muddy stage 1 @linton_photo
Stage 2 was probably the one stage where the mistakes were made, wet, muddy and sniper roots everywhere. @linton_photo
Last years King Of The Hill Chris Ball wasn't on the start list but seeing as he was back home he thought it would be rude not to defend the title.. @linton_photo
Saturday practice things were looking good, the valley had been for the most part dry in the lead up and a touch of light rain the previous night did little to penetrate the thick woods. This all changed on Saturday night with flooding reported in parts of the local area, leaving the stages on Sunday a very much different challenge to how most had practiced them on Saturday. S1 & 2 bore the brunt of it, in part because the terrain at Caberston is less weather proof than Glentress, but also with the first riders off at 8:30, there was little time in the sun for anything to dry out.
Whyte bikes Peter Lloyd had a bit of a nightmare on Stage 2 which cost him dear but charged through the day to get onto the podium in third @linton_photo
Local Calum Grant had a good solid day out on the trails earning him second place on the podium behind Ruaidhri Forrester @linton_photo
Couldn't complete this report without mentioning Heriot Allstars rider Ross Hilton. He broke his derailleur on the climb to stage 1 and to cut a long story short did the whole loop chainless including that transition from Innerleithen to GT = 74th out of 109 vets!! @linton_photo
Almost as big an unknown as the stages for the weekend, were how the transitions were going to be, and most didn’t find out for themselves until race day as shuttling on public roads was allowed on practice day. From Glentress it was a relatively gentle spin along the cycle path to Innerleithen, though with a howling headwind it wasn’t quite as relaxing as it might have been. On the upside that headwind was a rather handy tailwind on the way back, which wasn’t quite the same gentle cycle path spin, taking in 6.5 miles and 1300 ft of vertical gain, initially by a fairly gentle road but then kicking up (and offroad) on the Leithen Water climb. At 8% average gradient over 2.5 miles it isn’t exactly going to keep Chris Froome up at night, but on a long travel enduro machine, it was a bit of a slog, and enough to make the time limits a bit more of a push than many expected.
At the end of 4 stages and a huge loop round the valley only 1 second split the winner Greg Callaghan from Mark Scott, Cube had a good day with Scotty Laughland taking third @linton_photo
But for all the changes in underfoot conditions, horrible headwinds or slogging climbs, it was the usual suspects that came out on top. In the mens Greg Callaghan survived a late charge by Matt Scott to take the win by only a second after 18 minutes of racing. In the womens Katy Winton took a convincing win ahead of Janey Kennedy in senior women, though in the womens overall, last years winner Ros Newman slotted in between them to take second overall. Full results can be found on the Tweedlove site.
The day after the event the news rolled in about the 2016 EWS calendar, which sadly misses out the Tweed Valley after 2 excellent years in Peebles. While it would be great to have the series back in the future if the necessary funding can be put in place, if Tweedlove team keep putting on events of this calibre there will be no shortage of racers flocking to their events, whether it’s Jerome Clementz or one of the hundreds of riders who have popped their racing cherry at one of their excellent events, they’ll keep coming regardless.
Scottish Open Champs & King and Queen of the hill Katy Winton and Greg Callaghan @linton_photo
The drink of a champion @linton_photo