Words and images by Jerry Tatton
The EWS Qualifier calendar is picking up steam, with the latest race to take place the Hope PMBA Enduro Series in Wales.
For just the the second time ever the PMBA Enduro Series returned to the amazing Llangollen hillside of One Giant Leap. PMBA is the only series that takes racers to the three nations of Britain; England, Scotland and Wales. This was not just another series round though, this was also part of the British National Enduro Series, as well as being an EWS Qualifier.
One Giant Leap is a well established downhill venue, it's steep and very fast with some very rough downhill sections.
This weekend's race was a two day event, with many riders arriving on Friday to set up camp and do a track walk. The Saturday was about practice, finding the lines and checking out the conditions. Sunday was the race, from an early start riders were heading up the hill. There was an opportunity for the women to head off as the first group, a great idea considering how male orientated the sport still is. Saturday was certainly challenging for the organiser as riders were a bit too excitable for the early running, very rowdy on the hill with a period of time where practice had to pause for about an hour as the medics were attending to a number of injuries at one time. With all medics fully being utilised you simply could not continue to safely continue practice. However, organisers reacted immediately and arranged a fourth medic team for Sunday to cover for the race.
During the actual race, things settled down somewhat and there were far less incidents. Those with early starts managed to get round a relatively dry course, however, the mid pack had to contend with some heavy rain and increasingly slippery trails, but by the end it had again dried out. Stages were greasy in the wet, especially through the woods on stage four, probably the most downhill style of all the stages.
The race consisted of five stages, with new sections put in by the PMBA Enduro Series builders and helpers. Stage one was Gentle Giant, this was the mainline with a little tweaking and the easiest stage of the day, but don't let that fool you, it was still steep and super fast!
Stage 2 was Einherjar and had one of the best enduro sections, freshly cut into the hill to join different sections up. This trail was possibly more technical than stage one, especially in the final wooded section. Stage 3 was Ride the Lightning. This is the stage organisers were hoping to use in 2019 but ran out of time to finish the building. Originally started by Brian Mundy, and completed by Martin, the owner, during the first lockdown it was ready to race. As the usual start is shared with other stages, you dropped straight into the guts of this awesome stage. It was technical with big rooty sections and steep sharp turns.
Stage four (Gully Run) is where things started to hot up for sure. While based around the upper part of Portugal, the roughest track on the hillside, the gully end was full enduro and was also the stage with the climb, contrasting the first half of the stage. Stage five was Esquilo. Esquilo used parts of Son of Squirrel and the Portugal end, and this was stage one in 2019 and its steepness surprised many, improved for 2021 and a fitting finish to the event.
This was the biggest ever event at One Giant Leap Llangollen with 532 racers taking part and 473 finishers. The fastest rider of the day across the five stages went to Riley Scott (21-29) in an incredible 12:15.00 straight. Second fastest and literally breathing down his neck was Jono Jones (21-29) in 12:27.73, also racing his first PMBA! Third fastest went to Christo Gallagher (21-29) in 12:32.86, helped with an early start in the dry. This was some tight racing for the top three spots for sure.
In total 35 women raced over the weekend and the fastest of the day went to the very rapid Chloe Taylor 21-34 in a superb 15:08.87, and close behind her was freshly crowned National Champ Jess Stone 21-34 in 15:12.25. Third fastest overall went to Ellen Flewitt U21 in 15:36.71. Again, for the top three places this was some incredibly tight racing.
What a weekend this was and a huge shout out to the marshals, medics and organiser for putting on such an incredible race. A big thanks goes to Martin the owner of the venue, it was great seeing him out and about all weekend. If you want more information about One Giant Leap then head over to their website for more information and club membership. It's not the sort of place you turn up and ride, you need club membership and you can even provide your own uplift if so desired.
If you want more information about upcoming PMBA Enduro Series races then head over to their website or Facebook. Next up will be Kirroughtree, a Scottish venue with a superb camping field and great facilities suitable for the family too.