The 1st Round of the Spring Gorrick series was at Crowthorne Woods, located next to Swinley Forest. I have been training over winter and using these events as a training guide until the main events start in March, as it’s important to get race experience!
I was racing in the ‘Open’ category, which was the last race of the day at 2.05pm. There were around 20 riders in this category; the format is basically to ride three laps as fast a possible.
The key is getting a really good start. Unfortunately, this was tough as it was on a hill, which always makes it hard to get going. Despite all the rain, the course held up well, although it was a bit boggy on some of the singletrack sections. There were some really nice swooping downhill sections, the corkscrew being a really fun part of the course. By the end of the 1st lap the whole field had split up, and I was riding on my own for the last 2 laps and trying to make sure no one could catch me! I averaged around 23-24 mins a lap, with the laps being around 3 to 4 miles long, which was ok. I was very pleased to find out that I had finished 9th, as the top 5 were doing 21-22 mins. Last year I came 25th out of 45 entrants.
Most of the entrants were on 29ers. I was racing on a 29er myself, last year, and you do notice the difference, but I am currently riding on a 26er, as I am waiting for my new bike to arrive!
The next round is on 2nd March. If anyone is looking at doing some events, then come along! The routes are single-track through woods and some fire roads, and are suitable for any ability!
Bristol Oktoberfest is an 8 hour race event that’s held at Ashton Court near Bristol. This event and the Bristol Bikefest are very popular with the club. This time we had 28 riders present plus 2 riding for Wiltshire fire service. We also had a renegade rider with Dorset Rough Riders who was wearing an MBSwindon club top.
After a lot of trouble with council complaints about mud and damage in the camping field then Bikefest 2013 secured the use of the Cathedral school fields which are right next to the course. Oktoberfest used the same idea though the transition area was now at the top of the hill rather than the bottom.
Phil arrived on site before the gates were open on the Friday and secured a great track side location for the club. Thanks to Phil Allum for driving down to help set up the gazebos.
I arrived on Friday evening to find everything set up. We were joined by Nigel, Sharon, Debbie Davies, Sharon and Gary Yeates. John Speed helped with the site and then drove off to a Travelodge (I was told). Scared of camping?
On Saturday morning the remaining riders turned up for 8am in preparation for the Le Mans start at 9am. We had a few non racing members present. Sharon Yeates was keeping tabs on team times and was joined by her apprentice Gary Yeates. Sarah had injured herself in a fall at Ashton Court a few weeks ago and had been replaced by a really keen Meredith. Gary Lee turned up to ride round Leigh Woods with Chris Hopkinson. Phil Allum was there for some sightseeing too. Kat was on hand with tins of cake. Also present Katherine (Nik Wadge’s better half), Francois Ford’s wife and Ruan Jurgens Van Zyl. Apologies if I missed anyone else… I was riding all day.
After years of riding in teams I’d recently done a few events in pairs. All the available pairs riders wanted to ride solo so I joined them. Four hours of solo sounded easy enough. I decided two days before that I really ought to be riding for 8 hours. Jerome also made the switch.
Once again I missed the start; I was ambling towards the runners when the announcement was made to start and they started running towards me.
I’ll be writing more about how I got on in my personal blog when I get it set up (this week maybe!). Update: here it is. Essentially, solo riding is mentally quite hard but also allows you to get into the zone a lot more easily. There’s no transitions and waiting around and no stop/start activity.
Our four hour solo riders finished at 1pm. We had Craige Goodson riding the afternoon 4 hour solo and I heard he stopped quite early due to a mix up over the times and also needing to be somewhere else.
As usual the Pedal Progression jump ramp made an appearance with big cheers from the crowd for riders who gained air.
The results are shown below. Taken from the Time Laps website. In order of average speed.
name: position/out of, category, (team members) [av lap time, av speed km/h, av speed mph]
xc race team 1: 2/14 , old gits 8 hour, (Stuart Selwood, Malcom Toop-Rose) [30, 19, 11.8]
xc race team 2: 6/34, 8 hour (Lee Morgan, John Speed) [30, 19, 11.8]
This was a twelve hour relay race organised by Gorrick and based at Minley Manor in Hampshire near Bracknell and Swinley Forest.The race ran from midday to midnight on Sunday 25th August. We were on site from Saturday lunch time to try and claim a decent track side place. Rather like at Mountain Mayhem we arrived to find that a few clubs had staked out several acres of empty space for themselves which was bit annoying.
