Driving down the hill into Kinlochleven, was like driving into Narnia. Temperatures had plummeted throughout the North of Scotland and snow had fallen overnight, transferring this remote town, known for it’s history of aluminium smelting and more recently the Ice Factor National Ice Climbing Centre, into a picture perfect postcard scene. The sun was yet to rise, as I parked and found my way inside the warmth of the Ice Factor and race control. I was here to shoot the annual Kinlochleven Mountain Bike Enduro Race organised by the No Fuss Event’s Team and an Enduro World Series (EWS) Qualifier event for a couple of UK Mountain Bike magazines.
After getting a pre-race brief from the No Fuss team, I caught up with Seb from What Mountain Bike Magazine and formulated a plan for Saturday’s training and Sunday’s race. As Seb sorted out his bike, I set off through the snow and up the hill to the top of stage one as the sun slowly tried to break through the clouds.
An Enduro Race typically involves riders tackling a number of timed stages, and this race was no different, with three stages spread over the mountainside. Stage one ran into stage two, so the riders only faced two long climbs to get to the start of each stage (One & Three). This meant as a photographer, I would only have the opportunity of working either stage one or two, so had to find a good location with dramatic views to tell the story of the race, before moving on to the final stage.
The climb out of Kinlochleven was steep and I was soon down to a base layer and panting as I pushed uphill, thankful for my Mindshift Gear backpack, which made carrying my kit comfortable, whilst allowing me quick access to gear as the views opened up below me. The higher I climbed, the more spectacular the backdrop became, with autumnal colours and snow cover it was incredible.
I made it to the start of stage one, as the first riders dropped in, this seemed to time nicely with the sun poking it’s head, just as the Pap of Glencoe appeared out from behind the clouds, the race was set. The heavy snow high up the mountain made for some interesting riding, but great photos.
We worked late into the afternoon, as the riders slowly got used to what each stage had to offer and worked out the best lines for race day, as the light slowly faded, we made it back to the Ice Factor to wash off the day’s mud and recharge for the following day.
If only the Scottish weather was consistent over a weekend! Race day, dawned bright and clear, a thaw the previous afternoon had stripped much of the snow from the mountainside, replacing it with running streams of mud, down what had been a track. Yesterdays carefully planned lines, were forgotten, replaced with a hope and prayer for many.
Again, I started the day high up on stage one, which looked completely different to the day before, the snow was still there but mud, was everywhere and now provided the real challenge to the riders. Moving down, I settled into stage two, which was much faster than stage one, cutting through the trees and passed great waterfalls.
Some excellent planning on behalf of No Fuss meant that there was a nice break between stage two and three, for the riders that is. For myself and the film crew, it provided just enough time to hitch a ride up to the top of stage three, before racing started again.
Until the magazines come out next year, I can’t show most of the images from this fantastic event, however some can be found over on my stock site.