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The first round of the Trek Gravity Enduro Ireland series went down this weekend just outside Dublin in Djouce, County Wicklow. With dry weather and amazing trail conditions, everything came together to make an exciting few days of racing with a great atmosphere. The entry list was full a few weeks ago, with 300 riders including all shapes and sizes of bike rider - from weekend warriors and local legends, right through to the International stars of DH and Enduro - Jerome Clementz, Alex Stock, Harry Heath, Joe Barnes and Jess Stone to mention just a few. It's fair to say that the gauntlet was thrown down for the Irish riders to show what they could do on home ground, but the visiting riders showed the value of World Cup DH experience - with pro racers Jess Stone (Unior Tools Team) and Joe Barnes (MTBCut/Orange) winning the pro categories.

This is a new race format in Ireland, with the main goal being to make it fun and competitive at the same time. There were 5 timed downhill stages spread over a total distance of 23km, connected by non-timed transition stages that can be done at an easy pace. The timed Stages are mainly downhill, but with a few short uphills to bring some fitness into the winning formula. The start times are flexible, so you can ride with your friends and each rider carries their own timing chip in a wristband. Plus the stages were open for practice on Saturday, so riders had plenty of time riding their bikes and by Sunday evening, nobody was wishing for extra kilometers. At the end of the day everyone got a printout of their stage times, so there was plenty of ammunition for post-race debate in the pub!

The Special Stages were each around 2km in length, taking in the best singletrack as well as some freshly built sections through the steep loamy forest, giving a total of 9.3km of timed technical racing and a total altitude drop of almost 900m. The were plenty of technical challenges with roots, rocks, off-camber, berms and switchbacks - overall it was perfect terrain for a skilled rider on a lightweight mid-travel bike. Competitive stage times were around the 4 minute mark, while winning rider Joe Barnes averaged a blistering 28km/h through this technical terrain.

Pro Women winner Jess Stone said "This is my first real enduro, I wasn’t sure what to expect - but it was a great relaxed atmosphere, with everyone enjoying it. The tracks were awesome fun, I thought they might be more technical, but it was good that they suited everyone. They were still tricky when you were going flat out. The tracks had a good variety, some pedalling, some more downhill. The distance was spot on,  the Stages were a good length - short enough to go flat-out but long enough to be a good challenge. I was tired at the end of the day! It was nice to be able to cruise up to the start of the next stage.  The lunch stop was good to keep everyone riding together, a great way to spend the weekend,  it didn’t really feel like a race. I was blown away by how smoothly it all went!"

Pro Men winner Joe Barnes said "I've done the Megavalanche and a few other mass start races, but this my first gravity enduro. I really enjoyed it, for a days riding in the woods it was great. The special stages were longer than I expected, with some uphills. But longer is good, I don’t mind putting in the effort to get a longer stage. There was a good mix of terrain with tight turns, pedalling and technical stuff. I like the way there was no rush to get about, it was nice to wait in between stages. Riding all day with the Scots and the local riders we met in the last few days was brilliant. The timing was reliable, I like that its up to the rider.  It was new for everyone, but it's fair and by the end of the day you get the hang of how it works . Compared to DH and XC races, it's way more sociable, I'm excited to come back for the next round, it's only a ferry trip away."

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