This summer hasn't seen as much bike racing as any of us would have wanted but as Covid-19 restrictions begin to ease, the green chutes of EWS Qualifier events getting back underway are starting to be seen. And where better to enjoy a post-lockdown blast between the tapes than a foggy set of stages in Iceland?!
Over to Árni F. Sigurðsson for the full report:
Enduro Akureyri was held on 25th July 2020, in northern Iceland, just out side the biggest town outside of the capital area. Around 19,000 people live in Akureyri.
The event was sold out, with a maximum capacity of 150 racers and entries being requested and sold on Facebook pages in the days before the event. The weather forecast was quite grim. It rained in the days before the event and come race day itself it was foggy and cold. The route started in the upper cabin of the local ski resort, Hlíðarfjall.
Racers had to start the day with a climb up the service road to the Strýta cabin, where numbers and timing chips were handed out, and the pre-race briefing was held.
Racers on their way through the cloud to the start of the day. Pic: Armann Hinrik
At 10:00 racers were given the go-ahead to get to the first stage and start the race. There was not a predetermined starting list for the event, so it was first come, first served! Obviously, the fastest racers got to the gate first, as the first 10 riders through the stages were most of them finishing at the top of their categories.
The first stage was Hjalteyrin + Gosinn, a rough-cut, natural trail that had been made the previous year. However due to unusually heavy snow in the mountain the start of the route had to be moved down the mountain, and parts of the track had to be rerouted. Racers who hadn’t done a practire lap and were expecting the same course as the previous year were pleasantly surprised! The second part of the stage is Gosinn which is a well-established trail, and was one of the first in Hlíðarfjall, starting by the Cross-Country skiing cabin and flowing down to the main road.
With no specific start times, racers could tackle the stages with their riding buddies. Pic: Armann Hinrik
After the first stage, there was a short transfer up that main road into the ski resort. Next Stage was Hrúturinn which translates to 'The Ram'. The trail gets it’s name from when it was being built, there was always a ram hanging around the trail, and still today it is quite common to find sheep along the trail.
Speed lay in staying focussed on the thin line of dirt linking up all the rocks. Pic: Armann Hinrik
Hrúturinn contains an iconic river crossing, which has at some point been a Facebook profile picture for most riders racing enduro in Iceland for the past few years!
After Stage 2 there was a long transfer, going down into Glérárdalur canyon, up again and past Fálkafell scout cabin. Stage 3 starts on top of the cliffs overlooking Akureyri (when the fog parts enough for it to be seen). The trail is generally called Fálkfafell-Gamli because it leads between two scout cabins in the area, Fálkafell' and 'Gamli. The trail was well renovated this spring, but parts of it had become very muddy in the the previous years and many racers commented that it has never been in such a good condition.
The stages were familiar to those who had raced here before but had been altered in places. Pic: Armann Hinrik
From Gamli the route got technical going down a steep, grassy trail in the forest. Stage 4, '#ókeypisís' is a trail many haven’t ridden before the race, and a new connecting trail was made to link up the classic route from Gamli into #ókeypisís.
After Stage 4, the U14 category (10-13 years old) was sent straight to Stage 6, while the others took on a steep climb to get back on top of the cliffs to Kirkjusteinn. Stage 5 started on the clifftops, going across the bare rock until getting into Hvammskógur Forest. Hvammskógur is considered by many the most fun part of the whole trail system; the fast and flowy trail trough the forest is definitely a favorite.
Heading for the trees! Pic: Armann Hinrik
The first racers arrived at the finish line around 13:00, which was quicker than was expected with the last riders arriving at 15:00. Stage 6 was a short, 45-second grassy trail trough the forest, ending directly at the finish line area, where burgers were cooking and drinks were offered as soon as the racers came to a halft after the last stage!
You can view the full results from the Akureyri Enduro, here.