The UK’s wildest Enduro event?
Billed as an event by the organisers that was utterly unique and with website blurb such as “Don’t expect trail centre terrain though – this is big country with some technical and steep riding” The Naughty Northumbrian certainly tested every competitor, from those who raced the 3 stage “lites” route to overall event winner Ben Cathro who described it as “a challenge to be savoured”
With 440 riders entered pre event, this inaugural event certainly looked the part when racers started arriving on a fine Friday evening in the Coquet Valley of Northumberland, situated next to the Otterburn ranges. Scott and Bergamont were key supporters of the event, along with Alpkit, Lowepro and Mountain fuel and for a first event the expo looked great. It’s hard to remember how much events like ‘Ard Rock have developed in the 4 years since they began.
The event, which was a collaboration between local race organisers NDH (Carl Davison), the adventure race organiser High Fell events (Barry Kemp) and Descent World ltd was the first national level gravity mtb event held in Northumberland for nearly 20 years.
Looking down into the first major transition along side the River Alwin and into Milkhope (Kidland Forest )
The “blackie” is a tough breed of sheep that is commonly seen grazing the Cheviot hills. They seemed slightly intrigued to see 400 riders scrabbling for grip here in the National Park.
The media team from DWAgency were lucky enough to have been donated a Mitsubishi for the weekend, allowing them to access some of the remote terrain a little more easily. The blue, ltd edition Barabarian certainly got some attention but the ‘squids’ were under strict instruction not to drive it!
Come Saturday morning, after more than a few had sampled some beer from Hadrian and Border and Brewery in the marquee riders set off to see what lay in store for them. With a mix of stages ranging from the fairly mellow stage 1, designed to ease riders into the day , Stage 2 proved to be a baptism of fire for those who had perhaps came expecting trail centre terrain. Stage 3 was met with many a curse but the great riders amongst the field took to it with a fair craic and it’s raw nature was welcomed by some. Stage 4 was a beast – we watched so many riders struggling to get down it cleanly but it also brought some huge grins – this is a great track in the dry that simply got battered by the wet weather. Stage 5 proved one of the most popular of the day along with stage 2 and as for stage 6 – we’ll say wait for the video!
To a lot of riders, it was challenge accepted on Saturday in the fair conditions and there was plenty of egging other riders on throughout the day. Come Sunday, with the rain returned, stages 3 and 4 proved beyond most people, but the 272 rider who stayed the course truly embraced the challenge and big grins proved as much.
Sally Buckworth destroyed the senior womens field, with her nearest rival being Melody Fife who was equally impressive in the 14-18 category.
Stage 1 got a mixed reception from riders with the general consensus being that it perhaps should have been a little longer.
The climb to “that stage” 6.
These Pizza’s from Pedalling Squares were a revelation, situated at the bottom of stages 2 and 5. It gave riders a chance to reset, fuel up and get ready for long transition to Stage 3.
Hadrian and Border Brewery were a big supporter of the event, supplying a Naughty Northumbrian ale, which no doubt caused a few sore heads on the Sunday!
Local man Adam Bell joined Bill Reid and DJ Jake Marsh after the slideshows were played. There was a great atmosphere amongst the 150 or so who chose to utilise the area. With hindsight this could have been run a little smoother and a louder PA system will be required next year along with some seating in the beer tent.
There isn’t a more sparsely populated area in England than the Coquet Valley, and the general consensus was that the location was stunning. As part of the Northumberland National Park, it is made even more unique by it’s nearby Border with Scotland. High Fell events organiser Barry Kemp knows the lay of the land better than most in these parts and his input to the event behind the scenes was crucial in making it happen.
Sunday morning saw glimpses of Sun but was cool, drizzly and definitely wet. More than a few riders saw the inclement weather heading into the valley and decided that, with a solid days riding in on Saturday, they would leave the bike packed away for the Sunday. As with every event, the weather is an uncontrollable aspect but if you were in the mood this nearly added to the wildness and sense of achievement for some post event.
Stage 1 went from bright, to cloud, to dark and back again. This was a tough climb for a descent that had potential to be about a minute longer. That said, land ownership is sensitive here and now a formula has been proven (which granted needs tweaked) next year there may be potential to utilise the landscape a little better.
Local sparky Rampage Baz getting his wires crossed coming into the shale – aim high, stay high – Go low and get prepared for a knee drag and opposite lock!
It isn’t easy covering such a huge area and tight planning is needed by the media to make sure everything is captured and recorded. Long days and nights are the name of the game.
Em Mclurey is a relative newcomer to the sport wen you consider that nearly all the top 10 overall have nearly a decade of experience riding. For new riders who entered this race the terrain was certainly a challenge, partly due to the fact that while riding this style of track used to be common place, it is now much more less so as bike technology and geometry has moved on to favour faster and more flowing terrain. That said, Em was among those who battled on and will find their riding has picked up some new found skills.
Chris Mumford spends most of his year taking his sons, Joe and Luke, both promising riders, to races. Chris whipped out his own steed for the weekend, having hardly rode all year and put in a solid effort.
Stage 2 is an old trail that is fairly well established but even it felt the effects of 400 bikes down it on Saturday, getting more cut up than expected but it still remained a favourite amongst racers.
Jake Gray coming into the point where Stage 4 became a wild rodeo ride.
Stage 5 had received quite a lot of attention pre event and it was noted by the racers with many commenting that is was indeed their favourite stage with a fairly stable base and a little more flow that was gained just a touch more easily: the open canopy allowed better vision too late in the day.
There was a decent contingent of Scottish riders who made the trip down to Northumberland, of which Ben Cathro managed to take bragging rights along with the overall win on the day, by quite some distance. Ben used to travel and race together with one of the event organisers all over Europe and told him that “It was physically a huge day day out and most definitely hard work to race well – possibly one of the hardest races I’ve done” .
By the time we arrived at Stage 6 it was most definitely hammering down making photographs exceptionally difficult without destroying equipment in the process. Needless to say the last right turn will go down in race folklore as possibly the most ridiculous turn to ever grace a race track! If you’d been at the bottom of the stage you’d have heard continuous laughter for a good hour or so as rider after rider failed to make the turn.
With all that said and done, there was still a race to be raced and the full results can be found on Roots and Rain . Well done to all who completed this wild event in some fairy grim conditions.
The Naughty Northumbrian will be back next year, but you’ll need to keep your eyes and ears open in the next couple of months to find out what form it will take and where…..
Photos courtesy of DWAgency and Jerry Tatton.