All roads led to the Ballyhoura mountains on Sunday, March 3 as riders from as far away as Donegal made their way to Ballinaboola for the much hyped 2NDURO mountain bike event.
2NDURO is a play on the traditional style enduro mountain bike race and was something that the Team Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Club had been thinking about running for a while.
An enduro race involves riders taking on multiple timed downhill stages, with the winner having the quickest time over the combined stages.
2NDURO was slightly different to other Enduro races in that two riders start and finish each of the three stages together as a team. This fun format ensured plenty of banter between teammates and was guaranteed to be good day out on the bikes.
Team Ballyhoura received a great response when the event was announced in late January on social media. Club members got to work right away preparing trails, organising event meetings and securing sponsors.
Within three weeks, the event was a sell-out. Race day wasn’t long coming around and all was set up for the couple of hundred riders due to take on the first race of its kind in Ireland. The stages were primed, marshals in place, registration opened, the kettle on and burgers on the barbecue.
Early on Sunday morning word came through of a Status Yellow snow-ice warning from Met Éireann – Storm Freya began to roll into the Ballyhouras with heavy downpours commencing.
This, however, didn’t dampen spirits at Race HQ as hundreds of riders parked up, registered and made their way to the top of Stage 1 – “The Mast”. As you can imagine, The Mast stage was very exposed being at the top of the mountain.
The riders set off at 10:30 to begin what was the inaugural event of an annual event in the Ballyhouras.
Stage 1 began with a long descent off the top of the mountain and into some Coillte Singletrack which made its way into the wood. A good mix of flat-out sections with some tight technical corners and a large drop which even managed to catch some riders out.
All the thrills and spills were captured by Cahir Media who have some fantastic photos of the day available on their website.
The 22km course took in over 6km of timed racing which meant some long ascents in between each stage. This was particularly the case for Stage 2 – “Carron” which began at approximately 400m elevation.
After a gruelling climb to the top of Carron, riders were met with gale force winds, sleet and some of the riders were lucky enough to witness Storm Freya in all her might.
With frozen fingers barely able to brake or change gears, they raced back down the mountain through some tight rock chutes, rutted sections and across a fireroad to Tech Loop 2 which forms part of the White Loop at the Ballyhoura Trail Centre. By all accounts Stage 2 was the riders favourite and ensured smiles from ear to ear.
The final stage, “Rusty Rim” (named after an old rusted car wheel at the beginning of the stage), took riders to a less ridden part of the mountain and included some flowy sections of open mountain before a quick dash across the fire road and dropping back on to some Coillte singletrack where some of the more capable riders got two wheels off the ground.
After the singletrack there was a freshly cut section of unused trail which brought riders to the finish of Stage 3 and back to shelter from the heavy snow.
Despite the weather conditions, each stage held up to the demands of 200 racers and is testament to the efforts by Team Ballyhoura club members who spent many midweek nights in the run up to the event with headlamps on and shovels in hand preparing the trails for the event.
Coillte must also be commended for creating and maintaining the largest network of mountain bike trails in Ireland and which featured heavily in the 2NDURO race. Another 10km of trail centre singletrack is to be added to the Ballyhouras in the coming months as part of government funding which recognises the importance of the trails in terms of recreational value and tourism they bring to the area.
For a small club based in Munster, Team Ballyhoura are extremely active with team members taking part in local, national and international events, an annual trip abroad and are also heavily involved in organising the annual Tour De Ballyhouras in aid of local charities along with weekly club spins.
A huge effort was put in behind the scenes to bring the first team enduro race of its type to Ireland. The event was a success despite the best efforts of Storm Freya and feedback from competitors has been positive.
A special mention must be given to those who braved the elements and ensured the event was a success including paramedics, without whom there would be no race, marshals who kept spirits high on each stage with music and banter, car park attendants who did a wonderful job and event organisers who worked so well as a team to create a fantastic fun event which will become an institution in the Ballyhouras in years to come!
Thanks to our sponsors Bike Park Ireland who provided prizes for each of the winners across Male, Female and Mixed categories and also to Extra UK – Global Cycling Brands Distributor who provided spot prizes for a draw on the day.