A few years back the Munster Enduro Series ran for a season with the goal of allowing local riders, clubs and anyone interested in making the transition into Enduro mountain bike racing. It was only ever going to be successful as a team effort between all the clubs involved, each running a race at their venues based in the Coilte forests throughout the area of Munster, geographically in the South-West of Ireland. This year again we were lucky to have the support of Cube Bikes providing prizes, race tape and many other items. With their help we were able to get the series back up and running based over four rounds throughout the season. The real winners will be grassroots mountain biking, as the clubs can use the funds generated to purchase training equipment and other items to facilitate their members and promote the sport within each of their areas. Another example of how team effort can benefit the entire series.
Back in September 2015 the Limerick Mountain Biking Club (LMBC), Team Ballyhoura and 021 Racing Club Cork picked a selection of dates and went from there, each agreeing to the format of a one day race on the Sunday with a blind racing format, meaning no practice, but with competitors being able to repeat each stage a second time to try and improve their times, with only the fastest time countimg for each stage. This format provides the added advantages of marshals only needing to give up one day and allowing Saturday for the courses to get taped by club members who all have limited time to volunteer. A win win for everyone involved. If the goal of the series is achieved, it will help to get riders ready with the opportunity for some personal skill growth and development and possibly encourage them to try racing further afield at home and abroad.
With the past winter having been a washout it was a case of pulling out the appropriate tools for draining and removing the bog. With the first round being organised by LMBC at Killaloe, Co. Clare on the edge of Limerick City and running up the side of Lough Derg. Ballycuggran wood is a Coilte run forestry and with the required permit to run the race there, it was game on. With the weather timed perfectly building up to the Sunday it was looking like the perfect opening round with a sell out 136 riders registered to race.
Race day started at 10 am with registration and the usual setting up competitors with timing chips. Riders then made their way up to the top of the hill where all three stages would start from the same high point. Some of the first riders up were keen Cube sponsored riders from the local clubs looking to get their runs in before the tracks got cut up and to help pace themselves over the day. Notably amongst these was the youngest rider registered, at 12 years of age and riding under the Powered By Cube Programme, Oisin O'Callaghan followed closely up the transition by Cube Factory Rider Cameron Cornforth. The riders who were first out of the blocks on the the first two stages got the best conditions and it showed in the times they set compared to those later in the day as the trails got damp from traffic.
With such a big turn out and many experienced elite racers, including Cube Action Greg Callaghan, racing, it was going to be far more competitive than originally anticipated. Some of the elites have raced world cup downhill events. It was a great day for anyone who did podium, they would have earned it. The stages were not exactly the easiest for new riders to get used to Enduro racing, but they were all rollable with all major drops taken out to allow for the lack of practice. A few racers described the stages as technically being of Scottish EWS standard which allowed riders to gain or give time away with errors.
Stage 1 "Down to the wire" - This stage consisted of a steep chute into a berm which claimed plenty of victims. After that it was flat out to keep up speed through a series of tight corners in the trees leading to a long traverse that gave the option of pedalling or pumping. Eventually the trail slowed down, testing fitness levels, turning into a left handed descent, over some drops and then flat-out across off cambered roots. Then the surprises started to pop up, a series of five second punchy climbs to get the cardiac muscle pumping, twisting their way through the trees with various lines to choose from, some of which brought riders to an almost complete stall, then back on the gas keeping the bike moving to save seconds. At this point the terrain changed again with a series of corners, rollable drop-off's and blind crests leading to a narrow singletrack waiting to catch the unaware off-guard so as to cost them time if they did not keep on the pedals. Finally, to test the rider's concentration a series of off camber wet roots just before the timing chip.
Stage 2 “Rock and Roll” - This was probably the favourite stage due to the amount of descending where the brakes were used more than the cranks. Starting with a series of gradual corners that built speed and then allowed riders to pump out. Riders were then sent over a rock drop killing off some of their speed before entering a series of tight rock gardens that eventually led into more berms. These then led into the mossy and damp woodland that made up the midway section of the stage. Here careful, tidy riding was required as some of the lines created had a tendancy to pull bikes away from the optimal racing line. The last rock corner sapped competitor's speed before sending them onto the fire road and entering the bottom part of the stage, known as "Born Slippy" - the name gives a clue as to what was to follow. A roller coaster of numerous direction changes on lose limestone rocks with natural berms and ending in a punchy climbs which left the legs burning. Finally a technical finish that would reward lapses of concentration by sending you further down the forest than the timing out chip.
