Ard Rock Enduro 2022 Race Report - Pedal Progression


10 August 2022

Ard Rock Enduro 2022 Race Report

The Ard Rock has gained a reputation over the last couple of years for being the number one mountain bike festival in the UK, with some of the countries fastest riders coming together with the rest of us! There’s racing all weekend with various categories to suit different abilities. We sent coaches Ollie and Phil, to see what the fuss was all about and to get their race on.

“Ard Rock seems to be one of those events. Everyone who rides has either been or knows a friend who’s ventured to the rolling hills of Swaledale, in the Yorkshire dales, to partake in the one of the most gruelling races on the U.K. mountain biking calendar. For the uninitiated, Ard Rock is a weekend-long Mountain bike festival, which includes product expos from the leading brands, events and mini competitions such as pump track races, live music, food and drink and of course the Ard Rock Enduro race.

Arguably the biggest draw for punters, the race is a 45km loop which starts and ends in the event village. Rides set off in waves to the noise of booming music and the announcers voice over the massive P.A. system. The enduro race format entails a circuit split into timed and non-timed stages. Generally, the downhills are timed, and the uphill connecting stages are non timed. The goal is to make it around the whole circuit and come in under the maximum cut-off time, but the balancing act involves conserving enough energy to go flat out on the downs, whist still keeping a decent pace on the liaisons – No mean feat when you consider the event contains over 3000m of ascent and descent!

Photo credit: Unsponsored Media

Having never been before I was curious to see if it really was all I’d heard about. Myself and Phil signed up for the event as soon as tickets became available, and with several months until tee-off we had a long time to prepare us for the event. We both hit the gym to improve our strength and fitness, along side making sure we spent plenty of time on the bike to dial in our skills. If we were doing this, then we were going to do it properly! We prepped our Whyte T140C R’s to make sure they were running sweet and that reliability wouldn’t be an issue.

Fast forward to September and the race was upon us. With feelings of excitement and some mild trepidation we loaded our bikes and camping gear into into the van and set off on the five-and-a-half-hour drive north. Upon arrival at the campsite the excitement levels began to rise as we were met with a sea of brightly coloured gazeebos and flags, bearing the names of all the big industry players. Also the faces of Big industry figures. It felt strange to see as they mingled in amongst us regular punters.

Photo credit: Unsponsored Media

We set up as quickly as we could, as practise for some of the stages was open. This would be our first taste of Yorkshire riding, so we were keen to get stuck in and figure out what we were up against. We’d watched plenty of videos and heard many a story but until we had tyres on dirt I was trying to keep my mind clear and form my own opinions of the terrain.

Part of the appeal of the Enduro Race format is that the racing is often “blind” meaning the first time riders hit the tracks is during their race runs. There were seven stages which made up the race, and we could practise the first two and last two, leaving the middle three stages as blind. In our eagerness to get out and ride we ended up doing one stage twice as it was so fun! It became clear very quickly that the terrain was rough, natural and a good mixture of techy, rocky scree and flat out grassy hillside, with some nasty rough patches which would catch you out if you weren’t ready! The name of the game here was to ride loose and plan as far ahead as possible. I learnt the hard way that blindly following the line of the rider ahead wasn’t the best idea, with us both suffering a nasty puncture as we hammered into a massive compression at top speed! Come race day we knew that the the best riders would be separated from the rest by careful line choice and conservative riding. You could only get over the finish line if you still had a rideable bike!

Photo credit: JWDT Photography

With race day upon us we loaded up with as many snacks and energy gels as we could carry. Our training had paid off – we were feeling fit, strong and comfortable on the bikes. So long as we made sure to eat and drink regularly we knew we could go the distance, but would we be able to concentrate and stay on our game enough to avoid any mechanicals? With 45 kilometres of brutal, rocky terrain ahead of us only time would tell…

Stages 1-3 were a bit of a mess for me – it had rained lightly overnight and the rocks which had been dry in practise were now covered in a greasy film of wet mud. I spent my first few runs pin-balling off the rocks – this wasn’t how practise had gone! After an initial slow start, I began to limber up a bit. The chilled out vibe on the climbs between stages was really good and helped us all settle into a nice rhythm. The blind stages were next up and were definitely my favourite. With no idea of what to expect the loose relaxed riding was essential, and made the following stages super fun. Riding in a group was great fun and at the end of each run it was awesome to watch the following riders come down and cheer them over the line.

Photo credit: Digital Downhill

My main take away from the event was the importance of pacing myself and eating the right thing regularly. To me it didn’t feel like a race but more like riding with your mates. The format made it really fun and took the pressure off performing to 100%. Whilst it was a long day in the saddle, with a good understanding and an execution of the fundamental mountain bike skills, you’ll be able to get through anything the Ard Rock throws at you. Don’t be put off by the name!

We’ll be back next year for sure and no we know what to expect will be looking to improve on this years times. Tickets usually go on sale in early December and it’s fastest finger first, Glasto style with the event sold out in minutes. See you there?”

Big thanks to Digital Downhill, Unsponsored Media (IG @unsponsoreduk) and JWD Photography for the awesome photos and letting us use them in this blog.


Written by:

Ollie Kidner