I got talking to Del from Four4ths lights and he’s up for giving the club a set of demo lights. He also lent me a helmet light to try out.
We had a mix of pairs and soloists in our camp which was combined with Cotswold Veldrijen. This meant that masseur Debbie was on hand too. Which was nice. We were joined by various children and family.
It rained quite a lot on Saturday afternoon. There was a one lap women’s race and the bikes coming back in seemed fine so the dry ground was swallowing up the water fine.
We did a quick recce of the route on Saturday night and discovered that it was mainly tight singletrack with a lot of tree roots plus some peaty sections that really dragged speeds down. Every down ramp seemed to end with a wheel shaped hole which meant maximum attention was required. There was one steep climb up a muddy bank. It certainly kept the interest levels out. There was a double pig tail element via the use of a bridge which it crossed twice and went under once.
Things weren’t looking so good for me on Sunday morning when my dropper post lost some of its fluid due to the collar coming loose and became a dropped post. Luckily Phil had some random organic fluid in his garage which he brought with him which fixed it.
The race got off to a good start with all of our riders carrying a lot of speed past our gazebo. On my first two laps I caught a lot of riders. There was some queuing on the singletrack and the time had to be made back up with a total hammering on the wider sections. My lap times came in at a pleasing 45 minutes for the first two.
Racing in pairs is a tough business, with the 30 minutes of rest between laps soon being used up. Out on my third lap I came to the conclusion that I would have to back off a bit – there was no way I could maintain my pace up the climbs and through the peaty sections. The endless bumps and roots was having an effect too. This was clearly going to be a mental challenge. There were a few sections of the route that could be classed as proper fun – towards the end a long section on compacted mud was a great challenge for seeing how much speed could be carried through corners. Without a doubt the last section through a flattish field was the most demoralising. It climbed very slightly on damp grass that just sucked the energy from the bike.
My lap time dropped to 47 minutes. That wasn’t too bad. Discussing my flagging performance with the others I was relieved to hear that everyone else was backing off too.
Remembering that I’d hit the wall at the Thetford race on lap 6 I bought some Torq enery gels and tried one. I’d describe the Rhubarb and Custard as half disgusting and half pleasant. It tasted alright but I was not used to gels and not sure that I’d appreciate the sensation of it going in and the taste on my lips half an hour later. Endurance riders like Matt Page swear by them so they must work.
At half way our fast pair were in 9th place and the slightly slower team 14th out of 40. The women were 2nd in their class and all of our soloists were still going.
Jo said ” It was fun for the first 3 hours and then it was a challenge and then it was just hell, and then the lights went on and they put a DJ under the bridge and glowsitcks everywhere and it was fun again”. I have to agree -in the dark there were sections of the route where you could see three lines of cyclists on different parts of the course and you started to feel like part of a very large train set. The DJ seemed to play house music and I tried to ID at least one track. I finally managed with Laurent Garnier – The man with the red face (Youtube).
My 6th lap was a 50 minute affair and then the 7th took me into the world of back pain to give a grimacing and moaning 55 minutes. My team mate Stuart is a seasoned racer and was a bit faster all day but the course finished him off too, ending with a 55 minute too.
We’d never got round to riding Mountain Mayhem, billed as “the biggest 24-hour mountain bike endurance event worldwide” (Wikipedia article). This was a lucky coincidence with the 2012 mud bath. We still suffered at Twentyfour12 and Sleepless in the saddle though!
After several years at Eastnor Castle (near Ledbury, we passed it on our Malverns ride) it was announced that new venue was being used in 2013. The early press releases talked of a “secret venue” being found after organiser Patrick Adams spent 26 days spent on the road viewing possible locations. Some time later the venue was confirmed as Gatcombe Park near Stroud, the home of the Princess Royal. So were spending a weekend riding around in Princess Anne’s back garden. Quite a big back garden though, with room for 2500 riders. See the Singletrack magazine interview with Patrick.
