While the Tough Mudder was in full swing in the Callaghan Valley on Saturday (June 22), a group of 49 riders had their own dose of adrenaline braving The Beast, a five-section enduro race through some of Emerald’s classic trails. The five timed sections included Section 102, Gargamel, Anal Intruder, White Knuckles and Trial and Error. The climbs and traverses in between were not timed, allowing friends to ride together in a relaxed atmosphere.
“Everyone was really excited about the course, said Clark Lewis, director of downhill and special events for WORCA, which hosted the race.
“There were lots of fears leading up to it, especially with the weather because it was pretty hairball. We ended up having a really (skilled) group of riders show up, everyone behaved themselves.”
Jesse Melamed, who rides for the Rocky Mountain Altitude Enduro Team and competes on the North American Enduro Tour, was the fastest man on the wet course with a combined time of 25 minutes, 17 seconds, almost three minutes ahead of runner-up and local downhill legend Tyler Morland. Matt Ryan finished third.
The second section down Gargamel — a steep and very technical downhill trail built by Morland for 2004’s mountain bike film The Collective — made for a very intense descent early on in the race.
“I was a little bit worried because I knew some of the fast guys were going to race (down Gargamel),” said Lewis. “Most of the people were just going to try to survive it. There were lots of little crashes but there was only one minor accident that required stitches. All things considered, everyone got down and survived pretty well.”
Melamed held a lead of 46 seconds at the end of the Gargamel stage, deciding to ride conservatively to avoid a crash on the greasy roots and rock faces.
“I was out riding (Gargamel) on Thursday and had a huge crash,” said Melamed. “For the race I dialled it back a bit. Once I got to one of the gnarly sections I slowed down and just got down safely.
“You just can’t race that trail, it’s hard enough to ride it.”
Davis English from Pemberton placed fifth overall and said that while he favours downhill sections in races, he needed all his wits about him on Saturday.
“It’s rough, it’s hard work,” he said describing the Emerald trails. “Gargamel was the most relaxing for me because that’s where I’m the strongest, but it’s a completely different trail when it’s wet. Normally, you can get these fast lines and skip over the roots, but today there was none of that.”
Melamed was quick to applaud WORCA for continuing to hold races in the style of Tony Horn, who took a step back from organizing after the conclusion of the Four Kings series last fall.
“We’ve had a trend of super high-end Whistler races and Tony kind of ended that last year with the Four Kings,” he said. “It’s nice to see Clark picking it up again. A race down Gargamel is not something every place would do, it’s really only something Whistler could pull off.”
The timing system used by WORCA is a new electronic tagging system called Sportident, which has been used successfully for around a decade in competitive orienteering. At the start and end of each section, a tag on the racer’s handlebar is scanned and electronically printed with a time from a handheld unit. At the end of the race, tags are handed in to organizers, who then compile the data into a spreadsheet.
The technology is not accurate down to the hundredths of second like chip timing used in downhill races, but for course segments as long as 10 minutes, a margin of error of around one second is worth the convenience for organizers carrying light and portable timing equipment.
“It’s a good system for courses where access to the start and finish of the sections is difficult,” said Lewis. “With chip timing the equipment is very big, you need a vehicle to move it around. (Sportident) is tiny, light, waterproof and very simple to use. You couldn’t used it in a downhill race but for a grassroots, fun enduro, it’s just fine.”
Full results are available at www.worca.com.
WORCA’s next enduro event will be the women-only Battle for Bond on Aug. 24, followed by another co-ed enduro in September on the west side trails.