Last year’s PMBA Enduro at Gisburn was lovely and sunny. This year’s edition was not. It had rained pretty solidly for several days beforehand, and it continued to rain solidly for the duration of the day itself. We arrived nice and early to secure one of the first riding slots, perused the course map, and determined that we only needed to check out a couple of the stages as due to the conditions most of the route was confined to solid, established tracks and we already knew it well enough. We rode out to stage one, which turned out to be the first large climb on the main trail centre, run in reverse and horribly pedally, then investigated stage four, which was closed due to a rider having binned it off one of the drops. This stage was truncated progressively over the course of the day due to flooding and the apparent desire of some of the storm-battered trees to have a bit of a lie down, and ended up being about forty seconds long for the fast boys (rather more for me). After slopping up and down the track in the wind and rain we were thoroughly soaked, freezing cold, and pretty heartily sick of the whole exercise so we retreated to the van and cranked the heating up to full blast.
Having changed, defrosted and refuelled we dragged ourselves to the start line for our appointed roll-out time. The weather was still foul but we had the shelter of the trees for the first couple of stages and once warmed up things felt okay. Stage one was a slog, and having to repeat the first climb to get back up wasn’t the most pleasant way to recover, but stage two down the twisty trail centre run of Home Baked was pretty enjoyable in spite of the river flowing down it. My time wasn’t particularly great even by my own low standards, but I felt like I was starting to get the hang of the tight turns through the trees, and none of the slippery roots caught me out. The official photographer snapped me on this stage, on what feels like quite a technical little rock-garden, but as ever the camera flattens everything.
Stage three comprised most of the Whelpstone Crag and Hully Gully set pieces, joined with an unpleasant fire-road slog, and I messed up the start quite badly which cost me a chunk of time, in addition to the gigantic hub-deep puddles at several points. Stage four was down to about a third of its original size, and whilst I cleared the drops happily I fluffed the final rooty corner and ended up walking my bike sedately across the line, feeling pretty daft. I was glad to finish and we rolled back to the start as fast as we could, handing in our timing chips, packing up and setting off for home with a van full of mud and as much haste as we could manage. I was glad to have got the first race of the year out of the way without incident, and pleased to discover that my still-sore injured knee was able to hold up to a day of hard riding in challenging conditions. I did still enjoy myself, mostly, but I have to say that I’m definitely looking forward to summer and some sunshine and dusty trails now.
On a final note, I must salute the efforts of the race marshals and first-aiders who gave up their Sunday to stand around on muddy hillsides in abominable conditions, watching a bunch of lunatics throw themselves at rocks, trees and puddles. They did brilliant work keeping everyone safe whilst remaining cheerful and encouraging throughout – absolute stars every one of them.