Although this is not an MB Swindon event, there are usually quite a few of our members who take part.
This is a well organised cross country event held at Erlestoke, Wiltshire. SPAM biking organise various events throughout the year including the Erlestoke 12. This one, the SPAM Winter Challenge, has three distances to chose from, all using various tracks and trails around the Salisbury plain.
I’d been looking forward to this event since it was announced back in February. Actually I’d been looking forward to it since last year’s race but as it’s held on MOD land and the MOD weren’t too keen on mountain bikers tearing around there had been a strong rumour that this year’s event wouldn’t go ahead. As it happened the powers that be decided not to be a dirty old meanie pants and we were set to go.
The reason I’d been looking forward to it so much is obvious to anyone that’s ridden there, the course is absolutely fantastic! The best course of any race event I’ve taken part in by a country mile. A few slight tweaks this year meant you started with a fast, fieldside section leading into some tight twisty singletrack through the woods. Then the climbing started. ARGGHHH, the climbing! First on grass, then wide gravel track, then on really steep singletrack. Just when you thought that the climbing had finished there was a killer road climb. Reward comes at the top however, with a fun bombhole section which spits you out onto a grass plateau and then it’s pretty much tight, twisty singletrack of the downhill variety back to the finish.
We haven’t published the route because a lot of it is on MOD land.
Contrary to last year’s drizzle fest the weather was red hot and the course had dried up nicely after the torrential rain of the previous weeks, so it was with smiling faces and the sun on our backs we got underway. First laps were eventful. Dion had a bit of a deflation issue (tubeless my arse!) while overtaking someone on an off camber section and had a bit of a lie down. John stopped for some tree hugging action and this was to become a feature of John’s riding for the rest of the day. About 100 metres into my first lap I realised I’d put my cassette back together with the smallest sprocket missing. This meant I’d lost my 3 highest gears and, as the chain kept slipping over and behind the cassette, my lowest gear as well. To combat this I left it somewhere about middle on the back and just used the front chain rings giving me just 3 gears to use.
Leaving the relative cool of the last wooded section and coming back out into the open was like someone switching the hot switch on.
Lee, Dion and Stu (our fast team aka “the trail wreckers”) were averaging laps of early to mid 30 mins and after a sterling effort finished off with a flying double lap from Lee to come in 4th place. Not a bad achievement considering they were a 3 man team and the 3 teams ahead of them were all sponsored riders.
Myself, John, Pete and Gary were averaging somewhere between 40 – 47 mins and came in 11th. Gary Lee put in a sterling effort in the 6 hour solo category where he came 68th out of 115. I don’t think Gary Palmer would mind me saying he might just have bitten off more than he could chew for his first race event in the 12 hour solo category. Gary wasn’t last though, with 5 laps putting him ahead of three other riders. The other MB Swindon representatives were Robin and John in the 6 hour pairs category. Kudos goes to them for the most chilled out, relaxed transitions ever seen and they still came 6th! Nicky Harries did a 12 hour solo ride because she likes a challenge.
Hero of the day award has to go to John (Speed). With 42 mins left on the clock he set off on our last lap. We were all waiting for him as the clock counted down to zero and he was nowhere to be seen. About 1 min after we spotted a slow moving light in the distance, “it’s got to be him” we thought. As the light grew closer we could tell something was amiss. John had punctured in one of the last wooded sections. Not wanting to let the side down he’d shouldered the bike and run with it for about 2 miles, crossing the line exhausted and crippled by cramp.
All in all another cracking event. I’m already looking forward to next year, here’s hoping the MOD let it happen.
The SPAM winter challenge is an annual mountain bike enduro that’s held on MOD land near Erlestoke. There’s a choice of 25,35 and 50km routes (16,22 and 31 miles respectively).
We had around 10 riders at the event in the 50 and 35km routes. Our fastest, Jerome, did the 30 miles in 2h 27m, with Gary Lee not far behind at 2h 31. This put them near the top of page 2 out of 7 in the results. I did it in 2h 52m and that includes stopping to take photos plus a battle with some useless gloves where the inner lining came out. Ali Hardie was close behind at 2h 59m.
In the 22 mile category then John Speed made it round in 1h 50m putting him half way down the first page out of 4, Matthew Kerry 2h 10m, Tim Norris 2h 26m, and Kristian Price 2h 27m. There were more: check the results page.
We were really impressed with the route. It offered a lot of really tight single track, with roots, drops and some really sharp climbs. Many people commented that this was the best race route around. Personal favourites include the bomb hole at the highest point and the really tight bumps in the woods before the road crossing.
There are some concerns over the future of the event. The MOD have concerns about their land being used. You can help save it by emailing SPAM with your feedback (Erlestoke 12 contact page) and by not riding the area unofficially.
50km – £18.00
35km – £18.00
25km – £13.00
SPAM Members – £10.00 (any distance)
Under 16 (accompanied by and adult, 35km and 25km routes ONLY) – £10.00
Family Group (Up to 2 Adults and up to 4 Children – at least 1 Adult must register) – £50.00
Ride Venue: Erlestoke, Wiltshire off B3098. Google map .