We had three teams: the xc race team were in the 24 hour mixed category with five riders whilst teams “quite fast” and “not quite so fast” were in the open male category with space for four riders each. Organising teams is always a challenge and the day before the event we had seven riders which meant that the slow team became a three. Then one of our fast riders had to pull out due to an emergency so we had two teams of three. We decided to carry on anyway.
We’d heard that the camping was a free for all and really wanted the club to be close to the transition area and in a prominent location. The camp site opened at 9am on Friday so Craige and myself re-arranged our work schedules to be there bang on 9am. I’d studied the maps the night before so headed straight to my target and started unloading kit. Then I looked around and spotted an even better spot. One problem though – a lone man was standing in the middle of the area and said he was reserving it. I did ask him if he felt a bit selfish bagging the area the size of a football pitch for 10 people. At the same time I was doing a complicated moral high ground calculation: was I in the right with 2 gazebos ready to pitch versus him with nothing? Was I being unsporting since he got there first? I decided that we didn’t want to be camping next to someone we’d had an argument with so moved on. When the camp site filled up with trade stands the next day we actually ended up in the best place anyway!
The two of us went off to work whilst John Speed and Gary Palmer took over.
We went out for a practice lap at about 6pm. The route took us into the woods and then pitched us straight down a steep and muddy track. This was a lot steeper than we’d experienced at similar events. The steep down soon lead to a steep up and we started to get a feel for the course. Another fast descent on a narrow track, some flat stuff and we were onto some fun singletrack along the side of the lake. This was probably the best section in terms of the feeling of speed and the view along the edge of the water. More climbing and traversing took us to the field of doom where there was a very steep grassy climb, a grassy descent and then another very steep climb. The red bull section was a so-so descent with some 90 degree corners and a handy steep option as a short cut near the end. The following climb was the most difficult – steep rocks that developed a greasy sheen in the main race. One more up and down and then the route just sort of gradually climbed all of the way back to the arena.
Each lap was 7 miles and 350m of ascent OS Map, GPX.
Overall we quite liked the route. Not as interesting to ride as the Twentyfour12 or Erlestoke routes from recent years maybe in terms of tight singletrack but it provided some good speed down the twisty tracks. To a degree you have to accept that the routes at the 24 races won’t match the sneaky trails you might ride in your local woods. But you don’t have 2000 riders in the local woods on a Saturday night.
It took us about an hour to ride around including stopping to chat so we estimated dry lap times as being 45-50 minutes.
Our riders assembled on the Saturday morning following a night of mixed weather. We’d had some drizzle but none of it had lasted long. We had a support crew of Crispin Doyle on pit duties for the race team (he’s a podium finisher in races himself) plus our very own team physio, Amy from First Physio (Twitter) via our sponsor Mike Buss and his contact at Boardman Sports Therapy. We were also joined for the weekend by photographer Graham Haller who ended up with 2000+ photos before uploading: part 1 & part 2.
The race started with a 900m run to spread the competitors out. I’d been chosen to run this year. I don’t really like running much but it actually went well for me and I was in the first third by the end of the run. Out on the trail there was a bit of queue at the top of the first steep descent but that was the only blockage. Our riders came back from the first lap with times of 44 minutes (Lee, xc team), 56 minutes (Tom, not quite so fast) and 58 (Jerome, quite fast).
After a dry start things soon reverted to expectations with a massive deluge of rain. Lap times increased and riders ran about frantically shouting “mud tyres, mud tyres, get the mud tyres on!”. Luckily the rain died down after about an hour and then the rain was only sporadic. Lap times shortened so conditions were obviously improving.
We did spot one woman coming into the arena with a bike frame in one hand and two wheels in the other, assumed to be a victim of the mud. She was still smiling though.
I put in my second and third laps during the early evening and a good line had formed in the mud but it was still sticky. A very special combination of sticky slipperiness. Probably known as slipstickeriness. i.e: slippery when you are steering but sticky when you are pedalling.
We gained a fourth rider when Phil turned up and registered. He put in some 1 hour lap times, great for his acknowledged level of fitness. Having four riders made a real difference to the rest levels. Our fast team had real issues with the lack of a fourth rider and all broke themselves trying out double laps. I’ve met loads of people who talk about double laps being better at races. We decided that this is only true if the riders can keep up the race pace for the duration of two laps. With the sticky mud and steep climbs this event was not suited to double laps. Unless you ride solo, in which case you can do 12 double laps back to back.
