AFTER a long winter break, Borders bikers were in action again last weekend.
The first round of the Alpine Winter Series took place at Traquair Forest over the weekend with a new format for 2012 – a XC Multi-Stage Enduro.
The event, organised by Innerleithen MTB Racing, was completely sold out as riders from across the globe descended on Innerleithen for this exciting new style of mountain bike racing.
Riders followed a course of around 30km in total, with three special timed stages. The cumulative time for the predominantly downhill stages would determine the winner.
Conditions were dry and frosty over the weekend, with the early riders taking advantage of the frozen mud. Special Stage 1 started with a fast descent from the upper slopes of Minch Moor, before dropping steeply into technical natural single track, traversing the hill to the first road crossing. Over the road, the going was fast and loose as riders descended to the bottom of the forest at Camp Shiel.
Riders climbed up the Southern Upland Way before traversing the west side of Plora Rig to make their way to the start of Special Stage 2. This was a long section that started in soft conditions before weaving through the recently-thinned forest and crossing the road onto the man-made XC trail at Plora Craig. This technical rocky section led into the very steep classic descent that reached almost as far as Walkerburn.
The only way was up as riders had to climb the forest road from the forest entrance all the way to the top of Plora Rig and the start of Special Stage 3. This was a mixture of the old school downhill trails that made Innerleithen famous – Gold Run, Tunnel, Luge, Deer Hunter and finally Cresta Run were all sampled before a gentle, yet leg-burning climb to reach the fast-flowing jumps and drops that led riders to the finish.
Leading the way with the fastest time of the day (23.25 minutes) was former World Cup downhill racer, Crawford Carrick-Anderson (Ibis/POC/Crank Brothers), with local lass Katy Winton (Kinesis Morvelo Project) taking the ladies’ win in 29.05.
In the junior section, Joe Connell, who currently stays in Innnerleithen while attending Borders College, was the victor in 24.31.
Organisers wish to thank Alpine Bikes for sponsoring the event and supplying prizes, and the marshalls and volunteers, as well as to Steve Deas at i-cycles for the course design.
Round 2 of the Alpine Winter Series takes place on Saturday, February 18, and is a multi-stage day/night enduro. A similar relaxed atmosphere to Round One is expected, but this time the special stages will be raced at night, as well as by day. Round 3 is a traditional downhill event with uplift service and takes place on the weekend March 3 and 4.
Further information, full results and details on how to enter future events can be found on the Innerleithen MTB Racing website at: www.innerleithenmtbracing.com