Was the 'Ard Moors Enduro the toughest UK race of 2017?
The second edition of Ard Rock Events’ Ard Moors Enduro was a brutal test against the elements. Here's why
Sideways rain and driving wind is what greeted racers, at the second annual Ard Moors Enduro race. After blue skies and dusty trails at the inaugural event last year, it was a very different story this time around, as summer seemed to have well and truly disappeared on the hills of the North York Moors. The Ard Moors might be shorter in length and with one less race stage than its big brother, the Ard Rock, but there was no doubting which was the ‘arder of the two this year.
Before the event Joe Rafferty and his team had spent numerous hours cutting in new stages and transitions, but with a week of biblical rain leading up to the event, once the field of nearly a thousand riders had finished practice, the fresh cut moorland trails were reduced to a quagmire of ruts and puddles. We all love racing raw loamy trails and you could see that they’d have been incredible in better weather, so it was a shame to see it turn out like this. Being more established older trails, the other stages fared better, but the relentless rain took its toll. A combination of deep ruts and super slick dirt meant that almost nobody made it through the practice day unscathed. Beers, BBQ, pizzas and a live band that evening did lift everyone’s dampened spirits though – it takes more than a bit of rain to stop these Yorkshire folk having a good time!
The forecast promised a break in the clouds on Sunday, but cruelly this never came. Incessant rain over night and through the day made the race a true test of mettle for the riders. Many peered out of their tents in the morning and threw in the towel, but majority gritted their teeth, donned their waterproofs and pedalled out into the mist.
For the higher ranked riders starting early in the morning, conditions were manageable, as the ground was so wet, the wheels cut easily through the slop, but as the day wore on, the ruts deepened and the mud got stickier, so just keeping the bike moving became a challenge in itself.
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You could almost imagine the Benny Hill theme playing as countless riders flipped over the bars or faceplanted in the mud. Those who kept their feet up and rode consistently were rewarded, but a good result wasn’t possible without some serious fitness to manhandle the bike through the mud. Coming out on top overall, was Ian Austermuhle of Hope Tech, who won with a time of 14 minutes eight seconds, just two seconds ahead of Whyte Bikes', Sam Shucksmith. Considering the conditions that was a superhuman feat!
Race results aside, we salute anyone who even finished the loop, because just being out on the moors for several hours in the rain and wind, with no shelter, takes a good chunk of determination. It’s character building stuff, and you could see it at the end of the day. No-one escaped being caked head-to-toe in mud, but through all that, an unmistakable grin was visible on everyone’s face. The conditions might have been brutal and they certainly weren’t what everyone was hoping for, but it was hard not to revel in the challenge at times and feel a sense of achievement. It was undoubtedly the toughest race we’ve done this year, but we’ll definitely be back for more in 2018. Let's just hope for a bit of sun next time! Finally, we can’t finish without saying thanks to all the race marshals, who stood out there in the hills for hours keeping us safe – cheers guys! Also, thanks to the Ard Moors' sponsors: Saddleback, Enve, Öhlins and Brink.
To read more about the Ard Rock Enduro from the perspective of Feature’s Editor Alex and MBUK Team rider Al Bond, as enduro race virgins, pick up a copy of Issue 347- on sale now.
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Former Mountain Biking UK features editor Ed Thomsett is a downhiller at heart but has been riding bikes of all types since a young age. He's raced both nationally and internationally in downhill and enduro, and has spent several summers living in the Alps and Canada, riding, roadtripping and living the dirtbag lifestyle. Now Ed calls upon his years of experience riding bikes to the limit as a writer and reviewer for MBUK and BikeRadar. He's also an avid trail builder and has scraped out numerous steep and technical lines in the woodlands of his native North Yorkshire. These days Ed will happily turn his hand to any discipline and believes the sign of a good week is when every bike in his shed ends up muddy by the end of it.