The joys of being in a team meant that I had a rest from 9pm until 4am. Then I had a 45 minute wait in the transition area before taking over in complete daylight. In that time I realised that there’s only actually 5 shapes of riders that you can pick out in the dark when lights are glaring into your eyes. I also deduced that 90% of mountain bikers have the same three names with Dave being the most popular and that includes the women.
Out on the course I was fresh and I realised that there were a lot of broken riders out there. Every now and then a fast rider would glide past me like I was going backwards but the rest of the time I was methodically pulling in slower riders. Every corner that I turned brought a few more into sight. It was pleasing to be catching riders on the sharp corners as well a good time saving on the steep option for the Red Bull zone. A thumbs up to Pedal Progression there for the skills training sessions.
The first descent had been ripped up overnight so now had a slippery groove and loose rocks at the top. My first ride down it started with me in control before I realised that the only option was to hang on and ride it out. I was giggling like a girl at the bottom. On the next lap I was mentally prepared and chose to be out of control and giggled even more. The second big climb now had a bit of a short cut through the garlic plants that was clearly used by everyone to avoid the muddy steps on the main line. Everyone walked this section now. The only other unridable zone for me was the cobbled track after the red bull descent. I had managed that on the first lap but no more.
Our slowest riders had put in a sterling effort over night and I knew that now it was my turn to work hard. I always dread running out of energy on this sort of event so it was an exciting development to actually feel quite sprightly (I credit yoga and pilates) and also to have almost no back ache (yoga, pilates and Amy for a brilliantly focussed lower back treatment). The lap times were around 55 minutes and sometimes a bit quicker if I remember correctly.
The race team were working quietly and methodically throughout this time. A rider would disappear off and then another would reappear, a few words might be said, food would be eaten, a bit of physio might happen and a lot of tea was brewed. The team rode in sequence throughout the whole event unlike some mixed teams. An old trick is to have four racers plus a fast enough woman who puts in the mandatory minimum two laps. I set out on one of my laps a few minutes before Anna from our race team and she caught me about a quarter of the way round. That spurred me on and we had a good race with each other until we reached the climb after the red bull section where she slipped away. It was interesting for me to watch closely to see where she gained ground. It was not on corners or really steep climbs; it was on nondescript sections of muddy grooves where I was mentally winding back a bit.
Jerome in the “Quite Fast” team had some bad luck and shredded a tyre near the start of the lap so ended up with a long walk.
I knew I had to do a few more laps and with our fourth rider going back to work and the other two broken I realised that I would have to finish with a double lap. Finally the time had come to find out what had broken the other team. I set out at 10:40am and knew I had a 50 minute lap in me so I would definitely put in another one after that. It was quite disheartening to hear the marshals shout “come on mate it’s your last lap!” when it wasn’t. After passing through the finish line I set out on the final lap. So this is what it felt like being a solo rider. Just repeat that feeling 23 times.
I made it about half way round before I started to think about stopping and having a sit down. I kept going for a bit longer, then a bit longer and then finally some gloopy mud finished me off. I lay on the ground and ate two 9bars and 2 nakd bars. That’s probably about 1000KCals. That made a very slight difference to energy levels. I’d left the water behind so had to carry on dry.
I discovered that hunger and lack of sleep strip had turned me back into primeval man. Food and survival was all that mattered. A marshal who was clearing away his tent offered me a bottle of happy shopper lemonade and I necked about half of the bottle. It tasted both disgusting and amazing at the same time.
After the red bull descent and then I knew there was only one big climb between me and the chance to stop. A faster woman shouted at me “it’s amazing how much faster a man is with a wee girl behind him” not knowing that I’d climbed that final muddy ramp on every previous lap. Anyway she wasn’t behind me for long. The applause and cheering from the marshals and spectators motivated me to complete the lap and then it was all over.
xc race team, Sport mixed, 5th/83, 31 laps (1st had 35), average lap time 47 minutes. Anna Cipullo, Lee Morgan, Stuart Selwood, John Speed, Malcom Toop Rose (caravan)
Quite fast, Open men, 52nd/109, 21 laps (1st had 36), average lap time 68 minutes. Gary Lee, Jerome Crametz, Craige Goodson
Not quite so fast, Open men, 55th/109, 21 laps (1st had 36), average lap time 70 minutes. Francois Ford, Phil Mayger, Gary Palmer, Tom Stickland.
