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arly season races are in full flow during March in the UK, with the weather getting that few degrees warmer and riders wanting to see how their winter training has prepared them for the new season. TheEnduro1 all mountain race series, running since 2012, has three rounds based around the Southern half of the UK. It brings a motorcross flavour to it's races, with riders not getting a chance to practice the course beforehand, making it a much sterner test for a riders ability to negotiate a new trail at race speed. The one day event otherwise follows a normal enduro race format, comprising of a course between 25-30km, interspersed by timed stages. The first race of 2015 was held at theForest Of Dean in Gloucestershire, with riders tackling its steep slopes and abundance of roots. A significant proportion of the trails were freshly cut out, meaning locals didn't get too much of an advantage knowing what was coming.


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Sign in on a brisk March morning

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Double checking the timing set up

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Always, have a plan

Despite a relatively dry week, racers were greeted with a heavy drizzle for the start. Riders set off at 10am, with the first transitional stage leading up 'Verderers' trail. This provided riders a nice gentle warm up, before the longest and probably toughest stage of the day. After traversing loose and damp rooty corners, a steep uphill sprint really tested fresh legs and get the blood flowing, before more pedally root filled corners. The wet weather had created some really moist trail conditions, meaning riders had to be on their game from the start to avoid any early slip ups on the hidden roots. This stage also held the 'King of the Hill' competition, with the fastest time of the day on stage one going to Leigh Johnson in the Senior category, leaving him £50 richer.

After a very moist and muddy second transition, stage 2 provided much more gradient to favour riders from a gravity background. After a sprint across some flat muddy corners, riders traversed across a field filled with roots and compressions, then dropping down into a steep chute with loose off camber corners. With racers riding blind, this challenging section really showed what sets Enduro1 apart from other series, with riders trying to find a balance between making sure they got down or pushing it that bit further and risk making a mistake. Getting past the steep stuff, it was then a fast and open few corners, before finishing back near the base of the trails.

http <a href=www.samtaylorphoto.co.uk" src="http://ep1.pinkbike.org/p4pb11990890/p4pb11990890.jpg">
Leigh Johnson on his way to the overall win (Photo Credit - http://www.samtaylorphoto.co.uk)

The next transition headed straight up the push up track, providing another test for tiring legs. After heading down to the Southern part of the trails in the Forest, riders were met with a steep roll in for the start of stage 3. It then rolled into some fast and flowy bermed corners, before heading down another steep section that led into a chute before the finish. Another steep uphill transition then awaited.

A great characteristic of the Forest of Dean it the amount of gradient it packs in to a relatively small area, meaning riders didn't have to go far to rack up vertical meters. Stage 4 started with a flat out pedal, dropping into some of the steepest off camber corners of the day. Riders were really challenged to hold a high line, is easier said than done after already completing 3 stages with some tough uphill transitions inbetween.

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Dropping into the last section of trail on stage 5 (Photo Credit - http://www.samtaylorphoto.co.uk)

It was then back via the main fireroad, heading into the heart of the trail network for the final fifth stage of the day. The legs were really tested with a flat and boggy first section, with riders giving it everything to gain those extra tenths over their fellow competitiors. After then negotiating some flat corners it was into 'Corkscrew', with fast flowy corners leading into a steep straightaway into a crisscross of roots. Crossing the fireroad, a couple of drops and a final few off camber sections led to the end of stage five and the day. With the sun out shining at the end of the 25km loop, there were plenty of grins on faces from the various near misses the come with riding a trail blind as fast as possible.

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Anxiously waiting results...

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Post-race pie perfection

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Before it was time to head over for podiums, Leigh Johnson taking the Senior win, with Rob Newman second and Chris Keeble-Smith third.

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King of the hill going to Leigh Johnson

As with most races, it was then time to get things cleaned and packed up, then head down for a well deserved pie at the pedalabikeaway shop and cafe. A perfect end to a great first round of the Enduro1 series.

For full results head over toRoots&Rain.

Big shout out to Sam Taylor for his photos, check out hiswebsite.

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