Race report: EX Enduro 2021
There are few things in life as good for the soul as riding a bike with old and new friends, eating well and being merry – so the return of The Merida EX Enduro, put on hold for obvious reasons in 2020 – was a rather joyous occasion, supported this year by Shimano STEPS.
Renowned for a blend of superb yet exhilarating driving and unparalleled hospitality, the fifth installment returns to the small village of Allerford, nestled among the rolling hills of Exmoor and in a superb location for horseback riding and racing. , followed by a first-rate relaxation.
While the racing action was tight, with epic battles between the riders playing throughout the weekend of 23 timed specials but narrowing down to seconds between the podium spots, the riders’ skills and fitness. have sometimes played a secondary role compared to luck, but while the race is important, it always plays the role of second fiddle to the most important job of having a good time.
There are a lot of enduro races and a good number of multi-day events, but there are few – maybe none – that do it quite like the Merida EX. With an all-inclusive approach, all riders have to do is show up, pitch a tent, and then spin the pedals, with everything from big breakfast to big dinner, all with plenty of lube on hand. tomorrow ; Bristol Beer Factory for bikers and Fenwick’s for bikes.
As the event kicked off on Friday afternoon, UK weather tossed a bit into the mix. Heavy rains the night before meant that the opening stages provided an extra layer of difficulty in the form of wet roots and slippery mud, with the lack of grip proving a real eye-opener, though many Runners hadn’t been between the running lanes for over 18 months, there were also plenty of cobwebs to blow out.
The riders fought hard for the first six stages of the day, producing tight races from the start, despite the limited traction. Conditions have improved steadily, the sixth stage being the most technical, even providing a little dusty soil to sink the tires.
It was also good because when the daylight faded, the fun was not possible thanks to the first night scenes of the Exposure Lights exhibition, where darkness breathed new life into racing. enduro ‘blind’ before everyone gets stuck in a big barbecue in the barn at Ferme Horner.
As day two dawned, riders were greeted with blue skies and a promising start to day two, with the promise of drier tracks and even the possibility of the elusive British dust later in the summer.
Despite the odd gray cloud and the downpours here and there, the promise has kept, with eight stages winding, dipping and meandering through the Exmoor countryside. They would each take turns testing their stamina, skills – and often just luck, as is always the case with blind enduro races.
Still, with Day 1’s slippery roots replaced with the finest sticky hero dirt, the riders struggled to maintain their positions, make up for mistakes or just get around the tough course in one piece.
As is tradition at Merida EX, mid-course refreshment is taken just as seriously as horseback riding, with the now classic village vintage tea stop on hand to recharge energy levels. Whether it’s a good butty, a slice of freshly baked cake or a scone with cream and jam, we believe this is one of the lunch breaks. the most luxurious of a bike race.
Still, after refueling, the riders still had plenty of steps to go, so the lethargic lunchtime legs were quickly turned with new riding delights. Steep, technical, fast and smooth – the ride had it all, often within a few hundred yards.
While the riders may have cursed the big climbs, they were rewarded with stunning views over the Bristol Channel and beyond to Wales, before an absolute stopper of a quick and smooth descent that made thrill the runners to the event headquarters.
With the hard work of riding done – and at over 1900m vertical drop and 41km for the day, it was hard work – it was time for the Luff’s Café team to get down to work to refuel the runners for the next day. that the Shimano tech support team took care of all cycling-related illnesses to help keep the sickly machines in combat, working into the night.
As is now traditional at Merida EX, the event team has implemented table service, allowing runners to relax and feed themselves without having to move a tired leg – unless they do. want another drink. In addition to the atmosphere after the ride, there was the “pub quiz” with the chance to win prizes offered by the sponsors.
While some choose to celebrate late at night, others started early – the one thing they would all have in common was that they should be ready to face Day Three and the final stages.
The weather gods once again showed mercy on the now rather tired runners for the third day and the sun came out to play, although the event organizers were a little less lenient. With 7 more stages to go and 1,300m of ascent to do, even the fittest runners would have to dig deep, but another robust morning meal from the Luff’s crew and the possibility of a outdoor yoga session to help stretch tired limbs would probably help.
Despite the fatigue, the runners pushed for time to catch up, to maintain a position or simply to go all the way. Once again, the stages featured a mix of loose potting soil, treacherous roots, low-speed tech, and high-speed hoonery, providing a little something for everyone and guaranteed to end on a high note, although the lunch stop of the day was followed by a rather cruel hill. -climbing challenge for those who had a bit of it in the tank and wanted to compete for cider.
With the podium places now won and lost, rewards were handed out, but the real price of the event was riding, running and spending time with other riders after what felt like a long time, enjoying great company, great food and great trails. We’ll see you next year.
1 Moss Macriner Kustom bikes
2 orange Ash Mullane bikes / Rockin bikes
3 James Anderson Orange Bikes / Fenwicks
1 single track Anna Cipullo / Cannondale / MucOff
2 Jaime Gray
3 Natasha Netherlands
1 Tom Marvin MBUK
2 Mark Hooper The OC
3 Dave Wall
1 Joe Finney Wideopenmag
2 Ben Warrick
3 Michael Kirkman MBR Magazine
1 Oliver Mckenna Merida Hunt
2 Rob Berger
3 Paul Mackie Merida Bikes United Kingdom
The EX is made possible thanks to:
Merida Bicycles France
The national trust
Disco and CarbonCycles brakes
Bristol Beer Factory