The race team operated exactly as planned. Our fast team really needed a fourth rider to ease the burden and could have managed 24 or 25 laps I reckon, based on my own lap times and knowing that I’m similar or slower than two of them. That would have placed them in the 20s or 30s. The slow team surprised me the most, being only 3 places behind the fast team. It shows that full team size, solid team work, maximum effort from all and no mechanicals do all make a difference.
XC team: Lee Morgan had a best of 39 minutes!, Malcolm Toop-Rose 42, Stuart Selwood 44, John Speed 48, Anna Cipullo 49.
Quite fast: Jerome knocked out some 52 minutes and then a triple finish. Mentalist. Gary Lee 57 minutes. Craige Goodson 1:01 (injured in road bike crash a few months ago).
Not quite so fast: Brilliant. I got myself (Tom) some 52 and 53 minute laps. Phil Mayger a 1 hour, Gary Palmer a 1:03, and Francois Ford a 1:18. Great work everyone.
Red Bull challenge times
13 Malcolm Toop-Rose 01:43
293 Stuart Selwood 02:06
307 Lee Morgan 02:06
378 John Speed 02:08
396 Anna Cipullo 02:09
475 Tom Stickland 02:12
567 Gary Palmer 02:15
733 Gary Lee 02:20
833 Phil Mayger 02:23
1032 Jerome Crametz 02:30
1106 Francois Ford 02:33
1137 Craige Goodson 02:34
As with all the club race events it’s really good to see everyone enter the spirit of the event and to keep going regardless of the conditions and the circumstances. Having said that, if the gazebo had blown over in the wind (again) I would probably have gone home. Talking of which I did see a team standing under the frame from a gazebo minus the covering.
Thanks to Crispin Doyle for supporting the race team, Amy for sorting Craige’s twitching erectus and constructively prodding my backside, Graham for gathering his photos and the marshals for their unending support out on the trail. Thankyou to our teams for the positive attitude to the weekend and for clearing up in quick time at the end.
Things got off to a good start when we arrived at 2:30pm on the Friday and were able to bag a spot for our two gazebos right next to the transition area and the podium. Not so good was the rain that fell for a while and the distorted music selection crackling through the tannoy…we think some of it was the Cranberries. The only redeeming feature was The National Express from the Divine Comedy.
This year was the first event using the Bristol Cathedral Choir School playing fields for the event. These are right next to the original Ashton Court field. The course came along the edge of the field, through a transition in the corner and then nipped through a hole in the trees and gate back onto the Ashton Court trails. We’d heard various stories about issues with the mud and erosion in the original Ashton Court camping field. The new plan also meant that showers were available in the sports pavilion.
Ian Luff was there with the Luff Bus cafe, this time expanding out into a large tent. We spent an hour or so giving Ian some verbal abuse training. This happens at every biking event: Erlestoke, The Mondraker Rally, Bikefest and Oktoberfest. He’s so used to it and was genuinely surprised when Phil and myself broke into normal conversation.
We did a quick lap of the trail on the Friday evening along with Ian. The bike on the roof of his bus does actually work.
There was no sign of the rain on Saturday and the bright sunlight woke us really early. As usual the site was buzzing by 8am ready for the 9am start. We had all of out riders present apart from one. We contacted him on Facebook to ask where he was and he replied “I’ll be there at 6pm tonight”. Not a lot of use for a relay race that starts at 9am and finishes at 9pm. He was actually expecting to do the six hour race on Sunday.
All of our riders seemed to get into a good position following the Le Mans start and that set the tone for the day. The sun shone strong throughout and the whole site became dusty. No complaints about that – 2012 was an appalling year for rain and mud.