Stage 3 “Highline” - Starting off with only a shallow descent over rocks, mossy boulders and roots like pythons all mixed with some traction defying mud. The best way to try ride this section seemed to be to start flat-out to build enough momentum to keep you going in the right direction and the, as the name suggests "Highline", stay as high as you could. Again some short punchy ten second climbs could cost riders time if they were fatigued or lacking in fitness. After the first few climbs the trail started its descent over a jungle of roots and ruts, turning back on itself numerous times, while riders try to keep momentum. This section could frustrate even the best of riders just trying to keep moving to clear this part and get to they could get some cranks moving again. Then onto a fire road for approximately 300 metres of pedalling on fresh shaley ground with nice flowy bends to build enough speed before entering the bushes once again, this time on to established trails consisting of rock hard tight and twisty corners. Another fire road descent on fresh ground before the last section over rugged rocks and roots before the final few corners and onto the final fire road for the "beep beep out".
There was a great rivalry between the elites class not necessarily in order with old racing buddies Greg Callaghan, Conor Lavelle, Cam Cornforth, Dan Sheridan and Gav O'Connell trying to earn bragging rights. The gap Greg had at the finish was substantial enough to make for a comfortable win.
In the ladies category the continuous battle between Leah Maunsell, Michelle Muldoon and Rose Griffin still continues. This season will be a long one and no doubt another battle will commence in the coming weeks.
The overall feedback from the racers has been that while the trails were quite technical in places, they were also incredibly fun. A great mix of flow, open fast woodland, plenty of roots and wet rocks with enough snappy climbs to test the late winter power training. Some described them as an eye opener to where they need to be with their fitness.
Thanks to Cube Bikes there were 6 categories: Under 18s, 18 to 30s, Under 40s, Vets, Ladies and Elites. Below are the top three finishers in each category.
- Greg Callahan (Cube Action)
- Gavin O'Connell (Team Worc)
- Conor Lavelle (Biking.ie)
- Leah Maunsell (MBW/Kona)
- Michelle Muldoon (Vitus factory racing)
- Rose Griffen (IMBRC)
- Chris O'Callaghan (Cube Ireland)
- Gary Williams (ML Syndicate)
- Ed Rhatigan (KMBC)
- Daniel Collins (LMBC)
- Colm Bradley (Mad Elk)
- Paul Caldwell (Team Giant Dublin)
18 to 30s
- Daniel Kedney (Crucial MTB)
- Mark Barry
- Liam Brophy
- Iosac Coleman (Gravity BC)
- Oisin O'Callaghan (Cube Ireland)
- Emmet Callaghan (IMBRC)
A great start to the series with early podium placings for a few athletes and also 3 Cube sponsored riders podiums: Greg Callaghan winning Elites, Chris O'Callaghan winning Vets and Oisin O'Callaghan at 12 years old getting 2nd place in the Under 18s category after waiting a long time to try his hand at racing and finishing an impressive 25th overall. This year the enduro series in Ireland sees an Irish rider signed with Cube Factory Team Cameron Cornforth who has been racing Irish National DH, BDS and Youth DH World Cups for numerous years until chronic shoulder injuries forced him out for almost 2 years. Cameron will be no doubt be one to watch as he makes the jump from Downhill to Enduro.
A big applause must go out to the riders past and present who have tipped away over the years in Killaloe building, maintaining and creating new lines for riders to enjoy riding. To all the sponsors Cube Bikes, Coilte Forestry, Raw Cycles, Oscar and Co Barbers, Irish Cement and Limerick Sports Partnership for all their help and support without which none of the series would have got any momentum. And of course to all the competitors thank you very much indeed.
We must acknowledge the incredible hard work given to the event by LMBC and it's club members, the real heroes, working around the clock to get the trails ready and juggling life so as to let others play while they worked. Hopefully they will be rewarded with the next three rounds and they can have their turn at enjoying the fun.
The next rounds will be held in only a few weeks, hosted by 021 Racing and by Team Ballyhoura in the Ballyhoura mountains which have previously hosted the European Marathon Championships in 2014. There have been a lot of changes to make the Enduro round there a lot more interesting, a lot more fast gravity fed trails with plenty of natural loamy corners in between the trees. Don’t miss these rounds with a maximum of 136 entries per race.
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Cube Munster Enduro Series Facebook page
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Thanks to Cube for allowing Emerald MTB to republish this race report and the associated photographs.