Now the dust, or should I say mud, has settled we should have a look back at last weekend. You’ve probably already heard about the rumblings coming out from the North York Moors last weekend. This was a race that will probably go down as the race of legends.
Guy was first down stage 4, an absolute belter of a stage, fresh cut with switchbacks, rock gardens and steep gradients
For a second year in a row the Ardmoors event was game on, based out of Lord Stone’s, a popular cafe and camping site along the Cleveland way in the North Yorkshire moors. With thousands of hours of time and effort put into making the event happen the “Ard events” team had to deliver.
However, no one was able to predict the absolute biblical weather and trail conditions that occurred over the weekend. Last year’s event was such a huge contrast compared to this weekend’s event. Last year you were more likely to get sunstroke and dehydration, this year it was more about hypothermia and exhaustion. Such are the contrasts we can expect to find as mountain bikers on our little Island!
A rare moment of sunshine on the Saturday during practice on stage 5, the vintage 1990s downhill course
The Ardmoors event is another essential race in the years calendar, one with great descents and transitions, that normally take you across beautiful moorlands.
Practice saw riders heading straight over to stage 4 first, but what a view!
It boasts descents that are, in the majority, off limits throughout the year; Old school 1990s downhill trails and fresh cut blissful single track descents. But this weekend, the weather played a wicked role in the event.
A weekend event, where practice was the Saturday and the race the Sunday, many riders turned up on the Friday to camp and socialise. However, this was where things started to get grim. With barely enough time to put tents up, the heavens opened. One months worth of rainfall fell over the area that weekend; there’s simply nothing you can do to counter that.
It was obvious the team wanted to provide a race, they delivered because it’s what they would have wanted.
Riders had travelled as far as Cyprus for this race, the race officials, with due diligence that reflects that this is a profession, were analysing that the trails were safe and being constantly assessed, this is what it’s all about .
The medics trailside had zero casualties to deal with, proof that safety was paramount all weekend – surely the primary responsibility of event organisers.
Sam Flockhart cutting through some serious conditions on stage 5
The Saturday provided limited practice, with stage 4 open first for practice, this was a new stage, and the early riders down were treated to a superb fresh cut trail. No one initially had a bad word to say about it, it was simply epic. But by lunchtime, the trail had turned into thick flowing mud. One rider had said “The mud’s flowing faster than I can ride”. Unfortunately the organisers were forced to shut the stage as rider safety is always first and foremost.
With difficult transitions and muddy stages, many riders called it a day and left the moors.
Zech took on the whole weekend and quoted “I don’t think I saw a person not smiling all the way through that race! Cheek to cheek grins”
Come the Sunday, race day, things had not improved. With warnings on the Ard events social media telling riders to be prepared for a tough ride due to unprecedented rainfall, the organisers worked ferociously hard to deliver a race for those who turned up. Heading out with torches at 5.00am to provide more signage in the low visibility, safety again was a huge priority.
Bare hands digging trying to unblock drainage pipes on the trails.
Of the 360 riders, all I have heard is how tough the race was, but how great it was. “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done on a mountain bike, but it was bloody amazing” or “OMG that was so tough, but I’m so proud of my achievement”. So the Sunday was missing stage 4, but there were still 4 stages of sweet descents, through old style downhill courses and fresh cut single track trails. Despite the mud and rivers running down the stages, the riders feedback back at base was immensely positive. The race was split into a full enduro race and a separate enduro sprint, or a lighter enduro race.
High in the trails the riders were in the clouds
The overall fastest rider across the remaining 4 stages was Ian Austermuhle (30-39) in 14:08.35, closely followed by Sam Shucksmith (18-29) in 14:10.27 and third fastest was Sean Robinson (30-39) in 14:33.27. These guys put on a fierce race in some of the toughest conditions. The fastest woman on the day was Karen Van Meerbeek (Former Giant Factory DH racer for those with long memories!) in 22:50.91 followed by Rachael Walker in 24:17.90. Again a superb contest from the women. For a full run down of the results head over here.
Riders examine the stage ahead, it’s simply a case of “Hold on for dear life and follow your bike”
Of the riders who committed to the race all we’re hearing is great stories and legendary efforts to get round. Zach Walker quoted “I don’t think I saw a person not smiling all the way thru that race! Cheek to cheek grins!”.
Martin Vayro kept smiling in the thick energy sapping mud
A normally clean gap jump turned into a large pond
Mud bath during practice. Photo – Adam Sherratt.
It was a huge effort for the organisers to deliver what these riders expected, and they sure did deliver. With riders far and wide commenting on the determination and dedication of the marshals who stayed trail side throughout the weekend. This really was what mountain biking is all about. Challenge, grit and determination. This race, for those that competed will definitely remain in their memories as an epic weekend on the bike.
The North York Moors providing a superb backdrop
Absolute credit to all those involved. So, keep your eyes open on the Ard Events website here for info on next years races, Ardrock places go live at the end of October.
Here’s a few more lasting memories.
Momentary blue skies, it wasn’t all bad
In thick clouds, the crowds had gathered to cheer on the riders through the slime
The rain provided an ideal bike wash
Smiles all around
So that’s it, Ardmoors has been and gone. Those that stuck it out have a right to be proud of their achievements, and that includes the riders and the organisers.