Forrest’s delight at third place tempered by seeding slip

Local lad Gary Forrest tackles the Innerleithen Enduro course last weekend. Photograph: Ian Linton.
Local lad Gary Forrest tackles the Innerleithen Enduro course last weekend. Photograph: Ian Linton.

INNERLEITHEN hosted the first round of the British Enduro Race series last weekend in perfect summer-like conditions, writes Ian Linton.

This side of mountain biking is now growing in popularity, as it’s got a great mix of the downhill side of the sport, just not quite as extreme, but you also have to be very fit to cycle back up the hill to the start of each stage in a set time. There are five stages to a race, all timed descents, with a set time to start each stage.

Seeding on Saturday was run on stage five on a course which started just above the quarry and took riders down the tunnel into the luge.

Once they got to the fire road, competitors then had a small pedal along to Jane’s Lane which dropped them down into the bottom section of the free ride track on Caddon Bank.

Fitness was a major factor on this trail as there was a lot of pedalling to be done to keep the speed up. The fastest time in seeding went to European elite champion Jerome Clementz in a time of five minutes and 31 seconds.

Innerleithen’s Gary Forrest, the current British elite champion, slid out on his seeding run and finished in 12th place with a time of 5.43.

With seeding times this year counting in the overall results for the weekend, it was a bit disappointing for Forrest, as this left him with a lot of catching up to do in the race.

Sunday morning was race day and the temperatures rose with the sun, 18-odd miles of cycling lay ahead for the competitors in this gruelling event.

Anybody who knows the hillside at Innerleithen will know the climb to the start is not the easiest, but to do it four times, along with one climb to point 22 on the Minch Moor for stage three, it saps your strength to say the least.

Nobody really knows how things are going during the race until the end when the timings are accumulated, that is apart from the racers themselves as they know if they’ve had a good run on the descents or not.

The last stage of the day is a fast, flowing one where the spectators can easily walk up and view the action. A large cheering crowd was out in force for the local and well-known riders. It was looking tight in the results, but this was only one of five, anything could’ve happened out on the hill.

While waiting on the results I spoke to Gary Forrest about how it had gone for him during the race.

“I wasn’t too happy with how I felt during the event. My upper-body strength felt weak and my legs felt hollow,” he said. “Overall I’m just waiting to hear if I have managed a top-10.”

He was pretty happy and a bit surprised to find out he’d actually finished in third place with the third fastest time of the day. Forrest’s mate and former World Cup downhill racer Crawford Carrick Anderson was second – at 42, a fantastic result. The East Lothian man could be classed as local as he’s never away from Innerleithen – you can find him riding in and around the area most weeks. European Champion Jerome Clementz took the win by a clear 46 seconds.

Innerleithen’s Phil McGrath, riding for I-Cycles, finished in third place in the veteran’s class behind Marcus Jones, with Justin Grice taking the win.

The senior class was won by Glentress Riders’ Lewis Kirkwood, competing in his first enduro. The young Tweedsmuir lad was very happy with this result and is now hoping to compete in the whole series. Stuart Nicholson, riding for Innerleithen MTB Riders, took the masters win.