MBUK team rider Al Bond and Features Editor Alex Evans made the long pilgrimage oop north to ride the challenging, thrilling and at times difficult 2017 ‘Ard Rock Enduro. Al and Alex certainly had a great time in the Yorkshire Dales, but the event wasn’t without its challenges for both riders. Read on to find out how they got on and how you can enter 2018’s event…
Alex Evans and Al Bond check out the gnarly ‘Ard Rock terrain. Credit: Mick Kirkman
Al Bond’s rocky ride
“It was my first experience of racing enduro, and the event itself was brilliant. It had a festival-like atmosphere, with food stalls, live music and communal tepees where you could hang out with mates and chill in the evenings after riding. It was great to see over 5,000 people at a mountain bike race too!
Out on the course, the stages were made up of really fun trails that mostly flowed their way naturally down old quarries and stone-bordered fields. Sometimes they proved to be pretty challenging when ridden blind and at race pace! They weren’t all pure downhill stages, as I was expecting. Although I train pretty hard for downhill, I did struggle on some of the pedalling sections – I’d overtake riders on the DH parts, then they’d come back past me!
Al Bond is no stranger to a bit of wild riding! Credit: Mick Kirkman
There were six stages in total, ranging from two to five minutes in length, which wasn’t a problem. It was the liaisons that proved to be my downfall, especially some of the climbs, which were very long and ferociously steep! All in, the 45km course took me about six hours to complete.
Racing wise, I gave it my all on the first stage and came out at the end tasting blood. When I saw the climb going up to stage two I was worried I wouldn’t make it to the top! On the second stage I snapped my chainring on one of Yorkshire’s finest rocks, which meant I had to scramble back to the pits to get it fixed!
The climbs on the Yorkshire Dales are steep and gruelling! Credit: Mick Kirkman
It was an awesome weekend and an amazing event though, and I’d definitely recommend people get themselves over to it. Just make sure you do the training beforehand!”
Alex Evans’ ‘ard experience
“Pedalling down the first straight of stage one, I was unsure whether I should be sprinting like a demon or spinning casually. I went for the middle ground, turning the pedals over just enough to keep momentum and speed. As the trail descended, more technical sections took over and I found some flow.
The track wound down off the top of a moor, through a quarry, over scree slopes and, finally, into the woods. I caught a glimpse of the finish and decided to sprint the last few metres – not because I needed the extra speed, but because I didn’t want to look slow in front of some of the UK’s fastest enduro riders!
MBUK Features Editor Alex Evans managed to survive the 2017 ‘Ard Rock Enduro on a Swarf Cycles Contour. Credit: Mick Kirkman
At the top of stage two it was all go. With a flat sprint off the line through damp marshland, I was blowing before the first turn. Thinking about the epic day ahead, I turned my effort down from 11 out of 10 to a comfortable seven and cruised the rest of the trail, opting to pump and tuck for speed rather than sprint. I crossed the line stoked to have made it through in one piece, without puncturing. It was tough to get a sense of how I’d done, but while some riders were coming down breathing harder than a chain-smoking pensioner, I was fairly unruffled.
Stages five and six were close to each other and made up the final few kilometres of the race. Luckily for me, my bike performed flawlessly, carrying me up the climbs and down the stages with little incident. To my surprise, the marshal at the end of stage six informed me that I was one of the first riders to cross the line.
Glancing down at my GPS, I saw it had only taken me four-and-a-bit hours to complete the course. As I pulled back into the pit area, my results sheet was handed to me. I’d managed to wobble my way into 21st place overall and seventh in Masters – a result that I hadn’t expected, given that I hadn’t been giving it full effort on the downhill stages and how little racing I’d done over the previous five years.
The ’Ard Rock was a great introduction to enduro, but I now realise that if you want to be competitive in this type of racing, you need to give it your all on the timed sections, just like you would at a downhill race. Sandbagging isn’t an option! Maybe I’ll be back next year to try again…”
It’s not just about riding bikes – there’s a festival vibe at the ‘Ard Rock Enduro and it’s great to hang out with other mountain bikers. Credit: Mick Kirkman
2018 ‘Ard Rock Enduro
For 2018, the event is back and promises to be bigger and better than before. There will be five different events ranging from a 20-mile ‘Ard Rock Intro race all the way up to a 40-mile epic called the ‘Ard Rock Bike Marathon, and of course the famous and favourite ‘Ard Rock Enduro race that Al and Alex completed.
You can enter HERE. Entries go live on the 2nd of November at 06:30am GMT – make sure you don’t miss out because last year’s event sold out within minutes!
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