We had a good laugh at the chap whose back wheel fell off as he lifted his bike over the transition entrance barrier and we saw several riders fall off on the final corner. This raised a lot of laughs from the Halfwayup MTB stand. The Pedal Progression jump was in place and we saw a few comedy crashes off the end of that. One not-so-amusing crash involved a woman who landed on the front wheel, broke the forks and then faceplanted. She was posting on the Bikefest facebook page a few days later saying that all was well though.
Whilst we weren’t riding we had a chat with Loco Tuning (club discount) and discussed more clothing options with Scimitar Sports. Phil was excited to be used as the model for some shorts. That was his excuse anyway.
Things went well over the day apart from a few punctures that delayed teams by 5-10 minutes. Everyone managed to get their last lap in well before 9pm – the latest arrival was about 10 minutes before the cut off time. We had a range of lap times – our fastest riders were in the 28 minutes and we had a strong showing in the 30-35 minute range. Everyone put their fair share of effort in and that’s what this is about for the club: a sociable and supportive atmosphere to encourage everyone to develop their riding.
There was an alarming amount of yoga related activity going on in the club stand; the birthing position was the pose of choice for day and Anna demonstrated some special moves.
Our race team came second in the mixed teams categoryso we had the pleasure of seeing them on the podium.
The Spambiking Erlestoke12 event takes place on MOD land near the Erlestoke prison. It’s one of our favourite locations. It provides a lot of interesting singletrack. The 2012 route followed a similar layout to previous years albeit with some minor modifications. The bomb holes at the top of the hill were still probably the best feature of the trail.
Friday evening was an ideal chance to dish out some abuse to Ian Luff of the Luffbuss cafe (ex the Drop Off Cafe at Afan). This is becoming a regular feature at Erlestoke and Bristol Bikefest.
The threat of rain on Friday evening had completely gone on Saturday with a sunny spring morning happening around us.
We had 22 riders including a few from our race teams.
The race got off to a prompt start at 11:50am which caught a few people out. It would be fair to say that there were timing issues with transponders not reading and some confusion over the mapping of numbers to teams. Most of this was resolved by the end of the race though I would treat the individual lap times with some caution.
7/20 Race team (team 2) : Stuart Selwood, Dion Thomas, John Speed, Pawel Kotowski
11/20 Team 1: Aaron Tayler, Craig Dolwin, Tom Stickland, Gary Lee
14/20 Team 3: Phil Mayger, Graham Burgess, Darren Shepherd, Chris Hopkinson
13/20 Team 4: Leon Cardy, Jerome Crametz, Gary Yeates, Pete Toop
18/20 Team 5:Stuart King, Gary Palmer, Tim Rose, Nicky Harries
The race team were putting in lap times of around 38-40 minutes. Our new additions in team1 Aaron and Craig did some stunning laps, hitting the mid 30s. Also of note were Leon Cardy and Jerome Cramitz who were in the 39-40 minute range. Our other riders ranged from the low 40s to the mid 50s. We had a solid performance from everyone for the whole twelve hours.
Thanks to Chris Hopkinson for organising the teams and Sharon Yeates for keeping track of the changeover times.
Sunday 19 May 2013 saw the 2nd Round of the Southern XC Series at Crow Hill. The majority of the course was in the woods with lots of tight single track, and several boggy sections that caught out a number of racers.
Anna raced first in the Elite Female Category. All the women started off together and sped down the first hill at some pace. Through the singletrack the pack began to break up, leaving Anna to battle in 6th place with two other ladies. There was a bit of a fight in the second lap, but the course took its toll on many, leaving Anna to drop the lady behind and overtake one in front. Anna held 5th place all the way through the last lap to finish 4 mins ahead of the competition. A fantastic result against a very strong field.
Stu Selwood and Jon Speed were next to race in the Open Category, Stu made good use of his grid start, whilst John had to battle his way through main group. Stu finished a very creditable 14th out of 62, whilst John failed to finish after a Tree Hugging session in the 3rd and final lap. Bad Luck John.
Malc Toop-Rose was up next in Vet Category. He also had to start in the group, and made steady progress through the pack eventually finishing 19th out of 50, hopefully giving him a position on the grid at the next round at Wasing on June 30th.
The Team would also like to take the opportunity to congratulate Sarah Selwood on her first time as race commentator and thank her for all the MB Swindon XC Race Team mentions…great job and well done.